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Sep 14, 2019

Best practices in organizing a marriage

Customer: I want your help in organizing the marriage of my daughter.

Engagement and Relationship Professional Consultant (ERP Consultant): I have extensive experience in organizing engagements and marriages. Do you have a draft invite? Let us start from there.

Customer: Here it is (hands over the draft wedding invite)

ERP Consultant takes a look at invite

ERP Consultant: Your invite violates global best practices. You will need to adapt to the best of breed solution.

Customer: (Confused) What is the problem?

ERP Consultant: The name of the groom is Ross Geller. I have conducted many marriages. In all of them the groom's name is Richard Dawson. You need to change the name of the groom to Richard Dawson.

Customer: How can I change the name of the groom? His name is Ross Geller.

ERP Consultant: I am only a consultant. All I can do is to appraise you of global best practices in this area. As per our experience and product recommendation, the recommended name for the groom is 'Richard Dawson'. If your groom has any other name you will face significant performance issues and the marriage will not work well.

Customer throws out the ERP Consultant and hires a new one.

New ERP Consultant looks at the invite.

New ERP Consultant: Your invite violates global best practices. you will need to adapt to best of breed solution

Customer, now reconciling to his fate and anticipating the problem: The groom's name is the problem, isn't it?

New ERP Consultant: No, groom's name is as per global best practices. Our company recommends 'Ross Geller'. In fact, I see very few customers adapting to global best practices when it comes to the name of the Groom. You should see the names they come up with. Richard Dawson. Can you believe it? That project will never be successful. But in your case, I am so happy to note that you have decided on Ross Geller. The problem is with the bride's name.

Customer, frustrated: She is my daughter. What is the problem with her name. Phoebe Buffay is the greatest name for a girl. I am a fan of Phoebe in Friends and wanted to name my daughter as Phoebe.

New ERP Consultant: Phoebe Buffay is a great name, not doubt. I am sure it meets your requirements. However, global best practice is to have the bride named Rachel Green. We always recommend that name for the bride in every project that we implement.

New ERP Consultant: You have contracted us to provide you with the best possible solution for your engagement and relationship challenges. The implicit assumption when we take up this job is that the customer is ready to adapt to global best practices recommended by our Organization that have been developed over years of extensive experience.

Customer: How many marriages you have coordinated so far/

ERP Consultant: One. The name of the groom was Ross Geller and Bride was Rachel Green. That was a successful project. So now we recommend those names as Global Best Practices. 

Customer, yelling: Get out of my house, you moron....

Aug 13, 2019

Top 5 ERP News and articles: Week 2019-30: Digital Transformation - 2

Checkout my book 'Selected Articles on ERP' on 

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The theme for this week is #DigitalTransformation. I had already posted the first set of five articles in Week Four of this series. I have selected five great articles for this week. The first article by Linda Rosencrance identifies three critical challenges in #DigitalTransformation journey. These are Change Management, Data Integration and User Adoption. The second article discusses the importance of Change Management in #DigitalTransformation. An effective Change Management Strategy will involve Preparing, Managing and Reinforcing change. The third article is the case study of #DigitalTransformation by Condé Nast Inc. The message from this article is that for #DigitalTransformation to succeed, there should be clear and measurable goals. In addition, Organizations should have a clarity on their critical requirements.

In the fourth article, Rajat Dhawan gives seven pointers to successful #DigitalTransformation. These include not to forget the customer and fixing basic issues first before embarking on a the transformation initiative. I found them to be highly value adding. The final article is from a CIO who has been a part of #DigitalTransformation initiative in his Organization. He says that the most difficult part of the process is letting go of people who are interested in being a part of the process, but who do not meet the requirements of the difficult initiative.

Great articles all. Do give a read.

Top Five Articles

1. How to Overcome Digital Transformation in Finance Challenges: Linda Rosencrance for Techtarget

The three critical challenges that Organizations faced in their #DigitalTransformation journey are Change Management, Data Integration (especially financial data) and User Adoption.

Finance leaders need to be able to collect and connect data across workflows and departments to draw actionable insights. They should consider establishing a data governance framework to set parameters for how common data, such as expense reports or invoices, is entered, which systems it is entered in and how it's collected across the business.

For #DigitalTransformation in Finance to succeed, the CFO should know how the data from different part of the Organization are connected. This overview is imperative in the Cloud world where new applications can be quickly implemented. This could lead to data disintegration.

