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Tips on ERP integration

Craig Charlton, Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific Operations, Epicor | Sept. 9, 2015
Here are some guidelines on how to tame the ERP beast.

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

At the outset of the decade, Forrester published a report called "It's Time to Tame the ERP Integration Beast." Now that we're halfway to 2020, it seems that ERP integration remains a difficult challenge for many. As the analyst noted, integration challenges are often the foremost obstacle to getting the full value from packaged ERP solutions. With that in mind, here is some guidance on how to go about taming the beast.

ERP Focus offers a number of tips on the topic, with posts ranging from how to achieve buy-in for ERP integration projects to how to achieve global ERP integration. We've culled a few to share with you here.

For achieving buy-in, check out these suggestions:

  • Involve on-the-line managers first. Most successful projects involve on-the-line managers from the get-go, who either immediately see the value of ERP integration or at least are willing to listen to business rationales. Once clear interest is well established at that level, the next step is to go to finance.
  • Forget ROI, for now. The initial financial hurdle is about upfront bang for the buck. The ROI element is usually applied as a gating issue at the end of a project agreement, not at the beginning where the project is being offered up in its most fragile state.
  • Demonstrate value from the outset. Many enterprise technical managers make the mistake of working on ROI valuation alone to sell an ERP integration project and usually get their heads handed to them. While that thinking may appear to be the most obvious business play, it's really the tail wagging the dog. To achieve ERP integration buy-in from finance, you must demonstrate that you can spend as little as possible while securing the most value from the outset.

For global ERP integration, follow these tips:

  • Remember that integration goes beyond ERP. Integration in the universe of global ERP systems suggests using ERP worldwide at multiple locations and subsidiaries of a business. However, integration here goes beyond ERP to include product data, warehouse management, financial reporting, quality controls, and other systems using software that can communicate up and down and across processes and locations.
  • Develop a multi-year plan and secure a good-sized budget. Start with a multi-year plan and a good-sized budget (this won't be cheap). Work on one integration at a time. What makes the most sense in your situation? What can be integrated quickly with a high probability of success?
  • Define common workflows across systems. Suppose your first global ERP integration is a common worldwide order entry process with your customers placing orders through a common portal. The portal can look the same to any customer and work the same from an outside view. But inside, it might lead to a variety of systems. If you have more than one ERP, you will need to channel the orders into each one while understanding the limitations of each. However, those different ERPs will probably provide the ability to define workflows. With some effort, you can develop people processes that allow common check offs so that new orders will enter systems with similar rules and your products and services can be booked and delivered.
  • Identify systems where integration is not possible. Before you get too far in the planning of successive integrations, look at all the systems you think you want to integrate. Are there any where integration is not possible or not practical? Replacing those systems needs to be a part of the overall plan.
  • Get started. Keep working over the years. Achieving a global ERP implementation will have far-reaching and truly powerful benefits for the enterprise.

 

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