Not long ago, I likened ERP to the crazy relative that disrupts family gatherings. You know the guy I mean. He's the one who pick ups a woman in the checkout lane and turns up the next day in a police station two counties away when sent to the store with a $20 bill to get whipped cream for the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
Like that guy, one of the few predictable things about ERP systems is the regularity with which they fail to meet expectations. According to an often-cited Panorama Consulting Group study, 93 percent of ERP projects take longer than expected, 59 percent of ERP projects exceed original budget expectations and just 21 percent of companies report receiving 50 percent or more of ERP's projected benefits.
ERP is like that relative in another way. Folks expend a lot of time and effort trying to figure out what went wrong in the hopes that some day this analysis can be used to help make it better. Keeping that in mind, I like this silicon.com piece in which several analysts weigh in with their opinions on some of the biggest stumbling blocks for ERP projects.
One big issue is ERP's complexity. ERP systems tend to encompass lots of users scattered throughout an organization, which creates "a lot of distributed responsibility," says Christian Hestermann, research director for ERP at Gartner. Other issues:
As you can tell from the list, troubles arise more from people and process than technology. The money quote from Gartner's Hestermann:
It's more things like poor planning, unclear responsibilities, people pointing at each other. These implementations look like a technology project but it's much a business and people kind of thing.
What can you do to keep that cousin's mind on the pie, or users' eyes on the ERP prize? Much of the advice in the article seems fairly obvious, such as ensuring you have management buy-in and clearly defining your objectives. My favorite tip, from Ovum Butler Group analyst Angela Eager, is to take an incremental rather than a big-bang approach to implementation. I shared some more good advice on ERP gleaned from a project at Peet's Coffee and Tea in a post earlier this month.
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