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Custom Cloud: Public Cloud Choices, SaaS Challenges

Custom Cloud: Public Cloud Choices, SaaS Challenges

What to Do When ERP Turns SaaS

I once sat in at a sales conference for an ERP vendor and listened as the CEO explained sales strategy as it related to their ongoing movement to the cloud. He described the situation as one of configurability vs. customizability. There were some customers who could live with and work within the configurable features and capabilities of the base application as they existed “out-of-the-box.” These customers would be targets for the vendors single-tenant and multi-tenant cloud (or SaaS) offerings. For the subset of customers whose needs extended beyond the system’s base configuration, and were in need of custom functionality and integrations, the vendor would still offer the traditional perpetual license. This would allow customers with more complex needs to deploy their applications on-premise or in a private cloud.

ERP Public Cloud Software as a Service

That was the CEO’s perspective. Customers have their own perspective. 

Configuration & Customization to Order

I recently talked with a customer who was struggling to implement the cloud version of an ERP to the vendor’s public cloud. The customer had purchased the software based on a set of assumptions, assumptions that were not instantiated by the vendor’s public cloud (or SaaS) platform. For one, the customer had come from a highly customized in-house suite of applications, and had a highly developer-centric approach to application implementation: if the app didn’t do what you need, customize it so that it would do what you need.

This approach is anathema to ERP implementations in general, and as a customer implementing on a public cloud SaaS platform, the shock was only intensified. The customization toolset to which they believed themselves to be privy to was less than advertised. And the documentation that explained just what was and was not possible was all but nonexistent. As the customer put it, his team’s vast C# skillset went largely underutilized.

Frustrations abounded on all fronts. Creating the necessary reports and labels, whether through Bartender or SSRS had been a disaster, as both the licensing and underlying architecture made for an untenable situation. Development and deployment of new solutions was cumbersome and time-consuming, as it required the vendor to perform the deployment every time a change was made. Similarly, the approved third-party applications that they had purchased in conjunction with the base package didn’t integrate as well as advertised, and they turned out to be even less configurable than the base ERP system.

Worse still, the customer was a user of the ERP’s product configurator module. This mode was itself a mini-development platform, but its features were largely server-side and thus greatly hampered in the vendor’s SaaS platform. The ability to use the module to look up and retrieve data, for instance, was greatly limited on the SaaS architecture, and the customer struggled to construct configurators to handle their complex product needs. Beyond functionality, the overall performance of the application was a drag. For many customers, the move from whip-fast, green-screen legacy platform to a contemporary ERP brings an unfortunate surprise when it comes to basic performance at a user interaction level. But in this case, it was magnified by the performance of the underlying cloud platform.

It was a disheartening conversation and I struggled to offer suggestions, outside of a reimplementation under a perpetual license model. The strange thing was that the customer did not really even come to me looking for help. He was really just venting his frustrations. He had learned enough of the application, its architecture, and the Service-as-a-Software (SaaS) deployment model to know that whatever help he might receive, he was constrained by the architecture to which he had bound himself. The cloud, whose name implies boundless opportunity and possibility, had become a crippling constraint.  

Different ERP systems provide different levels of configurability and customizability. Some systems offer a basic platform with robust tools to use to build custom functionality with which to tailor the base platform. Others provide extensive configurability, as to avoid the need for additional tailoring. The systems that best combine configurability and customizability capabilities stand the best chance of supporting the needs of complex organizations. Even still, the unbridled requirements of a given company can often exceed the combined abilities of an ERP system to handle it.

This may necessitate the need for third-party integrations, to atone for liabilities in the base system. It may require integration to a pre-existing home-grown system, to address the specific needs of the organization. In the most extreme of cases, customers may look to modify the system’s source code to make the system do what it needs. At some point, it should be considered whether such extreme measures justify the investment in ERP at all. Sometimes it is simply a cultural conundrum: if an organization is unable to bend some of its needs to the will of the application, they may truly be better off with a homegrown system, and live with the liabilities that come with such a decision. 

