ERP Utilization Series: Business Value Realization

Implementing a Cloud ERP solution does not guarantee business value, regardless of the Cloud ERP provider (vendor).  There are countless examples of customers that have not experienced the expected business value articulated in the sales cycle.  Why is this? 

  1. Cloud ERP software could not deliver on the business benefits promised.
  2. Customers could not adapt to the delivered public Cloud ERP delivery model.
  3. System Implementation (SI) partner could not implement Cloud ERP correctly or SI partner could not enable the customer to support their Cloud ERP solution.

Naturally, when things go wrong every stakeholder will point the finger at each other.  As each stakeholder has a share in the success of a Cloud ERP implementation, so is there a share of responsibility in the failure of realizing business value from a Cloud ERP implementation. 

A common theme I’ve observed in my ERP implementation experience is the lack of defining business value goals to be managed during the ERP implementation cycle.  The majority of time, business value goals are assumed as a “natural” result from the project.  Many consider business value an area that is managed after the initial implementation.  The inherent flaw in this approach is that the cost to manage business value is greater when the Cloud ERP solution is live.  This statement is a corollary to the rule that fixing bugs in design is 15x less than the cost of fixing bugs in production.

For example, let’s say you want to consolidate individual functions into a shared service model to leverage economies of scale and promote greater process efficiency (business value). However, this transition is not easy given that the implemented enterprise configuration only considered a “point-in-time” structure. Addressing the functional configuration limitation in production requires greater effort/discipline in a public Cloud ERP model versus an on-premise model (no more direct SQL updates in a public Cloud production environment).

I recommend that business value is front and center throughout the implementation and that business value is the ultimate indicator of Cloud ERP implementation success.  Unfortunately, the majority of Cloud ERP implementation methodologies are based on “traditional” approaches of on-time, on-budget and in-scope. 

What is Business Value Realization?

Do you know how many definitions there are for business value realization?  The number is far more than I can count!  I pride myself at being a pragmatist versus a theorist.  Therefore, the definition must support a repeatable and realistic process given the reality of resource constraints.  I am not arrogant enough to say that I have it all figured out, but the following is my working theory as I interact with ERP customers:

Business value realization is the observed evidence that the customer experiences either as a positive or a negative impact on business process execution.  Consider the following points:

  • Business value is in the eye of the customer.  I humbly believe that the vendor and the SI Partner are responsible in assisting the customer to see the business value created. Simple cost reduction does not equate to business value. 
  • From the customer perspective, business value unnoticed is business value unrealized.   Education is a key requirement in business value realization.
  • Without a baseline, how can one quantify the business value realized? As the Cloud ERP market continues to become more competitive, realized business value will become a competitive differentiation for Cloud ERP vendors. 

Now that we have defined the problem, let’s spend some time discussing how to best address business value realization during the implementation.

Business Value Realization Framework during the ERP Implementation

I have done an exhausted search of business value realization frameworks.  The majority of the frameworks do not address the implementation phase of an ERP solution.  I contend that these approaches should be updated given the apparent level of dependencies that business process execution has with technology today’s environment.  I’ve only found one framework that addressed business value realization during the implementation.

This is a great framework from an IT perspective from the academic world.  I would recommend the above framework to any IT leader looking to create more of an advisory service versus being a traditional service provider (IT should move up the value chain).   In general, I agree with the Lean Six Sigma approach to focus first on process efficiency then process effectiveness for most revenue-supporting and compliance processes.   However, for revenue generating processes, it may be best to focus on process effectiveness first to create market share/disruptance before focusing on process efficiency.

Now, allow me to provide a more detailed framework for business value realization during an ERP implementation.

Performance metrics including KPIs are the definitive “evidence” that the ERP implementation added business value.  Therefore, it is very important that you take a baseline or “snapshot” of your business KPIs before and after the ERP implementation to measure the business value.   My recommendation is to capture the baseline business KPIs during the sales cycle.  Hint: Leverage the ERP vendor to assist you in defining the specific business value you will experience with the purchase of their ERP software.

