CIO magazine – interview with our presales expert Pavel Štancl

CIO Business World magazine brings you an extensive special article with an overview of the most important #ERP systems that can be found in the Czech market. On our site, you will find a translation of the interview with our presales expert Pavel Štancl.

Original text:

Is it better to implement ERP all at once or gradually? What are the advantages and disadvantages of both procedures?

Each implementation is unique in its own way. In my professional career, I have yet to encounter two completely identical implementations. On each project, it is necessary to identify the current state, and accordingly, design the method of introducing the system. For some customers, it is appropriate to choose an “all at once” strategy, while for others it is better to choose a block-by-block implementation procedure. In the beginning, it is necessary to work with information such as – how many companies will be included in the implementation, what business processes will the ERP system cover, how many users will work with the system, what will be the capacity capabilities of key users, and so on. In the case of the implementation of several companies of the customer, it is often advantageous to select a company that will serve as a proof of concept that will be further rolled out to the remaining companies.

The advantage of the “all at once” type of implementation is definitely the fact that the risk of inconsistency in solving overlapping areas is largely eliminated. In the case of gradual implementation, this inconsistency can occur, and the modification of an already deployed solution in a given area is often complicated. The disadvantage of this type of implementation is the capacity requirement for the implementation team and the need for focused cooperation of individual team members.

The advantage of step-by-step implementation is the possibility of conveniently scheduling the project and focusing on a smaller set of processes. A disadvantage can be a longer overall project implementation time.

Which stakeholders are the most important for the successful implementation of the ERP system?

For every successful implementation of an ERP system, the role of the company management and the project implementation team is key. This consists of project management and key users. I wouldn’t say one side is more important than the other. Everyone must play their assigned role in the project as well as possible.

The decision to deploy a new information system must be made based on the real needs of the company. Top management must clearly define the goals it wants to achieve by implementing the new system. It is absolutely necessary to clearly communicate these goals in the team hierarchy and downwards. At the same time, all members of the implementation team must be sufficiently motivated. A key factor for success is also the creation of sufficient capacity space for the implementation team.

Based on these assumptions, the implementation team has the conditions it needs to create, design and implement the best possible solution together with the system supplier. Project management must realistically plan individual activities on the project, and cement the team of key users to function in interconnected cooperation. Key users must be sufficiently experienced and familiar with company processes in the area for which they are responsible in the implementation project. They have to understand the logic of the new system and explain the proposed solution to the end users, providing them with a reference point if the end user is confused.

If one of the fragments of the mosaic assembled in this way does not work or falls out, it must be seen as a risk for the successful completion of the project.

What steps are necessary after the ERP system has been put into operation to avoid its degradation?

The implementation of an ERP system is a demanding process, in which it is necessary to invest financial and human resources. During the implementation, it is necessary to find the right solution, configure the system, develop and test customer modifications, train key and end users, transfer data from the previous system and stabilize the system in the first months after the go-live operation. So that all this effort does not go to waste, it is necessary to realize that the successful completion of the implementation project does not end the work. Mistakes can occur if the entire implementation team is satisfied with the state that everything is running. The entire ERP ecosystem must be constantly developed to get the most out of it. If the system is left in the state it was implemented, usually, after a certain time, it leads to the question of whether the current solution is sufficient and whether or not improvements can be made to make an even better solution. At the same time, it is much easier to build on firmly established foundations. We can think about other processes that the system could cover or focus on modules that were not key during the implementation, and therefore there was no room to address them.

An ERP system usually has a huge database that can be mined in the form of reports, analyses and dashboards. Efforts must be made to make the system easy and efficient for end users to work with. In this respect, modern ERP systems allow configuration tools to adapt the user interface beyond the standard, and to display important related information from other parts of the system which helps to, simplify navigation, and warn of various exceptions in processes in the form of configured notifications. An underestimated area is the user documentation of the deployed solution and its constant updating in case of changes in the system or processes.

What aspects can warn the company that an unsuitable partner has been chosen to implement ERP systems?

I would look at this question from the opposite point of view – that is, how to know that we have chosen the right supplier for the implementation? A key aspect of successful project management is the correct implementation methodology. The implementation of an ERP system is a complex project, within which, it is necessary to coordinate time, capacities and resources. In each phase of the project, it must be clear what activities are to be implemented and what tasks still lie before the implementation team. Therefore, I consider the implementation methodology on the supplier’s side, the ability to explain its importance and its subsequent use during the implementation to be an important success factor and method of choosing the right partner.

How should companies face the lack of IT specialists not only for the company’s ERP system?

For some time now, we have been in a specific period when there is a shortage of experienced specialists in the labour market. The situation differs from region to region, but most companies face this problem. The key is not to be satisfied with the status quo, but to actively look around the labour market and be agile, and above all, continuously look for opportunities for cooperation. Especially in IT, there is a great opportunity to look for suitable candidates already at secondary schools or universities. Another possibility is to cover the lack of your own specialists by outsourcing. This method is suitable for more general areas of IT, such as network management, database management and the like. It is more difficult to apply this option to IT specialists oriented to specific systems, such as ERP systems. This is mainly due to the fact that the implementation of the same ERP system is somewhat unique in each company, and the transfer of know-how requires capacity and time.