DRaaS for SaaS: When the Public Cloud Vendor Needs to Adapt

Beyond configurability and customizability, the questions of functionality and integration as they relate to an ERP system’s deployment model complicate matters further. The textbook cases regarding ERP customization nightmares from the 1990s all occurred within an on-premise context. The evolution of cloud computing had not yet thrown this new variable into the mix. But with the improvement of server processing power, the expansion of data centers, and the ability to pass larger and larger amounts of data over networks, ERP vendors were able to construct ERP applications that conformed to the public cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployment model.

This shift toward a SaaS model allowed for highly available and highly scalable ERP solutions, whose subscription-based model provided ERP services for a monthly rate. But in doing so, the features and capabilities that these vendors offered were often scaled back significantly, when compared to their on-premise, perpetual license predecessors. Similarly, the integration capabilities of such platforms were drastically reduced to the web APIs that the ERP SaaS platform supported. This made the extension of the application’s capabilities much more difficult to achieve. For customers needing robust and expansive ERP functionality, as was the case with my customer above, the results of a mismatch between business requirements, customization tendencies, and deployment models can lead to a perfect storm of failure and disillusion. 

How does one avoid such a problematic situation? To begin with, there are some key questions to answer at the time of software selection before you’ve signed the dotted line:

  • Firstly, you need to understand the background of your own organization. Are you coming from a standard system or from a highly-tailored home-grown system? Are your business requirements of the variety that are commonly managed by a packaged system? Is the shift from your current system to the future system a small shuffle or a quantum leap?
  • You also need to understand your own expectations for the new system: are you trying to fit your organization into the system, or are you trying to tailor the system to fit your business? Do you see an ERP system as a packaged application or a custom development platform? Companies differ in this approach, and this greatly affects how they intend to use the system, so you need to be explicit about your expectations.
  • Finally, it should be noted that in many cases, a software’s public cloud version will differ markedly in functionality from its cloud cousin. As such, be careful to understand the version from which the Sales Engineers are basing their demonstrations. If you’re looking at a cloud deployment, ensure that the sales team demonstrates the application, as you will experience it as a customer, and not the products more robust, on-premise version.

Cloud services are as unique as business processes, and SaaS companies / SaaS, or public cloud, applications aren’t always as “internet connection, web browser, go” like they’re often advertised to be.

If your corporate office is mandating some form of “cloud” solution, understand that not all clouds are created equal. A system’s deployment mode is not as simple as choosing between an on-premise dinosaur and a public cloud popsicle. One significant alternative to the SaaS vs on-premise dichotomy is a private cloud deployment. Private cloud allows an ERP customer to install an on-premise, perpetual license version of the software, but in a virtual cloud environment. This allows customers to leverage the full set of capabilities, functionality, and integration opportunities that the software offers. For customers bent on heavy tailoring and customization, this allows them to leverage the full set of tools tailor the application to the customer’s specific needs. Further still, this model makes integrations much easier, as it provides access to the application and database server layers, as needed, which can greatly simplify integration architectures. 

Cloud Customs of Custom Code

A company’s implementation story should be neither a laughable comedy nor a disheartening tragedy. With planning and discretion, companies can formulate a successful narrative. Are you in search of an ERP story with a happy ending? Talk to us, and we’ll spin you a yarn.

You can consolidate everything from software licensing and updates to hardware inventory management with EstesCloud Managed Application Hosting. We offer custom solutions for web-based transactions. We might not be famous like Amazon web services, but our private cloud, hybrid cloud, IaaS, and PaaS solutions offer you the personal attention of world-class IT and ERP consultants.