Standardization is the answer. From the perspective of Finance, it could mean, for example, implementing a Global Chart of Accounts. Another option, for a rapidly expanding Organization is Process Standardization.

Since technology is becoming critical to manage Financial data, CFOs should put in efforts to understand their IT Systems and work with the CIO as a team. Since their priorities will be different, it is important to create a harmonious working relationship from early days.

2. The Importance of Change Management During Digital Transformation: Panorama Consulting Blog

A detailed Change Management Strategy and a strong Change Management Methodology are required for the success of digital Transformation.

If your initiative is truly a digital transformation, that means you’re changing more than your technology – you’re undergoing large-scale change and fundamentally altering structures, processes and employee's day-to-day jobs. If new technology is merely enhancing one of these elements, then you’re likely experiencing small-scale change.

Whenever an organization implements new technology, it should consider the possibility of large-scale change. That’s not to say you can’t pursue a change management initiative without implementing new technology.

To implement an effective Change Management, Organizations must:
  1. Prepare for change: Do a readiness assessment and develop a Change Management Roadmap.
  2. Manage change: Develop a communications plan, a resistance management plan and a training plan. Do a stakeholder assessment to identify key messages to be communicated. Remember that every stakeholder has different perspectives on Change Management.
  3. Reinforce change: Celebrate successes. Take quick corrective actions to handle any challenges.
One way to reduce resistance to change is by involving employees in the initiative. Try answering Why, What and How or the initiative. Have a clear idea on how each stakeholder will benefit from this exercise.

In addition to employee resistance, other reasons for failure of Change Management will be lack of executive sponsorship and not having a dedicated Change Management team.

Nice article.

3. Condé Nast on the Pursuit of Customer Experience at Web Scale, with DataStax Enterprise: John Reed for

Condé Nast Inc. is an American mass media company founded in 1909. As per Wikipedia, there are 164 million consumers across its 19 brands and media. Publications from Ars Technica to Glamour to GQ to Wired are part of the holdings.

DataStax is a database management company known for its distributed cloud database, built on Apache Cassandra.

Condé Nast wanted to optimize their content, using multivariate testing to serve up different web page looks to different visitors. The goal? Maximize click-throughs and other engagement metrics. But this all had to be done affordably - and at web scale.

The company began by evaluating Cassandra versus Amazon DynamoDB. They saw that for their volume of traffic Cassandra fitted better. DataStax solution (Cassandra) was not only more effective in terms of performance, but also cheaper in terms of cost.

Here are some benefits generated over an year. 
  1. Improved digital click-through rates by 30%.
  2. Sped up personalization in its ‘Feature Store’ by 650%.
  3. Improved backend system performance of 1,800 reads per minute in less than 4 milliseconds, and 1,800 writes per minute in less than 10 milliseconds.
What I liked about this article is the #DigitalTransformation approach that the company followed. They had clear and measurable goals and understood their critical requirements. The benefits achieved with a lean team is commendable.

4. Seven Ways to Implement a Digital Transformation: Rajat Dhawan for Forbes Technology Council

The article lists seven principles that are applicable to every Organization that is embarking on a #DigitalTransformtion journey.
  1. Identify what Digital means to your Organization: With many options available, it is important to identify those that will meet your specific challenges. Follow a two pronged approach. First identify those solutions that will resolve your challenges. Second, uses these solutions to create new business opportunities. Identify at least three challenges / opportunity areas before you go in search for a solution.
  2. Blur boundaries between technology, marketing, sales and operations: Ensure that solutions are not developed / delivered in Silos. Bring together experts from every department to evaluate every solution to decide how they will be impacted by the solution or evaluate how they can benefit from the solution. The 'Connected World' expects 'Connected Organizations'
  3. Don't forget the customer: Ensure that the #DigitalTransformation solutions solve specific customer service challenges or help improve customer experience. It is very easy for an Organization to 'miss the woods for the trees' in their digital initiatives.
  4. Fix technology basics first: Before embarking on #DigitalTransformation, it is important to fix the basics like Change Management, Sub-optimal Website and other issues that bug the departments. Without solving the basic issues, you will not get their bui-in for a wider initiative.
  5. Prioritise initiatives conservatively: Identify a few quick wins, simple projects with high impact, before embarking on a major initiative. This will help build the momentum.
  6. Define a roadmap, and be prepared to redefine it: This is a critical step in a transformation program. This will determine the list of projects, their scheduling and identify the common resources required. Since a #DigitalTransformation initiative will span over a few years, this roadmap will undergo changes based on the changes in environment / technology / opportunity landscape etc.
  7. Define outcomes and tie them back to your overall business strategy: Realize that any Technology initiative is intended to achieve certain business outcomes like cost reduction, increased conversion, higher profitability, greater revenue or a potential loss/higher costs. This keeps the initiatives relevant and helps internal teams to align on a shared objective.
In summary, it is very important to have a large #DigitalTransformation vision and divided it into small actionable initiatives with identifiable outcomes.

