The selection and introduction of a new ERP solution holds many opportunities for a company: Modern systems, for example, impress with advanced technology and ergonomics and form the basis for the successful implementation of innovative concepts such as Industry 4.0.
However, the insights gained during the ERP project into processes, working methods and potential for improvement should not be lost sight of either.
Within the framework of the operational software landscape, the ERP solutions have a significant special role: They serve as a “single source of truth” for the central master and transaction data along the value chain (e.g. material, article and customer master). At the same time, ERP systems function as an “integration hub” for the operational software landscape and “clock generator” for activities within the framework of internal and external order processing.
Trigger for ERP projects
New business models, increasing competitive pressure, increasing internationalization and digitization are just some of the challenges that companies have to face. Most of the strategies that companies use to react to this dynamic environment have one thing in common: they have a noticeable effect on the company organization and business processes. As a result, the requirements for the ERP software, which ultimately serves as a tool for planning, processing and controlling business processes, change. In the Trovarit study “ERP in Practice 2020/2021”, the participants named the triggers for the selection and introduction of a new ERP system relatively clearly: the existing ERP infrastructure is mainly replaced (approx. 53% of installations), because the existing solution no longer meets the requirements of the company, be it from a technological point of view (e.g. integration with other systems, compatibility with hardware/database technology, mobile access options) or due to a lack of the necessary functionality.
For example, companies For example, it is often found that the existing ERP infrastructure is not able to meet new requirements due to changed company structures (e.g. takeovers or sales of parts of the company). Apparently, the often-cited dynamics of company acquisitions and sales, relocations, etc., as well as intensive efforts to achieve more rational workflows are having a greater impact on the ERP infrastructure than before. So e.g. For example, the increasing internationalization of user companies poses serious challenges for some ERP software. It is not uncommon for new implementations of ERP solutions to take place as part of the harmonization of IT landscapes after a company takeover.
Process-oriented to the right ERP solution
In many respects, the course for the successful introduction and operation of the new solution is already set when the ERP is selected: Choosing an ERP solution not only determines the options for supporting the business processes and the level of the acquisition and follow-up costs. The selection decision extends in the same way to the service provider, with whom the ERP user usually enters into a very long-term partnership. With the determination of a supplier, the available consulting, implementation and support skills and resources and ultimately the service quality are defined.
At the beginning of every software project, it is important to get an overview of the current state of the business processes. Last but not least, the processes reveal the technical requirements for the new software solution. As part of a process assessment, such as that provided by the Aachen introductory model ImplAiX®, the existing organizational structures and processes in the company are recorded and analyzed.
The process recording and analysis is significantly facilitated by the use of reference models: These describe typical company processes and/or tasks that can be found in a similar form in a large number of companies. When analyzing company processes without a reference model, all relevant process steps must be independently identified and documented as part of the process recording – a task that can only be completed in a reasonable amount of time with the appropriate experience. In the process analysis with the help of reference models, the company-specific processes are assembled from the standardized building blocks. This procedure makes the identification and documentation of relevant process elements much easier.
Special programs for process modeling, such as sycat BPM or ViFlow, which are integrated into the IT-Matchmaker via interfaces, support the optimization of the processes. With the help of these tools, the different processes of a company can be brought into a graphic form and described in a model language. Because only when it becomes visible how a process is running can it be analyzed more precisely and, if necessary, remodeled and thus optimized using the IT Matchmaker reference process model. Of course, you don’t visualize all of a company’s processes in this way, as that would clearly overstrain the time frame.
Such process modeling is particularly suitable for those business processes in which the potential for optimization is estimated to be high. For example, if a business process is to be supported more strongly by a software solution in the future, it is important to describe it in as much detail as possible in advance so that the exact specifications of the software can be derived from it. Ideally, in this phase you get a first target concept with regard to the future process flows, which above all contains the requirements for the future software solution.
The requirements for the new software solution identified in this way can then – together with other, e.g. technical requirements – be transferred to a specification, which forms the basis for the tendering of the ERP project in the further course of the project.
Keep an eye on potential!
The introduction of a software solution alone is not a panacea for eliminating organizational problems. Rather, experience shows that operational processes can be consolidated through the introduction of a software solution and weak points can thus be manifested under certain circumstances. Therefore, one should always check during implementation whether the potential identified and the organizational improvement measures derived from it are taken into account and implemented accordingly.