ERP Deployment Options & Cloud Services

Infrastructure as a Service

Platform as a Service

Software as a Service

IT Management Models

In pure form, a public cloud deployment limits your control and troubles cybersecurity and compliance management efforts. Know your enterprise resource planning options before you deploy. The cloud should be one of your most powerful tools as you move your company forward. But cloud computing terminology is hazy, and cloud migration can be a step backward if the deployment model isn’t a good fit. Do you understand your cloud options? Our cloud ERP experts can walk you through the cloud spectrum and help you find the best platform for your business. When a complex ERP like Epicor’s Prophet 21 is going through client-server architecture changes, EstesGroup consultants are here to answer questions so that you can focus on your business, rather than on its supporting software.

Feeling the pressure to upgrade your ERP system to a new SaaS version? Know your options before you commit to the public cloud. Get a free demo and consultation with our cloud experts today.

Understanding the New Client Architecture of Prophet 21

Understanding the New Client Architecture of Prophet 21

Software development never stands still. I remember a time where I felt like I had finally come to understand DataSets, DataTables, DataRows and DataViews, only to have a much more experienced developer inform me that the System.Data namespace was old, antiquated, and no longer used in the development of cutting-edge applications. I had walked the prescribed trail, only to realize that it dead-ended in a software swamp.

Epicor Prophet 21 Warehouse Worker

The implications of such rapid movements in application development are significant, as software vendors often find themselves down similar dead ends and are forced to backtrack their way out of them. I liken software applications to my great-grandaddy’s venerable old axe: two new heads and seven new handles later, yet still seen by everyone in the family as the same axe.

Like the axe, Epicor’s Prophet 21 ERP application has been refitted over time. P21 helps distribution companies with a variety of features and capabilities. But like many such applications, the vendor found that over time, there was a need to reshape the application as to better position it for future use. Limitations to the existing architecture could not support the long-term needs of the industry. For that reason, Epicor has been reworking and fine-tuning its P21 architecture, moving towards a more scalable, interoperable and accessible application. Understanding where P21 has been and where it’s going can be of great use for customers, as to help them chart a course for the future. 

The Old Prophet 21

Epicor’s E10 application followed an infrastructure that separated the user client, the application server, and the database itself. For someone coming from Epicor 10, P21’s original architecture might look a little strange. Traditionally, P21 employed a fat client architecture, in which a large amount of business logic was housed in the 32-bit client itself, and this client communicated with the database. A liability of this approach was the difficulty in deploying a full API that could be accessed externally. Also, this model created natural limits to the number of clients that could share a single terminal server, due to the size and scope of the fat client.

The New Epicor Model

As Epicor sought to develop a more robust and accessible platform, changes were made both to the client and the overall architecture. Epicor’s updated architecture inserted a new layer, referred to as the “Middleware Server,” that serves as an intermediary between the client and the database, and provides the foundation for API-level interactions. 

Logic that had previously resided in the “fat client” desktop version was moved into the middleware layer. This architecture more closely resembles Epicor’s E10 application server-based architecture. Communication with the middleware server occurs using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol. This allows you to connect without the need for direct access to the network or a VPN connection. A web connection and an SSL certificate are all you need.

Beyond the API benefits, another benefit of this approach comes from performance, as the middleware server supports as much as twice as many clients as can be supported by a terminal server with the traditional fat client. For customers with high user counts, Prophet 21’s new architecture supports multiple load-balanced middleware servers.

Client Types: Understanding Your New P21 Options

From a client interaction perspective, two new options were developed to support the new architecture:

  • Web Client: The web client is a browser-based capability, allowing customers to access their system from a PC, a tablet or a mobile device.
  • Hybrid Client: The hybrid client meets the needs of customers who like the look and feel of a traditional desktop application, but wish to leverage the capabilities and features of the updated web client. The hybrid client installs like a normal Windows application, and connects directly to the middleware server, without the use of a browser.

Desktop Client – A Line in the Sand

Initially, Epicor’s web client lacked some of the functionality available with the traditional client, making things like DynaChange screen modifications difficult to accomplish without a traditional client. But as Epicor ramped up the capabilities of the web client, these differences have fallen off, such that as of spring of 2021, new P21 features will be available only in the web and hybrid clients. 