As you progress thru the Cloud ERP implementation, broad vision and objective(s) becomes specific siloed tasks.   It is important that you reassess your project progress to the agreed upon vision and objective(s).  An iterative approach is best to ensure that you have to opportunity to perform course corrections during the implementations versus more costly corrections after the implementation.

Capturing the post KPIs should be done after stabilization.  The duration of the stabilization phase depends on several factors that I addressed in a previous blog.  Once you have captured the performance metrics and KPIs, you should be able to provide an accurate picture of success and improvement gaps. 

Summary

Going live is only the beginning to business value realization.  Second, traditional ERP implementation project metrics (On-time, In-Scope, and On-budget) only have an indirect relationship on business value.  Generating business value is the primary objective of an ERP implementation, not just moving to the cloud or replacing an outdated system.  Business value must be an iterative and recurring theme in your Cloud ERP implementation approach.

Business value must be a continuous focus for all key stakeholders.  Failure to do so will result in a longer period to business value realization.

Join the community! 10k followers across 100 countries!

Customers – Insist on an ERP Knowledge Transfer Plan

What Gets Tracked and Measured Gets Done

How do you measure knowledge transfer?  Customers – have you ever received a report or completed checklist that demonstrated the Implementation Partner conducted knowledge transfer?   Knowledge transfer is a process, not just a milestone task on a project plan.  Consider the following illustration to identify the importance of knowledge transfer.

ERP Business Solution
Business Solution Defined

In a previous article I referred to this view and also identified people as the component with the largest impact to a successful business solution.  A key enabler for people being successful is Implementation Partners conducting effective knowledge transfer.  For many ERP implementations, knowledge transfer is a process that is loosely managed which results in the Implementation Partner providing support long after the go-live date. For an area so important it demands that we formalize this process to ensure completeness.

Best Practice: Knowledge Transfer Plan

Simply put, if you want to ensure that an objective is reached then you need a plan.  A knowledge transfer plan first defines the knowledge transfer process and the methods that will be used to conduct knowledge transfer.    Second, it defines all the customer’s roles & responsibilities that are required to support the entire business solution – both from a functional and technical perspective.  Third, the knowledge transfer plan should act as a checklist for each individual role validating that effective knowledge transfer has taken place.    Following is an example of a knowledge transfer plan.

Knowledge Transfer Process for Consultants
Knowledge Transfer Plan

Effective knowledge transfer is more than just training or having a user sit next to a consultant.  It requires a holistic approach in using several methods (training, mentoring, knowledge generation, and interactions) to be successful.  The end result of knowledge transfer is enabling the customer to support their new business solution.  

Implications for Implementation Partners

Knowledge is power!  Knowledge can be money and a key source of competitive advantage for an Implementation Partner.  For an Implementation Partner a key concern is balancing knowledge transfer to ensure customer success versus providing too much knowledge resulting in the customer terminating services early.  It’s important for customers to keep in mind that knowledge sharing happens more freely in a trusted environment.

There are two broad categories of service that an Implementation Partner can provide: staff leadership and staff augmentation.

Broad categories for ERP implementation services
ERP Implementation Service Spectrum

To achieve greater customer enablement Implementation Partners should play more of a staff leadership role during the implementation.  Customers, there is a price associated with effective knowledge transfer.  Also keep in mind that there are greater resource requirements (i.e. knowledge, experience, advisory) for staff leadership services.  Price should not be the only consideration when comparing staff leadership versus staff augmentation services.

Summary

True enablement is based upon customers selecting consulting firms that act as a true partner and not just staff augmentation.  If customers only require staff augmentation then I suggest customers get it as cheap as possible, yet don’t expect any reliable knowledge transfer to occur. If this is the first ERP implementation for the customer then I would recommend that the customer selects an Implementation Partner that not only assist your project team but more importantly train and enable your project team to be successful on your own.  That is what a true partner would do.  To maximize knowledge transfer the customer needs to foster a trusted work environment.  Customers – it’s in your best interest to take the lead in creating this environment.

Join the community! 10k followers across 100 countries!