Saturday, December 30, 2017

The changing role of the technology team in ERP implementations (part 1)

Companies change their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems infrequently, only every ten to twenty years. If your ERP no longer meets your business needs and you are thinking of its replacement, here is a summary of how your technology team will be involved in ways that may not have applied the last time around.

The technology team has always had a role in the selection of the ERP, evaluating the vendor’s technology solution and direction. The technology team also set up the on-premise system, extracted and transformed data for loading to the new ERP, and trained a support team.  Depending on how long ago the ERP was implemented, and the company’s industry, they may have built some interfaces.  

It’s tempting to think that the world of cloud solutions is easier for the technology team during the ERP implementation project. It isn’t so. Here are some of the changes to think about when you are scoping and planning your new ERP implementation project.

Mobile technology
ERPs now have mobile features, such as approvals on mobile phones, and reporting on tablets. In the implementation project, you’ll have to test operability with all of the device types and operating systems that you support. You also may need to support multiple browsers to handle your new ERP at the same time as any remaining legacy systems. You may also have concerns about security if mobile devices are lost, or need to figure out how to implement dual factor authentication for these.

Integration between systems used to be a nice-to-have. Now integration is a must-have. The business relies on automated interfaces to communicate with customers, vendors, banks, and business partners.

Interfaces to/from the existing ERP may have been built over time with a variety of tools and approaches. When implementing a new ERP, you will need to re-develop all of those that connect with the ERP. If you plan to select a new integration tool or define a new approach, this is the time to do it. As a result, you need to factor in time, money, and expertise for selection, purchase, and training your team on the new toolset.

With some of your applications, and possibly also your integration tool, in the cloud, the development, testing, and promotion to production of the integrations requires access to multiple environments in a variety of public and private cloud environments. The external parties with whom you exchange data may also have cloud applications. Engaging the internal and external parties and their cloud providers and working with all of them to achieve a common go-live date is a significant coordination effort.

ERP is an important source of data for company reporting. With implementation of a new ERP, the data model of that source data is changing, which will require you to re-build data feeds to your reporting platform. The standard reports in the new ERP will also be different from the existing one. As a result, this is a good time to re-evaluate reporting requirements and perhaps replace that application or the mechanism by which it receives its data. As with integration tool replacement, this requires selection, purchasing, and training staff.

Business-managed systems
Cloud has made it easy for the business to implement solutions that IT is not aware of. Many of these applications will be affected by the ERP implementation (integration, data changes, process impact). Although it is the responsibility of the business to identify these situations, they will need support from the technology team to assess impacts and identify how to integrate these solutions into their new processes.

Stay tuned
There is more to cover on the changing role of the technology team in ERP implementation. Watch for part 2