Epicor will slowly migrate away from traditional desktop application. By the fall 0f 2021, Epicor will no longer develop and release new versions of the desktop client. By the end of the year, Epicor will no longer release fixes for the desktop client. For P21 customers, this will require all users to migrate to the new architecture, both to retain support and to capitalize on the benefits of the newer releases.

The bottom line for P21 customers is clear: they can migrate to the new architecture or else work on the legacy platform, in an unimproved and unsupported state. In making this move, there are a few additional considerations to be made relative to the Prophet 21 deployment options available.

SaaS or Private Cloud Hosting for Epicor P21 Applications

Customers may opt to choose Epicor’s SaaS solution and place their application under Epicor’s control. This amounts to making two significant shifts, and many customers may not be sufficiently confident in Epicor’s SaaS solution to make the move. For customers suspect of SaaS, but looking for cloud options to host their new P21 architecture, private cloud hosting for ERP combines the new architecture with P21’s full functionality, without the hardware investments that come with an on-premise install.

Do you need help understanding your P21 deployment options? Do you need help migrating your existing architecture to take advantage of Epicor’s new features and capabilities? Give us a call — we are the #1 Prophet 21 consultancy in the nation, and we’d love to make you our “client”!

Warehouse & Inventory Management

Are you a wholesale distributor and planning for new P21 features and capabilities? Please take our survey as a step towards understanding the new client architecture of Prophet 21 and how it relates to your future!

Five Ways to Ensure ERP Satisfies Financial Compliance

Five Ways to Ensure ERP Satisfies Financial Compliance

Every business has financial compliance requirements from many sources. ERP is your primary tool — helping you prepare the required reports easily, timely, and consistently.

ERP Financial Compliance

Set up ERP to produce the reporting needed.

The first step toward financial compliance is a complete understanding of what your financial compliance requirements are. There are national requirements such as those from standards boards and, in the US, GAAP, or generally accepted accounting principles, is one. Income taxes and securities exchange reports build on GAAP.

Financial reporting goes well beyond national requirements. States and provinces have their own requirements for any business operating within their boundaries. Other requirements at various local levels can be easy to miss, as they come from cities, counties, regional districts, and an assortment of commissions. These have the force of law behind them and require compliance and reporting. Sales and value-added taxes are in this category along with property taxes. Don’t forget trade unions that want reports of payroll and hours by work categories.

Regulations from this wide variety of sources have a common denominator in the requirement of documented processes to collect data and issue reports consistently.

Understand how data is created in ERP and where it is kept.

Once we determine what reporting is required, we move to figuring out how to get the data needed for those reports. ERP systems are based on finance and accounting and many data elements will be there ready to use. ERP is made up from thousands of tables, and some data will be available, but some effort will be needed to find it and extract it for use.

You might find some required data simply is not built into your ERP, but you already collect it in some other database. Here you might be able to create a user-definable field to store that data within ERP where it can easily be combined with other data from ERP. You might also need to integrate some other system with ERP to make the data available.

Ensure that your accountant is part of your ERP selection and implementation teams. Their role is to understand reporting requirements and make sure the ERP you implement satisfies those requirements.

Document the source of your required data and the processes that develop that data. Develop and save reports you design to collect your data for financial reporting. At the same time, develop reporting to satisfy any future audit requirements from the authorities.

Use ERP to manage the data trail.

Data for your reporting will be a combination of static and dynamic data. The static data largely is field names such as ‘date’ and ‘amount’. Dynamic data is that coming from all of your transactions. Your ERP includes many built-in tools to capture normal transactions like sales invoice amounts and purchase order payment amounts. Your unique ERP configuration settings might modify those built-in tools. For example, you can value inventory as LIFO or FIFO, and that setting will modify your inventory valuation, as well as cost of sales.

Since data is the result of all the transactions performed over time, any steps you can take to reduce errors will enhance the accuracy of your reports. Training, self-validations, and management supervision all help improve accuracy. Another method of improving accuracy is to automate as many repetitive steps as possible. When a transaction is automated, once the coding is complete, the results of the transaction will never vary.