Initially I thought it was another article with a few bulleted points but this article is filled with wisdom gained out of experience.

5. Matson CIO: The Most Painful, Gut-Wrenching Part of Leading Transformation: Peter Weis for

The skills required to transform are dramatically different than those required to operate. CIOs who fail to recognize the organizational disruption caused by transformation early on will quickly learn some painful lessons.

#DigitalTransformation will lead to disruption and turnover in all nearly all areas.  The most difficult decision is to handle the people part of transformation. Author divides the employees into three groups, Intellectually Curious, Disinterested but honest and the Messy middle. Intellectually curious adopts and adapts to the challenges of the transformation. This group automatically fits in the transformation team. The Disinterested expresses their lack of interest in experiencing the uncertainties of the transformation process. This group should be honourably transitioned to other areas where their strengths could be better used.

The third group, Messy middle, poses the greatest challenge. They are willing and committed but do not have the capability to make the transformation. CIO should spend more time addressing this group. Those who can make the transition should be accepted and those who cannot should be honourably let go.

These are tough calls to make but they have to be made for the following reasons.
  1. Speeds up transformation
  2. CIO has fiduciary responsibility to the company
  3. CIO will earn credibility as a leader
  4. People will understand that these decisions had to be taken in the best interests of everyone.
Optimism is important. #DigitalTransformation is a multi-year process with many hurdles. Act quickly but compassionately. Don't ignore your instincts and do not hesitate.

Nice article. From a person who has 'been there and done that'.

Additional Readings

1. Seven Steps to Start Your Digital Transformation Roadmap: blog

2. What Absolutely Won't Work When it Comes to Digital Transformation: Minda Zetlin for

The Year at a Glance

The articles that we have so far covered in this series in Year 2019 are:

26. Week 2019-28: ERP for SMBs
27. Week 2019-29: Selected articles on ERP
28. Week 2019-30: Digital Transformation - 2


The articles in this blog post are those that I found interesting and relevant to the topic of ERP and technology in general. I have no commercial association with any of the entities mentioned in this article. I may be following a few of these entities on LinkedIn and even some of these entities may be on my LinkedIn or Social Media network. These articles are selected purely based on their relevance to the objective of this blog, to promote ERP. Finally, the summary is mine. While I stay close to the points in the articles, I also elaborate a few of them based on my understanding.

Aug 2, 2019

Top Down or Bottom Up Requirements Gathering? Which is a Better Approach?

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There are two approaches to ERP requirement gathering. Top Down and Bottom Up.

Top Down approach starts with reports. Consultant starts by collecting the critical reports that company uses / requires and start her requirement gathering by analyzing these reports. She asks questions on these reports, get clarity on the report requirements before moving on to discussing the process requirements. The top down approach starts with the consultant sitting with the senior management before she sits down with the users to discuss the process requirements. Thus the consultant gets a feel of the important information requirements for the customer

Jul 31, 2019

Top 5 ERP News and articles: Week 2019-29: Selected articles on ERP - 1

Checkout my book 'Selected Articles on ERP' on 

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In this week's post, I have selected five great articles to sate your thirst for knowledge on ERP. These do not fall into any specific theme. The first article discusses five benefits of ERP Optimization which is the process of identifying the gaps in ERP, developing bolt-on solutions to handle these gaps and integrating them with ERP. The second article is a comparison between the two major ERP Vendors in the market, SAP and Oracle. This article can act as starting point in the ERP Selection Process. (Note to myself,  post articles related to the theme 'Comparison of top five ERP Vendors). The third article from Third Stage Consulting discusses the cost of having bad consultants in your ERP Implementation team.

