As a premier enterprise resource planning (ERP) software system, Oracle has helped many organizations reduce inefficiencies, streamline and standardize processes, and enjoy new visibility into data and trends. The possibilities of Oracle ERP are somewhat limitless but, as with any large-scale implementation, the devil is in the details. Regardless of the power and depth the ERP system offers, many organizations struggle to realize the full benefits of a proper Oracle implementation methodology.
Over my years managing ERP implementations, I have borne witness to an alarming trend of organizations of all kinds realizing poor benefits. While calamitous ERP failures capture the media's attention more readily, the true -- and oftentimes equally damaging -- failures lay in organizations' seeming inabilities to achieve return on investment from their ERP software. When it comes to Oracle, the opportunity for enhanced operations is there. The following are five keys to a good Oracle implementation methodology.
1. Don't think that just because the software is top tier, the implementation will follow suit. Oracle is a leader in the marketplace for good reason but you simply can't implement a great system without great project management shoring it up. Many organizations make the mistake of thinking the system will, in some way, be plug-and-play, and that the resource commitments to get it implemented, get everyone trained and up to speed, and get it rolling throughout the company will somehow be lessened because of the power of the software. This is most definitely not the case.
2. Ensuring business process improvement is a key focus of a good Oracle implementation methodology. Some organizations become so overwhelmed by the actual ERP implementation that they lose sight of the incredible opportunity to improve and standardize enterprise-wide business processes. Companies typically embark on implementation thinking they will adopt the software completely out of the box and are quickly stunned to realize that this doesn't -- and can't -- work for their organizations. Too often, the pendulum then swings entirely the opposite way, which results in heavy customization, delayed timelines and higher than anticipated costs. Because Oracle offers such a robust variety of products (e.g., E-Business Suite, JDE, Siebel, Demantra, and so on), it is even more beneficial for its customers to focus on mapping out, integrating and improving business processes out of the starting gate to find the best mix of products and understand TCO.
3. Ensure the entire organization understands (and agrees upon) the Oracle implementation methodology. Priority setting comes from the top down, so it is imperative that the top executives come to agreement quickly on the importance of the ERP initiative to the company as a whole. If it's high priority (which it arguably should be), then resources need to be reassigned or augmented, targets need to be adjusted and the workforce needs plenty of communication and support to understand what's happening, why it's happening and what the benefits will be. Don't make the mistake of thinking that everyone will intrinsically understand the importance of a successful ERP implementation.
4. Devote substantial resources to organizational change management activities. An Oracle implementation requires change ... and, as we all know, individuals all process change in their own unique ways. Our independent research and "boots on the ground" experience has shown that companies that understand the importance of change management within an ERP implementation -- and devote the time, capital and effort to ensure the strategies are on target and the tactics are rolled out appropriately -- tend to gain the most long-term benefit from their ERP systems. Companies that try to shoehorn in the changes without engaging appropriate stakeholders, explaining the reasoning and/or nurturing change advocates within the organization often end up with resentful, unmotivated and confused staff members.
5. Call in support as needed. A reason why many organizations struggle to realize business benefits from ERP software is they think that they can shoulder the entire burden of the project themselves. Most companies don't necessarily keep ERP, change management, business process management or even project management experts on-site, and it is unrealistic to expect employees to automatically develop these skills just because the contract is signed. Know when additional resources are needed, and act on that need. Bringing in short-term expert staffers often ends up saving the organization huge amounts of costs, time and frustration over the long term.
While there is no doubt that Oracle is a top ERP software system and provider, companies need to recognize that the burden of success lies upon their Oracle implementation methodology and the choices they make.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Eric Kimberling is a managing partner at Panorama Consulting Solutions. Throughout his career, Eric has helped dozens of high-profile and global companies with their ERP initiatives, including Kodak, Samsonite, Coors, Duke Energy and Lucent Technologies.
Photo courtesy of Panorama Consulting Solutions.
This was first published in June 2013