5 (non-technology) lessons from an ERP implementation

The business driver for the ERP upgrade at Acland Holdings was simple: to establish a ‘single version of the truth’.

Wayne Broekhals, IS manager for Acland holdings, says from a retail perspective this means knowing the inventory in a given moment in time, whether it is in a warehouse, on site or sold online.

Also key, he says, is easily identifying sales from multi-channels whether it is wholesale, trade, retail or e-commerce.

When he and his team faced this challenge more than two years ago, the retailer had disparate systems.

The key focus was to implement a new ERP, an ‘end to end solution’ for the entire group, whose brands include Citta Design, Corso De Fiori and Compagnie de Provence.

Acland Holdings chose Microsoft Dynamics AX, and sought an integration partner for its implementation.

His experiences on this and other projects prompted him to share his lessons for up and coming ICT leaders who will undertake a similar business technology upgrade.

First, know thy partner

Working on a major project requires trust and partners need to show their experience, he says.

If your partner knows the product well, that is fantastic. But more importantly, that they know the most recent version of the product, he states.

If not, the vendor will be “learning on the job”, and the company will be paying for this education.

Second, don’t let personal relationships get in the way

You can never do enough research.

Evaluate different vendors that are strong in the sector, he states. “Personal relationships need to be checked at the door with the vendor.”

When you are challenging the system in terms of your requirements, you need advice from a wider knowledge pool. Wayne Broekhals, Acland Holdings

Third, always do a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis of the vendor

He says Acland Holdings is in the medium business size range in New Zealand, so the partner needed to be “agile and flexible” to work with the size of the organisation.

“If the partner is offshore, will there be time zone issues? Are they working with other New Zealand organisations? Do they have your specific sector expertise?

“Evaluate the people resource. Do they know the product well? Do they have any inkling or show signs of moving on?”

Interview the vendor's staff, he says. "You cannot just talk to the managing director and listen to the sales pitch."

It is advantageous to be able to talk directly to developers and architects, he states. "They need to get what you are trying to achieve and support you.”

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Fourth, speak to other customers other than references

You need to evaluate other customers of the integration partner other than their references, he states.

Broekhals also talked to other IT directors and CIOs at industry events, and asked them about their “pain points and frustrations” going through similar projects.

Use social media to talk to peers, he says.

“If I were to do it again, absolutely, I will send out [queries] on LinkedIn. Often when you are challenging the system in terms of your requirements, you need advice from a wider knowledge pool.”

Fifth, it is all about the customer

On any project implementation, focusing on the customer is important.

Evaluate what the customers need and want, he states.

And whether these are internal or external customers, it is important to minimise the use of technology jargons.

“Take something that is common to people in their day to day work,” he stresses.

When explaining a technology upgrade to leaders in the organisation, he says it can be placed in the context of building a house.

“You need to have the foundations and plumbing, the plumbing representing networks, etc. This gives non-technical staff a connection to the real world with an IT context.”

Today, he says, the company has a new integration partner and a platform that provides scalability.

And most importantly, it achieved business outcomes which included: “One system, providing a central source of information for the business.”

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6 digital transformation success stories