Fourth article is an interesting on on the difference between Quote to Cash (QTC) and Cash Conversion Cycle as the measure of the Velocity of the sales process. The article explains the importance of QTC in the modern sales scenario and explains the limitations of Cash Conversion Cycle. Despite having spend 20 years implementing ERP, I learn something new every day.

The post rounds off with a discussion on customer experience. It discusses the metrics to be used in measuring customer experience, the tools to measure them and the challenges in measuring the same. It discusses the need to go beyond Customer Satisfaction and Net Promoter Score as measures for Customer Experience.

Finally additional reading section gives three more selections. They add different perspective. I will review them in a future post.

Great articles all of them. Hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I did.

Top Five Articles

1. The top five benefits of optimizing your ERP: Elizabeth Quirk for

Despite its wide flexibility and plethora of features, an ERP may not be able to address all the requirements of the Enterprise. ERP Optimization is the process of identifying the gaps in the ERP System and using external applications to plug the gaps. This is the opposite of customization which is the processes of plugging these gaps by modifying the ERP System.

The main benefit of optimization is that it becomes easier to upgrade the ERP system.

This article lists a few more benefits. They are:
  • More informed decision making: By having all the information in a single platform, Optimization helps business to take better operational / tactical decisions.
  • Allows for increased productivity: 
  • Promotes cutting operations costs: Having all applications in one platform reduces the labour costs and increases labour productivity.
  • Improved process automation:
  • Enhanced customer service:
The message is diffused. Most of the points are benefits of ERP rather than that of optimization. In addition, this article starts off from the middle, without explaining ERP Optimization. I had to read this article to understand ERP Optimization

2. SAP Vs Oracle: Which ERP System is right for you?: Panorama Consulting Blog

For the companies in the initial stages of ERP selection process, this report helps understand some of the main differences between SAP and Oracle. While SAP scores better than Oracle in Multi-currency, Audit and User Defined Dashboards, Oracle scores better on Workflow Configuration, Customer Contract Management, Purchasing and Quality Assurance. Oracle has a slight edge in Implementation Duration (12 months against 14.7 months for SAP) and length of Operational Disruption (121.7 days against 128.5 days for SAP), they score almost equally in resource allocation between internal and external resources.

What surprised me most was the role of ERP in digital strategy. Almost 70% of SAP customers said that ERP played a major part in their digital strategy as against only 45% of Oracle Customers. This flies against everything I have read so far on ERP  The article says that SAP is implemented by big companies, but the Oracle Customers are not SMB either.

Something else must be happening.

One of the problems with this article is that it is generic. It uses different products from the vendor to compare different features. This is hardly helpful to a customer since they will be interested in comparison between two specific products, SAP HANA versus Oracle EBS. But hey, this is just an introductory article.

Also read the post in 'Additional Readings' section from Third Stage Consulting for another perspective on the same topic.

3. Beavis and Butt-Head do ERP Implementations: Brian Potts for Third Stage Consulting Blog

This article uses the two characters from MTV era sitcoms to give a few lessons on how not to do ERP Implementations. The lessons are:
  • Don't put unqualified resources in significant ERP roles: It is important to identify and address the knowledge gaps.
  • Don't go cheap on your ERP implementation: Plan for sufficient budget for your ERP implementation. Hire the best consultants, pay for third party audit, do not cut training budget...You may pay much more for post implementation repair.
  • Don't act without proper implementation planning:
  • Don't take guidance from wrong people: There are limits to the knowledge of your System Integrator. Do not depend on them for advice on Organizational Change Management, for example. Pay for the right knowledge. It is a worthwhile investment.
  • Don't forget an ERP risk mitigation plan: Your ERP implementation is bound to face risks sooner or later. Have a robust and  continuous risk assessment and mitigation plan in place. 
An ERP implementation if fraught with many challenges. With right approach and planning you can navigate the challenges and reach the destination, which is a productive and efficient organization.

4. Quote to cash is better than cash conversion. Here is why: Bryan Lapidus for Digitalist Mag

This is a great article. Quote to Cash looks at the end to end Sales Cycle from the time you raise a Quote to the time the customer makes the payment. This is a measure of the velocity of the sales cycle. Another measure of Velocity is the Cash Conversion Cycle which is calculated as per the formula (Days of Inventory) + (Days of Sales Outstanding) - (Days Payable).

In both cases, lower the value, the better.

