10 tips for successful ERP across borders
It is no secret that the markets (and therefore the actors in the markets) have become increasingly global, feeding a need for increased central control of international corporate finance. After more than 25 years marked by the expansion of decentralized ERP systems, the rapid pace of technological and economic development (among other things in the field of broadband) has made it possible for companies to achieve an increased central control and therefore to be in a better position to compete globally. To support this, many companies have opted or are opting for a single business management system (ERP system) to resolve unused synergies in the areas of inter-company integration and to achieve a better control of collaboration within and outside our organization.
It is however a task that it more easily decided than executed! Along the past 10 years doing only international ERP implementations, I’ve gathered a few tips that have helped other executives successfully implement ERP across borders:
- Establish an improvement culture: The shorter the phases of a project can be divided into, the greater is the chance of success. Prioritize what is most important first, and always have a future phase planned, where you can park unresolved tasks or change requests. This way you will be able to maintain a direction without losing momentum.
- First you understand, then you simplify: If you automate a process which is complex, or that you do not fully understand, you will get a complex system that you don’t understand. That is why you should follow this flow: create understanding, simplify, automate. You cannot build systems before your processes are optimized. In other words, start in good time.
- Think quality and ownership together: Quality assurance outside a process is overhead. Quality assurance incorporated in a process is proactivity. Processes that have built-in quality assurance provide the best basis for innovation and consistency in implementation.
- Do not underestimate local conditions: Whenever you assume something about ERP systems across borders, assume you’re wrong. The surprises are always hidden in the details, not in the main processes. Never underestimate local complexity and make sure to involve local stakeholders.
- Clean up processes: The implementation of a new system is hard work against habitual thinking and old action patterns. Some deviations are necessary, others are simply a reminiscence from previous workflows. Clean up the processes and requirements. If they are not formalized, then eliminate them. It is a much bigger task to implement and embed a global process, than it is to define it.
- Make sure that the perspective is anchored: Most users automatically think functionality when a new system is evaluated. They are thinking; how can I make my current work in the new system. It can result in the optimization of parts of processes, but more often there is greater value in an evaluation against a future state scenario.
- Change management: There will always be changes. Therefore, think of change as something good, as something that creates new possibilities, translate the need for change to a language the various stakeholders understand and you will gain greater organizational support for the change.
- International implementations have greater potential: Increased structure and fixed processes are not necessarily the right model for all. A company can run on principles and values alone without a single formalized process. But when it comes to international ERP implementations structure is necessary to guarantee a bottom line lift. And because many processes are repeatable from one country to another, you can achieve great synergies by having an appropriate structure that can be reused widely within the organization.
- Surprises lie in the details: In practice, the plan never fits 100%. There will always be ongoing fine-tuning of the project caused by internal or external changes. Plans are only worth something if they can be adapted to the changed conditions for success. And changes within a project may actually be something you continuously are searching for in order to be able to identify and realize new potentials and synergies, but make sure there is a formalized process for managing change requests, so you ensure a realistic process and functional definition of the project.
- It is a collaboration: You cannot just enter into a fixed-price contract with a supplier and transfer all responsibility to them. An agreement alone cannot guard the company against mistakes – such agreements can, in some cases, turn out to have the opposite effect. A good and professional communication is far more productive for the project.