Posts Tagged ‘ERP Business process re-engineering’

Make your ERP project more than just a new system that works like the old one did

December 18th, 2009 Sandeep Walia 1 comment

I'm still surprised at how many customers still insist that the new system work exactly the last one does or supports their business process like they had it before the project. A fundamental question then is - why are you doing this project? If you are just looking for a nicer looking interface with no meaningful results then don't even waste time on an ERP project. Modern ERP systems bring with them bundled best practices. And an ERP project is the perfect time to re-evaluate your business processes and bake those processes into your new implementation.

I lead the implementation for an global Activity Based costing (ABC) effort for a 1 billion dollar division of a Fortune 10 customer. Of the many things I was analyzing, one key element was how people spent their time.One report in particular took about 5 person days of time to get ready every month. An annual cost of over 15,000 ($40/hour X 12 month x 5 days x 8 hours a day).This particular unit had a net profit margin of just $1 million on revenues of $1 billion and such reports were a gold mine to bring that net margin up. However, the cost to auotomate this report was estimated to be in the $45,000 range as it was a fairly complex report. The management balked at this cost. So we started digging into ways of simplifying the report. The report was initiated by a person in San Jose, California. Other data was filled by a finance person in Singapore and then by a team members in UK, Phoenix, Malaysia, UK and Germany. Certainly a lot of coordination and time. When finalized, the report was distributed to about 50 executive team members. I took the approach of reaching out to each recipient to ask them what was truly critical in the report so we could eliminate some of the complexity of the report. The results were staggering – none of the recipients ever readthe report and felt it was something that others probably found useful. Instead a simpler report was designed that cost only $2,000 to write and built in a day and was actually useful to all the divisional heads in improving their bottom-line. The report was completely automated and required no manual intervention.However, the fact that we developed a report that saved $15,000 is not so significant as the fact that had we not dug deep enough to find out the true pain we would have spent $45,000 ensuring the system worked like the client worked prior to the implementation and achieved nothing in the process. Are you sure you are not doing this to some degree?

I even found traces of this at Ignify. When we cut over to Dynamics AX – we got the ability to attach each receipt or expense with an AP invoice. We no longer had to sort and catalog these on a portal as Dynamics AX automatically catalogued our attachments with the invoice that was posted. However, our booking team members for a full 6 months after going live on Dynamics AX kept uploading the booking receipts to the portal while our payables team kept cataloging this in Dynamics AX. Of course we stopped the earlier process of uploading to the portal as soon as we found out. We had found a better way to do this, adopted it but forgot to tell someone to stop doing what they were doing :-) . How much work goes on that is useless and redundant. In my ABC analysis project that I had done – I found it was very significant. Employees were spending approximately 40% of their time doing non value-adding activities. When you cut over to a new system – leverage its intrinsic benefits of best practices. There is no better time to re-engineer your business process and ask 'How can I make this better simpler and more cost-effective' for every process. Weigh the cost with the benefit. The highest benefit with the lowest cost is when you can leverage what is out of the box and use that.

When Ignify adopted Dynamics AX globally, we cut out several redundant and manual processes – the workflow and ability to review postings, role-based security allowed us to cut out all the manual approvals that we had.We are still learning to improve but we implemented Dynamics AX globally for 300 employees across seven offices in 6 weeks by staying vanilla. We made zero customizations and drove our business to the best practices Dynamics AX provided to us. We spent a lot of time on business process design and how each process can be improved over what we had today. We spent time writing up process training documents for pretty much every finance, accounting, collections, and AP job – how to post a credit card transaction, how to post vendor invoices, how to post wire transactions, how to apply a customer payment. It was great- suddenly we moved from an undocumented, disorganized set of processes to a methodical way of doing business that supported our core consulting and software implementations.And these processes were written 100% by the Dynamics AX task recorder tool and have Microsoft Dynamics AX screen shots in them. At the heart of it we asked ourselves if we were a complex business and the answer was a resounding no. We are a simple business model and we wanted everything to be simple and easy to understand. Our goal was to make our processes even simpler and yet have the desired level of controls which Microsoft Dynamics AX did a great job of bringing to the table.

Microsoft Dynamics AX was great for us and has been great for our customers but I'm not proposing that as your ERP. I'm proposing that whatever system you choose to work with, that you leverage its native strengths and use the ERP implementation as a way of strengthening and simplifying your business processes and getting more for less. I've also run into situations where customers want to wait for writing up the perfect business process before starting an ERP project.That can take a really long-time and you may never start. The ERP application you choose will give you business processes out of the box as a starting point – use that as a spring board to move to the next level.

Sandeep Walia is the President & CEO of Ignify. Ignify is a technology provider of ERP, CRM, and eCommerce software solutions to businesses and public sector organizations. Ignify is a Microsoft Dynamics Inner Circle Partner and ranked in the top 18 Microsoft Dynamics partners. Ignify has been included as the fastest growing business in North America for 3 years in a row by Deloitte, Inc Magazine and Entrepreneur Magazine.