Quote to cash is different from other velocity measures in three ways:
  1. It focuses on the sell side of the business including CPQ (Configuration, Pricing, Quote), Quote to Order Conversion, Picking, Shipping, Dispatch and Collections. Focus on this will make the Sales Process more efficient. This covers more departments and operations than a simple cash conversion which is a financial number.
  2. It encompasses many departments and may call for process redesign and IT Solutions. For example, if your sales cycle goes through many internal approvals, it may call for automated workflow solution to be developed.
  3. The most important difference is that Q2C effortlessly integrates with e-Commerce. In the Online Sales market, inventory may be minimal. In this situation, cash conversion cycle, with its focus on Inventory becomes irrelevant. 
Quote to Cash is a recent metric driven by advent of e-Commerce. It focuses on the customer and help Organizations tailor their sales offerings to the requirements of the customer. In addition, this also provides ERP and other IT solution vendors to tailor their marketing presentations on this matric as well as develop specific solutions to target this new matric.

Great article. Very insightful.

5. The importance of measuring customer experience: Panorama Consulting Blog

What are the challenges in measuring customer experience? What are the tools and technology used to do it? What are the metrics that should be measured? All these questions are answered in this article.

There are three challenges in measuring customer experience: These are:
  1. New Variables: E-Commerce has upended the customer experience and expectations over the last decade. Organizations are struggling to understand the ever changing expectations.
  2. Lack of Integration: CRM applications that track customer experience is not integrated with the ERP and the BI system. Parts of customer experience lie in one system and rest in ERP system. Due to this lack of integration, Organizations do not get a single source of truth about customer
  3. Lack of Ownership: Who should own customer experience - sales or marketing- is a question for which Organizations are struggling to find answer. 
Since there are multiple sources of data to collect and record customer experience, multiple tools may be used to collect them. For example CRM system may collect data from Lead Generation to Customer Creation while ERP systems will transactional (Quote, Order, Shipping, Billing) etc information. Other tools may collect data from Surveys and Focus Group interviews. It is important that all the information is consolidated in a single source of truth, from where dashboards can be generated.

Finally we come to the question of what should be measured. Common metrics are 'Customer Satisfaction' and 'Net Promoter Score'. The latter measures customer loyalty. In addition, each stage of customer interaction with the Organization should be tracked through regular interaction with the customer.

The advantage is that such interaction will give you ideas for process improvements and new product / service offerings. This will help increase the customer satisfaction further.

Nice article. I liked it. The points are well known and well understood. However it gives pleasure to see them on the paper.

Additional Readings

1. The challenges of hiring an ERP Consultant when you do not like asking for help: Panorama Consulting Blog

2. Five roles of a business process owner:  Panorama Consulting Blog

3. SAP Vs Oracle: An overview of ERP software leaders: Michael Huang for Third-stage Consulting Blog

The Year at a Glance

The articles that we have so far covered in this series in Year 2019 are:

26. Week 2019-28: ERP for SMBs
27. Week 2019-29: Selected articles on ERP


The articles in this blog post are those that I found interesting and relevant to the topic of ERP and technology in general. I have no commercial association with any of the entities mentioned in this article. I may be following a few of these entities on LinkedIn and even some of these entities may be on my LinkedIn or Social Media network. These articles are selected purely based on their relevance to the objective of this blog, to promote ERP. Finally, the summary is mine. While I stay close to the points in the articles, I also elaborate a few of them based on my understanding.

Jul 24, 2019

Five reasons for ERP Project Delay

Time and cost overruns are the bane of ERP implementations. As per the 2018 ERP Report by Panorama Consulting, 64% of the projects had budget overruns and 79% of the projects were not delivered within schedule. 

In this post I look at schedule overruns. Some of the reasons reported by the customers include Training Issues, Priority Conflicts (I guess ERP implementation was not the top priority for the users), Resource Constraints, Vendor did not deliver in a timely manner, Data Issues, Organizational Issues, Technical Issues, Expanded Project Scope and Unrealistic Project Timeline.

I have implemented many ERP projects. In a recent project meeting, customer asked me a simple question. Based on your experience, what are the reasons for project delay and how will you address them? 

This was an interesting questions. No doubt they have read the report and know the points that I mentioned above. They were expecting my perspective (based on my ERP experience in different roles) on the reasons for the delay. They were probably expecting operational reasons for project delay.

