13 December 2011
The real ERP deal
"I would now spend only 5-10% of the [system selection] effort on choosing an ERP system." So said Cosworth Group head of manufacturing Darren Dowding at last month's CimForum manufacturing business IT conference at the Ricoh Arena, Coventry.
For Dowding, who has undertaken several ERP implementations around the globe for this renowned powertrain and aerospace and defence firm, what really matters is getting an ERP partner that can demonstrate full understanding of your processes – and your aspirations.
Few would disagree with the latter statement, but many might raise an eyebrow to the former. However, Dowding is adamant: yes, there are differences between ERP system providers in terms of the industries they espouse and, consequently, the expertise they may offer. But the overlap is generally considerable so there is little point in challenging them function by function. What sorts the wheat from the chaff, he insists, is focusing on the organisations and individuals who speak your language.
That means, first, being able to talk fluently about your existing production and business processes; and second, contributing intelligibly to a 'future state' that reflects or betters where your company believes it wants to be. And ditto for simplifying processes, ensuring transparency, etc.
Why? Because IT is a means to an end, not an end in itself – yet it has the capacity to transform just about every aspect of a business. Hence the importance of enabling communications, internally and externally; agreeing common, workable goals; and ensuring total commitment, from top to bottom.
Just as important, says Dowding, it's about involving everyone, with the best people from every function properly seconded – including the shopfloor so that there are no 'hidden factories'.
Motherhood and apple pie? Yes. But although management teams should get it by now, when it comes to real people, too many adopt approaches such as: 'it's somebody else's problem', or 'yes, but this can't get in the way of the day job'.
Each leads to implementation by proxy, with delegation usually to IT or finance. Each also encourages shortcuts, box ticking, misunderstanding, avoidance, and eventually blame and expensive failure.
Watch this space for next year's bigger, better CimForum series, with two-day events that not only talk the talk but also help you walk the walk.
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