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Q&A: Ten common mistakes when implementing ERP systems (Includes interview)

To assist companies with avoiding mistakes when implementing an ERP system, CIO Shivkumar Gopalan at Unit4, a global software provider, has compiled a list of common mistakes and ways to combat them. Examples of mistakes include forgetting to ensure end-users (from all departments) are involved in the decision-making process.

Instead, by engaging key employees or the end users, companies can ensure a smooth implementation process and avoid critical user errors later on because they will have a deeper knowledge of the system from the beginning. Gopalan explains more.

Digital Journal: What are the main challenges from working from home?

Shivkumar Gopalan: As government-mandated lockdowns were issued across countries around the globe, organizations in both the private and public sectors sent much of their workforce home, except for essential workers. While employees rapidly set up home offices in kitchens, bedrooms, or, frankly, any open space to stay on top of projects and deadlines, the challenges of keeping them connected and secure was something many IT departments had not faced, at scale. Some of the challenges many organizations faced during the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown included:

Last Mile Services. Most businesses have an “enterprise-grade” broadband service, which can support large amounts of sustained internet-based traffic. The pipe going into homes, through cable, satellite, mobile, or fiber, is designed for peak usage at specific times. This change in usage habits where everyone uses the same Wi-Fi network and internet for video conferencing, analysis, online gaming, and video streaming- all day- resulted in congestion and frustration.

Home Networks. Most homes are configured with consumer-grade routers, some of which hadn’t been upgraded for years. This, coupled with broadband plans which may not offer top capacity, can bring the “new home office” to a grinding halt given all the people and traffic it’s now being asked to support.

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Customer Confidence. While the day-to-day business location has changed, the demand for mission-critical service and data security has not. Customers- be it students, citizens, or enterprise users- want to know that they will have access to their projects, reports, and data, 24/7. And most importantly, their data will be safe even if managed by a vendor’s employee working from their kitchen table, five time zones away.

Going Digital. While many businesses have embraced digital transformation, not all have. Even for those that have, the pockets of non-digitized processes and procedures still exists. Outside of the all-to-common personal preference that employees have to see things printed out on paper, organizational areas such as legal (contracts), HR (onboarding), and accounting (invoicing, payments) may still rely heavily on paper. And organizations in industries such as the public sector (especially at local levels) and insurance (claims) can still be early in the digital transformation journey. These scenarios might make working from home a big challenge, sometimes forcing employees to come into the office one or more times a week to keep the paper-based processes moving.

Lastly, an array of other factors such as the impact on customer experience, an organization’s operational agility, IT tech stack, culture, and leadership can either accelerate or impede the ability to quickly adjust to working from home.

DJ: What is the specific impact on delivering products and services?

Gopalan: Vendors and their customers face the same type of concerns — reliable access to complete critical projects, keeping data private and secure, and having confidence that challenges are being addressed and systems also remain secure in a time of uncertainty. For people-based service industries, managing multiple projects on time and on a budget becomes even more critical in maintaining their customer’s trust and confidence. In the public sector, ensuring that a citizen has access to vital services and that their data remains secure is critical, especially during life-threatening events such as a global pandemic.

DJ: How important can enterprise software systems like ERP or HCM be in helping to manage service delivery?

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Gopalan:The ability to conduct scenario planning and then make the necessary adjustments to the business and swiftly execute is a need expressed by many of our customers. Financial planning systems that enable customers to build different models to help them chart the best path forward is often at the top of their list. For HR leaders, having a complete view of their workforce and the impact COVID might be having on things like employee health, engagement and travel can directly impact a firm’s ability to deliver a project on time and to the client’s satisfaction.

DJ: What are the main risks and complexities of operating enterprise software platforms remotely?

Gopalan:One main risk is vulnerability. Controlling and managing encrypted traffic coming into networks and systems is critical. We advise customers to stay in close contact with us. We want to assure them that we’ve taken steps to protect their data and privacy, especially at this time. While it’s always top of mind, strict adherence to service-level agreements (SLAs) and up-to-date data privacy and business continuity plans helps provide some certainty when the world around you and your customers seems very uncertain.

DJ: Outside of technological issues, what gets in the way of optimization?

Gopalan:Companies are doing business in a fiercely competitive global environment; the global pandemic has not changed that in any way. With COVID-19, though it remains unclear as to when and how businesses in different regions will reopen (and if they will stay that way), they must continually evaluate and deploy new technologies to remain competitive, efficient, and effective. ERP optimization is necessary to add value to an organization and keep pace with the market, which means senior leaders should be involved as well as business stakeholders representing different functions. Through my experience, suppliers can add a layer of expertise. So, it’s essential to work with them closely, particularly where they have very specific industry expertise.

Unfortunately, we have seen some businesses move away from their focus on optimization because another area of the company needs more attention, such as a shift in their business model. Sometimes this is a valid shift, but optimization remains important to delivering the required value-add across the organization.

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DJ: What are the best ways to address these challenges?

Gopalan:Moving resources to cloud-based systems like SaaS or PaaS will give organizations more scalability in quickly serving the needs of a remote workforce. Work with a supplier that understands your industry and can provide implementations based on industry best practices. Today, cloud-based enterprise software platforms like ERP can give you most of what you need out-of-the-box so you can avoid the complex, costly projects of the past, with the ability to build simple service extensions as you require them. Equally, ensure that your vendor offers self-service training and support through tools like a community. Being remote doesn’t mean you should be without access to assistance and tools to learn.

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