Defining Processes at Outset of Implementation Is ERP Best Practice

Ann All

Last month when I interviewed Craig Zampa, VP of Technology Solutions for TNG Worldwide, about what I called the company's (almost) pain-free implementation of an ERP system, it was evident TNG did a lot of things right, from enlisting a highly involved executive sponsor to avoiding unnecessary customization.


One of the first steps the company took was examining its business processes and workflows, as part of a broader effort to tweak some of them with more of an emphasis on industry best practices. Said Zampa:

Sitting with the CEO of our company we determined we'd built a lot of processes over time to deal with how we do business. A lot of those weren't necessarily best practice, but just things we'd adopted. One of the goals for deployment was realigning our business and our processes into a best practices model. Using that idea, for wholesale distribution, moving small packages and other processes, we wanted to look at a best practice workflow and figuring out how closely we could mirror it, determining whether some of our processes were actually creating competitive advantage or just built as conveniences over the years.

Zampa also told me it was important to take this kind of a deep dive into processes in the beginning stages of the ERP project, rather than waiting until "things have already started to get out of control." (And that's when problems become far more costly to fix, I'd add.)


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Writing on the Panorama Consulting Group blog, Eric Kimberling concurs with Zampa's advice, offering three reasons why it's important for organizations to define their business processes, workflows and internal controls before an ERP implementation begins rather than waiting until the project is under way.


The reasons:

  • Some organizations don't have well-defined or documented business processes. This will add cost and complexity to an ERP implementation and will "also typically result in misalignment and a lack of consensus across the business," Kimberling says.
  • Some organizations lack internal controls and standards. The inherent flexibility of ERP software creates "even more of a need to establish tight controls and procedures," writes Kimberling, as "the software won't establish those things for you."
  • ERP software cannot tell organizations how to run their business. That's wishful thinking and a very bad reason to deploy ERP software. As Kimberling points out, organizations can likely implement many process improvements even before they select their ERP software. Again, this should save time and money in the long run.


Insufficiently defining business processes was selected as "the deadliest sin of ERP implementation" by 39 percent of the 72 folks that participated in an online Panorama Consulting poll. A ZDNet post by Michael Krigsman concentrates more on insufficient focus on organizational change management, the No. 2 sin named by 35 percent of respondents, but Krigsman writes the two go hand-in-hand, as "both address how people will work in the post-ERP environment."

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