I told them that projects slippage happens over days and hours rather than weeks and months. Couple of days delay in the tasks on the Critical Path can add to the project delay. I told them that there are five reasons why a project gets delayed.

Non-availability of Tools and Templates: A project is built on a set of tools and templates. Templates include the functional design template, the technical design template, test scripts template, issue log template, data conversion templates etc. Tools may include data loader, SQL Loader, data upload and extraction programs etc to name a few. In some cases there may be multiple templates that meet the requirements. For example in Oracle Cloud ERP, there are two different templates to load Customer Master. 

In an ideal project all these tools and templates have to be collated, reviewed by the customer and frozen at the beginning. That doesn't happen. Consultant scrambles to find the template only when the deliverables are due. While the deliverable material may be ready, it gets delayed due to non-availability of templates. 

The reluctance of the consultant to seek help from Product Vendor: I have seen this happen in many implementations. Consultant assumes that any issue encountered is due to some mistake on his part. He is scared that if he seek help, his ignorance may be exposed. Finally when they seek the help from the vendor, they will find that it was a product bug and a patch is available to solve the issue. The delay happens as the consultant experiments and explores the solution to the issue on his own without seeking help. 

Giving equal priority to all requirements: As I mentioned in the post on 4 Layers of Requirements, all requirements are not same. Some of them are important, but mechanical in nature. For example, getting a program to load data into application is, while important, is more of a mechanical exercise. That is not the case with a requirement to configure a complex taxation requirement. The delay happens when consultant do not close the requirements that are mechanical in nature and hence time focus required to analyze and solve complex requirement gets reduced. Customer will not accept the deliverable unless their critical requirements are completely resolved. 

This happens from customer side also. In one of my projects, we spent considerable time on what the customer user told was an 'important requirement'. Since this was a complex requirement, the team spent considerable time to find a solution. On detailed analysis it was found that the number of transactions of that nature were just one per month. We quickly deprioritized this requirement. It is surprising how many times the consultant do not ask the 'volume' question

Lack of closure: Closure is the act of receiving final formal customer acceptance for a deliverable. Many consultants are weak in this area. They consider their task 'closed' when they sent the deliverables to the customer. Having sent that, they fail to follow up with the customer. When they do follow up, they will be presented with a set of customer comments and suggestions. Incorporating these and getting final closure from customer takes time leading to project delay.  

Documentation Paradox: Many consultants think that documentation is an additional task that delays the closure and hence the project. The truth is the opposite. A comprehensive documentation allows the team to move forward. It gets the customer involved early thus getting valuable perspectives. It helps in attrition management and reduces delay in Knowledge Transfer to a new team member. It allows a common view point between the customer and the implementation team enabling them to move together faster etc...

These are my five perspectives. What more can you think of?

Jul 21, 2019

Top 5 ERP News and articles: Week 2019-28: ERP for SMBs

Checkout my book 'Selected Articles on ERP' on 

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The theme for this week is ERP for SMBs (Small and Medium Businesses) also referred to as SMEs (Enterprises). Due to their small size, these Organizations face their own challenges when it comes to procuring and implementing ERP. The first article talks about three challenges - customization, users and investment in infrastructure - that SMBs face. Second article, from this blog, talks about typical risks faced by SMBs. This list is based on the personal knowledge that author had about ERP implementation in an SMB. The list includes lack of process knowledge, consultant attrition and lack of knowledge about local taxation (important especially in India).

The third article is a list of four ERPs tailored for SMBs. The fourth article from Microsoft blog is about the ways in which ERP can help SMBs. A good ERP can provide insights, is scalable and can grow with the Organization. The last article in this post discusses the reasons why SMBs go for ERP. The innovative reasons include ERP acts as a Change Management Catalyst, ERP allows for a clean break for the subsidiary companies in case of a spinoff and that it acts as a source for competitive advantage.

Considering that SMBs are a very attractive target market for ERP vendors, this article is timely. Read and see for yourself.

Top Five Articles 

1. The top challenges for ERP implementation in SMBs:  Elizabeth Quirk for

The article mentions three ERP related challenges for SMBs. These are:
  1. Customization: Other than a generic statements about the non-desirability of this, the article is not clear of how it is a challenge for SMBs. I guess that considering the lower budget that SMBs may have, the cost to develop and maintain a customization may be a challenge.
  2. Users: It is more challenging for an SMB to handle user resistance to ERP. Author says that users must be sensitized to effective ERP adoption processes. The author also mentions 'selecting wrong ERP system' under this heading. Not sure how it is related to SMB or to this section on 'Users'.
  3. Investment in internal hardware: An ERP system expects significant additional investment in terms of infrastructure. This may be a challenge for SMBs. The arrival of ERP on Cloud mitigates this challenge. 
Unlike the past, ERP adoption is no longer challenging to SMBs. Many application vendors are creating solutions targeting this specific business segments.