Analyze your ERP data and use it for advantage.

You took advantage of the built-in tools available in ERP and you have automated and secured many of your transactions. Now your accountants are free to analyze. Look carefully at the data collected and check it again. Does it best show the results required by financial compliance? How can you improve the report? Is there a message to your management that was hidden but can help improve your business? These are your data; the data do not belong to the agency requiring compliance.

Build an analytics team and use this team to mine your data, seeking ways to help everyone. Your CFO needs a dashboard that displays all of the key metrics in a way that enables fast, informed decisions. Build dashboards to enhance decision-making at every level where any decision is made.

Report consistently across the globe.

Because the data for all financial compliance reporting comes from or through your ERP data, consistency is always maintained. Much compliance reporting is publicly available so that auditors from one agency can easily verify that consistent data was reported to another agency.

Even where comparisons cannot be made, you know the reporting is consistent. A compliance report filed in France is derived from the same data as a similar report filed in the USA. Only the filters are changed.

Because the reports are centralized and accessible anywhere, the headquarters can run a report intended for a compliance agency anywhere in the world.

Every business has financial compliance requirements. ERP will enable us to meet those requirements without undue burden. At the same time, ERP enables consistent reporting wherever we have requirements and provides tools we can use for our own benefit too.

Are you concerned about more than financial compliance?

Compliance can be challenging, especially in regard to ever-evolving cybersecurity regulations. Sign up for a security audit today to see if your systems are compliant in regard to data management & privacy laws. Not ready for an assessment? Watch a video interview with EstesGroup’s CEO, Bruce Grant, to see how ERP & IT consultants can help manufacturers stay on top of industry rules & regulations. Read our article on cGMP compliance & ERP to get more insight into how regulatory organizations affect your business.

cGMP Compliance & ERP

cGMP Compliance & ERP

What is cGMP?

cGMP stands for current Good Manufacturing Practice and, more than just initials, it is at the center of the US Food and Drug Administration’s efforts to protect citizens from potential hazards related to food and beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. ERP is the system used by businesses for accounting, inventory management, sales order processing and many other processes central to maintaining management control. ERP is where businesses keep the records that show they are complying with good manufacturing practice.

cGMP Compliance ERP

What does cGMP look like for manufacturers?

Process Control

Process control is critical in these controlled industries. We need to define exactly how our product flows through manufacture. Who will perform the necessary manufacturing steps? What ingredients or component parts are required? When does each step take place related to the previous and following steps? Where will we manufacture our products – in which facility and using which equipment? Why are we taking these measures to control our process? How will we document exactly what we did and compare it to what we said we would do?

Training

An ERP system has a record of each employee. That record goes well beyond payroll and human resources. If we add the training each person has had and their current work qualifications, we can use ERP to work with our cGMP process. We can now schedule specific people within our overall production schedule. The people scheduled are limited to only those who have required training and certification based on the rules we established within our business. Next we can use ERP to track exactly who worked on each manufacturing step. This enables us to pass any audits. We also now can know who might have made any error or failed to precisely follow our defined process.

Compliance Department

Inventory

Our cGMP includes a specific list of ingredients or component materials required to produce our product. Our list can further limit the materials used to those from specific suppliers or items commonly available from multiple sources. ERP helps us track each item by lot number so that we never inadvertently mix a lot in the same batch. Lot tracking sets up our ability to manage any potential recall. We know which output batch had an issue and know exactly which ingredient lots we used in that batch. We can also use ERP to avoid any chance of using an item beyond its shelf life.

Recipe or Routing

ERP provides us with the manufacturing path that we know meets cGMP. Step one is performed on certain equipment and specified operations must take place then. We can measure the outcome of step one and ensure production is ready for step two. Since we know the duration of every step, we can schedule equipment and personnel and provide the completion date and time for our customer.

