In the era of digital transformation, many digital tools allow companies to optimize their processes and performance. Among them, ERP software (Enterprise Resource Planning), has been propelled to the forefront during the 2020 health crisis. At the heart of issues such as digital transformation, change management or agility, the implementation of an ERP project can be full of challenges. So what are the best practices? And what lessons can we learn from this very special year?
Experts' views on the challenges of ERP projects:
- Lesly Belkhir, Project Manager at Axelor ;
- Thomas Gereec, Project Director at Lemon Learning.
ERP project: what's in it for companies?
Data sharing, process standardization, and task automation. ERP is full of promises for companies seeking better performance. Thanks to its various functionalities, it allows companies to work in an agile mode, in particular by promoting better communication between the different actors, whether they are internal or external. For Lesly Belkhir, Project Manager at Axelor, it is obvious: "Nowadays, an ERP should no longer be seen as unnecessary, but as a solution offering a real ROI".
In short, the implementation of an ERP project makes it possible to improve the management of all the company's activities (Finance, HR, sales management, purchasing, production, etc.). Among other things, this information system allows teams to free up time for more high value-added tasks, to make fewer data entry errors and improve data quality overall. But to achieve this level of efficiency, there are some prerequisites. Thomas Gereec, Project Director at Lemon Learning, explains:
"An efficient ERP is above all an ERP that meets the company's challenges. It is therefore essential to identify these challenges from the start".
Moreover, although more and more businesses are choosing this digital tool to support their digital transformation, ERP is not yet the norm. "Far too many companies still use a multitude of different tools or spreadsheets to manage their data. This exposes them to data loss, poor internal organization, a tenfold increase in human errors, and communication within the teams is often of poor quality" highlights Lesly Belkhir. In addition to this, there are also security issues (cyber security, data, etc.), especially when you consider the amount of data passing through the software packages.
Challenges that remain when implementing ERP projects
While the implementation of an ERP project is beneficial in many ways, it also comes with many challenges. Starting with choosing the right solution. "There are a plethora of solutions on the market, it is essential to take your time in choosing a new digital tool, especially when it is a real "backbone" for the company" explains Axelor's Project Manager. And she continues: "Of course, to choose the most appropriate ERP, you must first have defined your needs precisely, ideally by involving the business players from the start" an essential element in change management, including in the implementation of ERP projects. The reason?
Nearly half of all ERP implementations fail the first time (Source: Technology Evaluation Centers)
To successfully complete a digital transformation project, change management is fundamental. By garnering the support of stakeholders, ERP training and regular communication, companies can facilitate the long-term adoption of ERP by users. Thomas Gereec explains: "This is essential because it is what allows users to become aware of the added value of ERP. This promotes a better digital experience in the long term". In addition, understanding end-user issues is also a key to accelerating ERP adoption in the company. "It is fundamental to understand how end users work in order to provide them with an ERP that is adapted to their daily challenges" stresses Lemon Learning's Project Director, before advising to "conduct an audit of end users' uses" or to ensure "visibility into the company's organization (key users, overall planning of the internal project, etc.)" to do so.
On the other hand, if the implementation of ERP projects already comes with challenges, then 2020 only brought more.
Covid-19: what impact on ERP deployment?
The impact of the Covid-19 health crisis was felt by most companies. In order to survive in the various markets, they had to accelerate their digital transformation in record time and reorganize accordingly. "The Covid-19 crisis forced us to adapt our working methods somewhat" explains Lesly Belkhir. For many, telecommuting has become the norm, as has remote working.
Among other things, companies have had to implement new methods to train their employees in ERP. In fact, remote training revealed the flaws in some software training methods, as Thomas Gereec explains:
"Training users via a manual, a PDF or an e-learning device doesn't work. These training devices are not immersive enough. They are training elements, not support elements".
With heterogeneous digital skills, the level of support for ERP users can't be the same for everyone. And for good reason, users are not a homogeneous group: their profiles and business needs differ. It is therefore essential to adapt training to the different profiles. "It is inconceivable to train users to an ERP using generic training programs that are detached from the tools" explains Thomas Gereec.
ERP project and digital adoption: the winning duo
The reason why user training is so important is that it directly affects the success of the ERP implementation. When users do not receive adequate training, they have difficulty getting to grips with their ERP system properly. But what are the risks of not having an ERP system used properly? Lesly Belkhir points out:
"Not using an ERP or not using it properly is giving up its undeniable advantage in terms of productivity and data management. The result is a colossal loss of time and lower profitability".
In short, an ERP project is of little use if the actors, internal or external, use it little or badly.
To support the implementation of ERP projects, digital adoption solutions now allow companies to accelerate the learning curve. "Our system of interactive embedded guides accompanies users in real time directly from their ERP", explains Thomas Gereec. This is an alternative to traditional training methods that helps to optimize ERP projects in the long term.
Time savings, cost optimization, better agility: the effectiveness of ERP is no longer in question. If the health crisis is still pushing companies to be innovative to meet challenges of the moment, the success of software projects is proving to be one of the keys to achieving this.