2. ERP Journey - Ten risks faced by SMEs: ERP Consultancy Blog

This article is from my blog. In this I identify 10 risks related to ERP that are specific to SMBs. These are related to:
  1. Process knowledge
  2. Knowledge of your pain points
  3. Product
  4. Product version
  5. Consultant's competence
  6. Internal Competence
  7. Knowledge of Local Taxation Rules
  8. Period Closing
  9. Continuous support / maintenance
  10. Lack of knowledge about support availability
In my opinion, larger companies may have the resources required to tide over these risks, which SMBs may not have.

3. Four top ERP systems for small businesses: Rick Carlton for

This article discusses the strengths and weaknesses of four ERP applications suitable for SMBs. These are:
  1. CGS: Blue Cherry: This product is suitable for mid-sized apparel manufacturers. 
  2. xTuple: Open source ERP for tailored for small businesses. Available on both On-premise and Cloud
  3. Netsuite: Product from Oracle. Delivered as SAAS (Cloud) offering. 
  4. BizAutomation CloudERP: For small businesses. Available as SAAS offering.
4. What the heck is ERP for SMB? Jennifer Dorsey for Microsoft Cloudblogs

This article is from Microsoft Blog and discusses the features of the ERP application from the Microsoft Dynamics stable. This is a comprehensive, yet easy to use Business Management Solution that helps companies that are outgrowing their accounting software. By integrating your Calendar, Email, Data and Documents, the solution is comprehensive.

Some of the benefits are:
  1. Streamline the business process by taking care of mundane tasks and delivering numbers and reports on the fly.
  2. Improve productivity through the mobility solutions
  3. Transform data into insights
  4. Scalability
  5. Save time, money and worry.
The points mentioned are generic. The general message is that an SMB can continue to grow with the ERP application.

5. Why SMBs purchase ERP System?  David C Smith for

The ERP adoption in SMB space has been low due to the following factors:
  1. Worry about change management
  2. Systems cost
  3. Implementation time
  4. Customization costs
  5. Perception that ERP is for large companies
  6. Cost of on-site support
More and more SMBs are adopting ERP. The reasons are:
  1. ERP provides a competitive advantage
  2. To manage business growth and scalability
  3. Costs of maintaining legacy systems: Some legacy system have been 'sun setted'. Many older systems have security issues. Legacy systems may lack flexibility, companies may not find support resources etc are some other reasons
  4. Process visibility. ERP provides single source of data entry improving inter-departmental visibility as well as data integrity. This also improves decision making.
  5. Change management: An ERP implementation can be the primary event that catalyzes Change Management processes in the Organization. ERP implementation allows Business Process Reengineering which initiates change management.
  6. Spinoffs: ERP systems can enable a 'Clean Break' for small subsidiary companies that are spun off from the parent companies. 
Nice and comprehensive article.

Additional Readings

1.Why manufacturing SMBs turn to Cloud ERP:

2. Meeting evolving business needs with Modular ERP: Copley Consulting Group Blog

3. SAP: Cloud ERP at the core of its SMB Market Strategy: Frank Niemann for

The Year at a Glance

The articles that we have so far covered in this series in Year 2019 are:

26. Week 2019-28: ERP for SMBs
27. Week 2019-29: Assorted articles on ERP


The articles in this blog post are those that I found interesting and relevant to the topic of ERP and technology in general. I have no commercial association with any of the entities mentioned in this article. I may be following a few of these entities on LinkedIn and even some of these entities may be on my LinkedIn or Social Media network. These articles are selected purely based on their relevance to the objective of this blog, to promote ERP. Finally, the summary is mine. While I stay close to the points in the articles, I also elaborate a few of them based on my understanding.

Jul 10, 2019

Top 5 ERP News and articles: Week 2019-27: ERP on Cloud - 2

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The theme for this week is ERP On Cloud. I had covered Cloud ERP in other posts in this series, in THIS, THIS and THIS. The five articles covered in this post provide additional perspectives to those who are planning to go for Cloud ERP Implementations.

