Selecting the right partner is vital to ERP success

Ensuring the ERP solution has the backing of skilled and experienced implementation, maintenance and support teams, is a crucial aspect sometimes overlooked.
Gerrit Olivier
By Gerrit Olivier, Founder and CEO of About IT
Johannesburg, 20 Nov 2020
Gerrit Olivier
Gerrit Olivier

Choosing the right enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution is important. It must deliver the functionality customers need today and have the scalability and development support to meet longer term requirements too.

But ensuring the solution has the backing of skilled and experienced implementation, maintenance and support teams is equally, if not more, important. It’s a crucial aspect sometimes overlooked that can leave customers of multimillion-rand projects in the lurch at worst or incurring woeful losses at the least.

The best way to select the right partner and avoid the challenges that may result from a poor choice, is to understand the four primary complexities that impact vendors, systems integrators and customers.

Even midrange ERP solutions today are complex. Advanced systems live in the cloud, offer extensive modular business functionality, and can be integrated with a wide range of peripheral systems to maximise existing investments or incorporate necessary functionality.

Hybrid deployments even bridge the growing chasm between modern and legacy environments, creating a cocktail of old and new, to meet project requirements and business necessity as required.


Proper modern solutions, which are designed for this digital era from the ground up rather than being a panel-beating effort that kicks an old design into the current day, are created elsewhere in the world. Consequently, we must customise them to suit the needs of South African businesses.

Any ERP implementation team must be able to provide better availability, uptime and support.

For example, our retailers have different rebate, discount and deduction structures from those abroad. You cannot in the US, for instance, claim a settlement discount if you pay past due date. That has to be catered for in the local systems.

Another example would be that there is no discount structure for selling to large retailers in the US for things like shelf space, marketing and product rebates.

Maintenance impacts

Not only must the systems integrator’s people be skilled enough to customise the solution, they must also have the know-how and experience to maintain what they customise with every update, patch and maintenance upgrade released by the vendor.

Business interruption

One of the reasons medium to large enterprises are adopting modern cloud ERP is that the systems offer the capabilities to match the new pace of business in a digital, online world.

Speedier business ultimately means more transactions per hour or greater revenues per hour being at stake if things go wrong. Consequently, any ERP implementation team must be able to provide better availability, uptime and support.

A medium-sized South African business I know of lost R300 000 in the 30 minutes its ERP system was unavailable. Another local company was down for nine hours. The maths of that loss is simple. But the reputational impact and loss of customers, with the long-term financial implications, are far greater concerns.

The impact is keenly felt during upgrades. Experienced teams perform complex upgrades quickly and correctly, thus minimising the business impacts.

Local conditions

Finally, implementation teams in South Africa have to cater for local conditions, often factors that don’t concern the original software vendor.

For example, many South African companies still use dot matrix printers in their warehouses. They’re cost-effective, reliable solutions for that type of requirement. But the cloud ERP solutions don’t talk to them. That’s seldom a consideration that emerges in the pre-sales phase of a project. It more likely emerges with the washing, when a technician ends up working long overtime hours trying to push out a pick list, invoice or POD in the back of a warehouse.

Connectivity is another challenge peculiar to our geography. South Africa has wide, open spaces, and long distances between the built-up infrastructure of our relatively advanced towns and cities and our remote farming and rural areas. That proved to be a challenge we were able to overcome when we had to create an integrated vehicle tracking solution for a commercial farm, for example.

It is vital to select the right ERP system, ensuring its capabilities meet customers’ business requirements. Yet, it is equally paramount to ensure the people who will get it in and keep it running are also up to snuff. Perhaps more so.

* In my next column, I’ll talk about training requirements and the necessity for a degree of commitment to be specified in the upfront scope of work and establishing the right requirements.