Facilities and Equipment

Our cGMP specifies that products must be made only in approved manufacturing facilities and then only using specifically approved equipment within those facilities. The production schedules we use from ERP will use those limits and help us manage capacity requirements now and in the future. Manufacturers must identify what hazards might exist and establish control points best suited to capture and control those hazards. This requirement is known as HACCP or Hazard And Critical Control Points.

Testing and Measurement

Throughout the cycle of production, we will test and measure the product using values stored in the quality module of our ERP system. The tools we use are maintained and recalibrated as we define in cGMP and our test results include the specific tools used as well as the results. Testing and measurement looks for statistically significant variances and enables us to determine corrective and preventative actions and track those to completion all within our ERP.

Quality Management System

cGMP requires that we have an active quality management system that is fully documented. ERP is one of our primary record keeping tools and supports cGMP fully. Any business whose activities fall under the cGMP rules of the FDA should ensure their ERP fully supports their required control systems.

Are you facing ERP cGMP regulation challenges?

Our ERP consultants are here to help you navigate everything from ERP implementation to private cloud hosting deployment. EstesGroup’s managed IT specialists help clients with backup solutions, disaster recovery, hosting solutions, cybersecurity, and more.

ERP Training After Go-Live

ERP Training After Go-Live

Make Training Part of your ERP Project Plan

Your employees just had a grand celebration. Your ERP project is complete! The months of hard toil, testing, trepidation, and training are in the past. Or, maybe the education has only begun?

ERP Training After Go-Live

Here are some considerations for the post-go-live phase of your ERP project:

Replacement personnel

People come and go normally in any business. A usual process is for the outgoing person to train the one incoming. Often that works adequately well. But a better way might be to enroll the new person in formal training where they get instructions in precisely the methods preferred by the business along with training in how their new tasks relate to the overall processes.

Knowledge Capture

Your employees and ERP users develop improvements in the ways they work every day. Could the improvement found by factory quality assurance people benefit accounts payable? A training specialist would recognize the improvement from a broader perspective and include it in future training for A/P and other functions.

Feedback

The initial training provided to everyone incorporated the best processes known at that time. People will complain if that process is cumbersome and will suggest improvements. Listening to feedback from every source allows processes to improve and future training to enable those improvements.

New requirements

Your customer asks for a change after go-live. Your supplier wants to change some delivery options. Changes occur frequently and ongoing training allows all to be properly trained so that those changes in requirements can be met.

Improvements that were not part of requirements

You had a list of requirements the ERP was intended to resolve. You might also have had a second list of improvements desired but not part of the requirements. Now that the requirements are complete, begin implementing some of those “nice to have” features that will help. Ongoing training is the way to implement those changes across your enterprise.

Process validation

Your ERP project was intended to bring cost savings and many other benefits to your business. Those benefits provided the return on your investment. Now, after implementation, measure the results. Are you getting what was expected? Is the use of ERP part of any shortfall? Better training might bring the system use up so the results you want are still achievable. You could also determine further process changes are needed to get those results and people will need training to use those improvements.

Ongoing review training

Implement an audit system to verify people are using the ERP system properly and completely. No training will cause a complete change of behavior. We all slide day by day and begin to take shortcuts. An audit will find behavior slippage and provide a chance for correction. The same audit might also find someone has worked out a better process that ought to be shared around the company.

Technology updates

Network and computer systems gain new technology regularly. Maybe there is a process that can now be sped up? Maybe there is another that now can be automated. Take advantage of these gains and update your training at the same time. Your ERP provider improves their software and makes these changes frequently. If you have a system in the cloud, like SYSPRO, those improvements are there immediately for your use, and an auxiliary solutions, like ERP hosting, can improve everything from cybersecurity to business process management. Pay attention to the updates, many can be used to your benefit right away and others could help with a small process change on your side. As with hardware updates, update your training too.

Continuous improvement

Training provides a path for continuous improvement. You can develop a great training program as part of your ERP project. Keep it alive and help your business thrive.

