5 Ways to Excite the Generals and the Troops About ERP

Most business and IT folks would rather endure a root canal procedure—without Novocain, even—than go through an entire ERP RFP process and negotiations with high-pressure salesfolk from SAP, Oracle or any of the other vendors who pledge "We want to be a partner, not a vendor" and other such disingenuous nonsense.

Commentary from around the Internet about this topic (gathered by ERP guru Vinnie Mirchandani) includes this gem: "As a large IT buyer, every time I have to deal with Oracle I end up feeling dirty at the end of it." The terms "thugs" and "Mafia," Mirchandani adds, are becoming more common in reference to how the big enterprise vendors are conducting business these days.

In addition—and this may surprise you—people find the actual ERP discussions, project management and implementations about as exciting as visiting Gramps in the nursing home—you have to do it every once in a while and it usually leaves you feeling pretty depressed and worn down afterward.

But enterprise applications such as ERP (and CRM, BI and supply chain, for that matter) are absolutely essential for businesses these days. That's a fact. And not only is charging up the core team who leads the project necessary, so is firing up the senior leadership team and user community, who's expected to warmly embrace the new system. So here are five ways to inspire and energize the troops to rally around ERP for the short and long term.

1. Remember That These Things Can Blow Up—Big Time.

There's nothing wrong with a little FUD—fear, uncertainty, doubt—at the outset. In essence, the message should be: If we screw this up, it's going to cost us (potentially) millions and millions of dollars. Modern business history is littered with ERP-fueled disasters: see Hershey's or Nike or HP or Waste Management or Select Comfort.

So let's get this right the first time.

2. Be Realistic About TCO and Avoid Latent 'Sticker Shock.'

One sure-fire way for IT and the CIO to draw the ire of the CEO and CFO is not to determine the ERP system's total costs after year one. Seems like a crazy thought these days, but: Don't fudge the long-term costs.

If those ongoing five-year maintenance, customization and integration costs are known up front, for instance, then the expectations of everyone participating in the RFP and budgeting process will be much more reasonable as the rollout rolls on. (It's like going to the automobile dealership for an oil change and then finding out you also need a rear break job, four new tires and a top-of-the-line muffler installed. If you knew that beforehand, you'd be better equipped to deal with the financial shock.)

3. Explain Why ERP Will Make Their Jobs Better and/or Easier.

End-user communication and empathy are typically lacking from most ERP rollouts. One cannot underestimate the shocking change and disruption when those who are supposed to use the new ERP system go from legacy and manual processes, which are comfortable, to complex and automated processes, which are uncomfortable.

Get user buy-in and input from the start and talk the system up every day—and they will be much more excited about using the finished product.

4. Keep It Simple Stupid

ERP systems have been dogged by complexity problems for decades. That is, however, starting to change as SaaS and on-demand ERP vendors make in-roads into the market and even the on-premise vendors start designing more graphically friendly interfaces.

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