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There are barriers to leveraging cloud ERP – here are 10 of the most important

By Gerrit Olivier, founder and CEO of About IT

Johannesburg, 24 Mar 2020
Read time 5min 40sec

A lot of small to medium business owners want the same benefits for their operations as large enterprises have been getting from ERP for decades now. They want the benefits of rising above the plain old accounting package that may have stood by them for years but can no longer cut the mustard.

Others want to shake free the shackles of legacy systems that bind them to archaic business processes redundant in a disrupted, app-driven world that gives immediate access to real-time, data-driven business outcomes.

It’s entirely reasonable. We’ve come a long way since Gartner first used the ERP acronym in the 90s to describe the united capabilities of material requirements planning, manufacturing resource planning and others that described a significantly more capable whole. Just in a very disconnected way compared with modern capabilities.

Gerrit Olivier, CEO of About IT
Gerrit Olivier, CEO of About IT

That was roughly 30 years ago now and we’ve once more come a long way. Cloud ERP makes significant progress. Not only does it extend the capabilities, amplifying the benefits for any business, but it massively democratises the function so just about anyone can cultivate its benefits. It’s like people just went from steaming for weeks by sea to reach America to hopping a jet ride on Boeing’s 707, the 'grandpappy' of modern commercial air travel. It’s no longer the exclusive preserve of the rich and famous. A ton of people travelled overseas every day prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. And if your business is still steaming like Winslet and DiCaprio on Titanic then you’re anywhere from six weeks to plain sunk behind your competitors.

Nonetheless, prudent businesspeople will discover and understand that, while ERP can deliver a raft of benefits, it profoundly impacts the business deep into its core and that means it can have huge consequences. Plan for the consequences and they won’t sink you. Disregard them entirely and they could load-shed the entire project before you even flip a switch.

Ten of the top potential barriers to successful ERP deployment:

  1. Don’t let anyone fool you, implementing ERP costs real money and you need enough to go the distance;
  2. You will undoubtedly have to develop new procedures or processes, train at least some employees, and convert data – these can be risky endeavours if you neglect them;
  3. Moving from functional applications to ERP is challenging so don’t try to be pennywise; make sure your implementation team is top-notch, for example, use the right experts, don’t try to hack resources by substituting qualified, certified project managers for your own employees to save a few rands, precious as they may be these days; and don’t over-commit too few resources leaving them insufficient time to deal with important issues;
  4. Know what your strategic business goals are upfront, write them down, share them widely with the project team and your affected employees; it gets everyone on board;
  5. Make sure your top management commits to the project by being hands-on, with CEO and CFO involvement at least once a week to oversee board-level responsibilities; mid-level managers and employees need guidance and direction to be able to deliver executive-level results;
  6. Establish focused performance measures that go beyond the basic implementation team; ERP is one of the most important business assets you have so it pays dividends to stay in tune with the project as it develops;
  7. Probably the most underrated element of successfully deploying ERP is managing the change in your business from day one; resistance to change slows projects and that translates directly into rands; it makes sense to get ahead of this curve;
  8. Clean your data, de-dupe it, keep it that way; you need clean, correct and accurate data to provide meaningful content for the new system because that is the foundation of your business; it’s a responsibility that has to get beyond the IT department or even just the implementation team;
  9. In multi-site implementations you can use training videos, online training, as well as live online training workshops incorporating video to limit costs and establish an archive of valuable knowledge (that also helps with my point 10). Tailored training materials, either videos or workshops, are invaluable aids to meeting unique business requirements. They can be watched repeatedly and referred to at later stages; and
  10. Staff turnover during implementations can cause the loss of valuable knowledge that derails strategic follow-through and increases costs. You can create project resilience by including your implementation partner in key processes, thereby providing failover and giving your team time to bring new resources up to speed.

I’ve been doing multitudes of these projects for years for all kinds of businesses. I’ve seen people learn some hard lessons and, trust me, you don’t want to be among their number.

I’ve also had the privilege to work with some of the finest businesspeople I’ve ever met and they are the ones who started extracting the benefits of ERP from day one. They achieve the goal of creating centralised data that drives a number of business outcomes, such as single panes into customer data that informs insightful analytics to impact customer experiences. I’ve seen them be able to determine inventories at any stage in their supply chain, up to the minute, at the click of a button. I’ve seen farmers not even have to click a button – they get dashboard visualisations delivered to them that help them improve yields per hectare.

And a lot more, because they did it right. They approached the project the right way without necessarily knowing how they were going to achieve standardised, synchronised information that would improve their efficiencies. They’re not technical people. They left that to the experts. But they also checked that they were, in fact, working with experts. A crucial business skill.

As a result of being intelligent, savvy, empathetic businesspeople they have the benefits that ERP provides and they’ve been able to amplify their operations. Considering the 10 potential barriers ensures they get to leverage the benefits of cloud ERP, and you will too.

About IT

About IT, established in 2003, provides agile business solutions for cloud ERP, infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and data analytics for small to medium enterprises. These solutions enable customers to safely and securely deploy ERP and advanced dashboard data analytics in on-premise, private, public, and hybrid cloud environment. They benefit from advanced security, improved reliability, highly accessible data, and the economies of scale. About IT’s advanced dashboard data analytics focuses on bringing customers relevant, actionable operational data to deal with immediate business issues, building associations and insights without waiting on pre-programmed reports. The business has seven offices in major centres throughout South Africa.

Editorial contacts
Scarlet Letter Michelle Oelschig (083) 636 1766 michelle@scarletletter.co.za
About IT Group Jillian Erasmus (0861) 460 100 jillian@aboutitgroup.co.za
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