Partnering with your ERP Consultancy

Partnering with your ERP Consultancy

How the Right ERP Consultancy Can Take the Risk Out of ERP Implementation

Implementing ERP presents many challenges. One of these involves the simple dilemma of finding good help. Implementing ERP is not a one-man band, but rather a symphony of interconnected members, each doing their part in the performance. Your ERP consulting partner is one such member of the overall team and can significantly impact the success of an ERP implementation. With that in mind, here are a few considerations that will help you make the best choice when finding a consulting partner.

ERP Consultancy Partnership Meeting

An ERP Consultancy Provides a Path of Success

Scope

At the beginning of your project, define what completion is and how to objectively measure the project’s completion. That definition might evolve as the project moves along, but it’s helpful to define your destination before you embark. This helps you understand how long you will need consulting assistance — completion means the consultant can move along to their next client. You will need to write that final check. Completion also means it is time for you and all the people in your enterprise to sit back and smile. Plan for that success.

Requirements

Consider the needs of your organization and the expertise you already have within your business. You might have a person you think is ready to lead your project: they have the skills and training, but a consultant could guide them and provide experienced mentorship along the way. Or, you might have a very lean organization and need to use a consultant as a full-time manager of the project and then plan to cut the consultant loose when the project is complete.

Culture

Culture is a very important consideration. The consultant who is successful working with a strict top-down leadership style will be different from a consultant who would succeed in an environment where each manager is independent and is expected to make decisions on their own. Your consultant must fit into your existing style and work well with your personnel.

Business Interaction

Negotiations with your consulting partner will begin with senior members of that organization. Those people might not be the same people who will actually work at your business with your own employees. Part of your agreement with the consultant should be control over consultant staff and their ability to get along with your employees.

Logistics

Provide your consultant with access to your systems, a place to sit, and an open communication line to everyone. Introduce the consultant to your staff and let people know who they are and the important work they will be doing on your behalf. Reinforce the call to open communications as needed throughout the project. Many ERP projects are a means of providing tools for future expansions or other plans that likely are confidential. Ensure the consultant understands and has signed appropriate non-disclosure agreements.

Change Management

You will hire a consultant that has the expertise to work with your business eventually to a successful completion of your ERP project. The relationship is not entirely technical. Your employees and system users all react to change in their own unique ways. Some will adapt quickly and embrace the new processes. Others will fight to keep the old process they are already comfortable using. Most will fall somewhere in between, neither fighting change nor immediately accepting change but will, in the end, use your new ERP system. A few might never accept the changes and will part from your business.

Managing change and helping your people along is one of the critical components of your ERP project. The ERP consultant you hire probably has the expertise you need in this area and you should take full advantage of it so your people can stay satisfied.

Data Management

Part of the ERP project will be data conversion from your legacy systems and loading that data into the new ERP. Many IT staff do not have the bandwidth to handle this work in addition to their current jobs. Often this work will be managed by your consultant. Consider who will handle data not only during the project’s duration, but also who will pick up the responsibilities thereafter.

Verification

As the project moves along, you will test specific transactions and the overall system to ensure the results meet your needs and expectations. Use your own people for some of the manual tests. Not only will they help with the project step, they will gain some training and become ambassadors representing all of your ERP users. The consultant will be a guide to setting up and managing testing. The consultant might have automated test processes too which will perform tests that follow your processes and repeat tests 24 hours a day. You will gain many additional test cycles and avoid human errors in testing.

Training

Think about how to train your people to use ERP when the project is complete. You can train a few to train the many and use your existing resources. You could also use the consultants to design and implement needed ERP training for you and your team.

Collaboration With Your ERP Consultancy of Choice

Fundamental to the idea of ERP is the notion of collaboration. Enterprise applications build bridges within the enterprise, and between the enterprise and the outside world. The act of implementing ERP is similarly an act of collaboration. In this light, when choosing a system integrator, ensure that they are an implementation partner, and not merely a consultancy for hire — for it is through people and partnership that the true benefits of ERP are realized.

Want to learn more about how an ERP consultancy can help your business?