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No ERP customization for you, says solar company to users in upgrade

With a potential IPO on the horizon, Amonix had to upgrade its ERP system fast. So it prohibited any ERP customization.

When Amonix decided to adopt Oracle E-Business Suite R12, it worried some of its employees with a simple fiat: No ERP customization would be allowed.

The Seal Beach, Calif.-based photovoltaic solar power manufacturer had been using another enterprise resource planning (ERP) package, Epicor, but the company was growing and felt its software had to grow as well. At the time, the company had its eyes on going public with an initial public offering (IPO) and wanted to quickly upgrade the ERP system and get its ducks in a row.

"Timing was critical," said Pat McCullough, CFO at the time of the upgrade, and now CEO. "We knew we were trying to thread the needle in a tough timeframe."

ERP customization is more the norm than not. According to Denver-based Panorama Consulting's 2012 ERP Report, 89% of the 246 survey participants had customizations in their ERP software. And that was actually more than the previous year, when 85% had customizations.

So Amonix's story is unusual. But they were also in an unusual situation, with an IPO on the horizon and an aging ERP system that McCullough said was buggy. Amonix had been using Epicor for several years but believed the ERP software would not be able to handle the major business expansion that Amonix was planning. It picked Oracle E-Business Suite in large part because it had a few people in IT management who were "extensive users of EBS in past careers."

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ERP implementations are typically slow and expensive, but Amonix wanted to buck the trend. Panorama has reported that over the last four years, the average ERP implementation time is 16.6 months -- almost a year and a half. McCullough said Amonix got it done in 10 weeks. They installed 18 modules of EBS, including supply chain management, financial analytics and general ledger.

"Oracle told us that it was the fastest implementation of [E-Business Suite] 12.1 that has ever happened," he said.

We had a million requests internally to take on different configurations. We said 'no' to all of them. We said, 'No, you're going to live with out-of-the-box for six months.'
Pat McCulloughCEO, Amonix

They got it done from the top down. McCullough said company management is usually pretty laid-back, but a successful EBS implementation with no ERP customization in 10 weeks isn't conducive to a laissez-faire philosophy. The company instead told all relevant employees that EBS would be installed out of the box, and that no employees could request any customizations for half a year.

"We had a million requests internally to take on different configurations," McCullough said. "We said 'no' to all of them. We said, No, you're going to live with out-of-the-box for six months.'"

The company created an implementation team of about a dozen employees whose main job was to interact every day with every end user of the ERP system. McCullough said that was a crucial component of keeping end users in line, rather than "letting them go off and do their own thing."

"It was definitely a heavy-handed bit of leadership," he said. "But we had to be able to manage it."

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