Your System – Not Guilty As Charged

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A successful ERP implementation depends upon a proper “Pre-Sales” cycle

Posted by Joel Schipper on February 18, 2017

Recently I read an article from a consulting firm that guides software selections and advises on implementations.  The article was about the top 5 reasons why executives are afraid to undertake ERP and/or Digital Transformation Projects.  Reason #1 was executive fear that the project will take too long and cost too much.  The article offered these two safeguards:

“Our annual ERP Report shows that most projects either take longer than expected and/or cost more than expected. This statistic is often what drives fear. However, implementing strong project controls and governance is one way to mitigate this risk. Another failsafe way to address this risk is to ensure that you have a comprehensive implementation project plan that includes many of the hidden costs of implementation that most ERP vendors and consultants fail to recognize.” (My emphasis added).

These are great techniques, and absolutely required for project success.  But a project with hidden (“built-in”) surprises and problems needs more than those two remedies.  The missing, key critical factor for success:  A proper “pre-sales” cycle.

I don’t mean a demo, particularly one oriented towards a huge checklist of features that all the top ERP systems will be able to handle; as I’ve written before (more than once), that kind of demo is a waste of everyone’s time and money.

A proper pre-sales cycle allows the time for sufficient “due diligence” in discovering, documenting, and examining the critical aspects of the target company’s business practices and policies, and why these practices are needed for the company’s success.  These functions are what needs to be examined in sufficient depth, compared across competing ERP vendors, and demonstrated for usability and true degree of fit.

Simply saying “we perform function XYZ in our business operations” and having a vendor say “yes, we have a feature that allows you to do function XYZ” may not be enough.  ERP sales rep’s are strongly urged to avoid getting into “implementation details” when trying to make a sale, on the grounds that these details will confuse the customer – and slow down the sales cycle.  The unfortunate phrase is “Don’t confuse implementation with sales.”

But it is during “sales” that a company has the chance to discover if what they will need during implementation is actually met by the software.  Overlooking or bypassing the detailed examination of a crtical functional fit during the sales cycle will mean an extension of time and money through a customization or enhancement during implementation – or perhaps a sub-optimal solution through “work arounds.”  Sales and implementations are indeed tied very tightly together.  In that old phrase, the “devil is in the details” … and that’s what executives are afraid of.

Insist on a full and proper pre-sales cycle.  Don’t take vendor or consultancy reassurances that everything is “covered” when you haven’t seen it yourself – at least to the extent that you are personally confident that your critical features exist and can be implemented.



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