The first article talks about five steps to be considered while moving to Cloud Implementation. The points mentioned including Process Analysis or Data Cleansing are applicable to any ERP implementation. Second article talks about the 'skill shift' in the era of Cloud, where Organizations has to staff their IT Team with more business experts rather than technology experts as in the pre-ERP era. The third article talks about five strategies to be adopted for Cloud implementation. These include having a ERP Strategy, Business Case, Benefits Realization and Team Building. I felt that these are generic strategies.

The fourth article is from my blog. I had done an Oracle Cloud implementation and point out how it is different from EBS implementation. Integrations are different and more controlled in Cloud. I also tell that while report creation is simple, report flexibility is lesser in Oracle Cloud (at least in the version I worked on). The fifth article discusses Phased Versus Big Bang approach to Cloud Implementation. While phased approach is less risky, the filp side is the time taken in rollout of ERP, especially in big Organizations.

Good articles. Do check them out.

Top Five Articles 

1. How to prepare for your first Cloud ERP Implementation: Rick Carlton for

In his article, Mr.Carlton identifies five steps to be taken prior to Cloud Implementation. I found that all these points are not specific to cloud implementation. The five steps are:
  1. Detailed Process Analysis: Review every process and modify / discard them as per the ERP requirements
  2. Setting up a reporting structure: Cloud ERP offers more flexibility in terms of reporting. Some of the legacy reports may not work and some some may need to be modified. Do not limit the focus to legacy reports. Explore the reporting potential of new ERP system. 
  3. Conduct a Security Needs Analysis: This has to be looked at from the perspective of completeness and compliance. Review the security features of the application for their completeness. Factor in the legacy applications also in this analysis. Ensure that all the new security features are compliant to the local rules. 
  4. Cleanse out unwanted data:
  5. Conduct an infrastructure analysis: While cloud ERP is hosted on its own infrastrucutre, there may be legacy applications that need to talk to the cloud ERP. Ensure infrastructure availability to ensure smooth transition 
2. ERP skills gap may open with move to the cloud: Beth Stackpole for searcherp

In the On-premise world, companies staffed their IT Team with technical expertise - DBAs, Network Administrators, Infrastructure Administrators and Developers. In the era of cloud, these tasks are being handled by the cloud vendor. So what should be the focus of external consultants and internal IT Team?

As per the article, the focus of third party consultants have shifted from technical knowledge to helping with Organizational Change Management and Business Process Improvement. As far as the internal IT team is concerned, they should focus on using ERP to add value to the business in the long-term.

Summarizing, in the age of the cloud,

ERP Vendors will handle technology
Consultants should focus on Change Management and Business Process Improvement
Internal Experts should focus on using ERP to add value to the business.

3. Strategies to implement your Oracle ERP Cloud faster, better and cheaper: Eric Kimberling for Third-stage Consulting Blog

In this article, Mr.Kimberling documents five strategies to successfully implement Cloud Solutions. While the title talks about Oracle Cloud, the article is product agnostic. The strategies are:
  1. Develop a solid strategy: Oracle Cloud ERP Consultants are expensive. Have an implementation strategy ready before they turn up.
  2. Create and validate a reasonable ERP Cloud implementation plan: Expand the plan provided by the Implementation partner include important items like Data Migration and Organizational Change Management activities.
  3. Define your level two and level three business processes: Due to the rigidity of the Cloud Solutions (My words), some of the legacy processes will change. Review your business processes to the level two or level three level and plan for these changes.
  4. Develop a business case and a benefits realization plan: Identify key business metrics and drill down to a realization plan. This will also help during key decision points in the implementation
  5. Mobilize project resources: Clearly define your internal and external project team. Document the roles and responsibilities of each. Commit 100% of their time to the implementation project.
4. How to quickly implement Oracle Cloud Solution: ERP-Consultancy blog (This blog)

This article is from my blog and documents lessons I learned from an Oracle Cloud Implementation.

I discuss five points. They are:
  1. Point to point integration to Oracle Cloud is not possible: You cannot add custom validations once the data is pushed into Oracle
  2. PL/SQL is redundant: Hence the flexibility to customize application is not available. Be ready to change your processes in line with application requirements
  3. Template driven data conversion: This makes the data conversion much easier and owned by the business analyst. 
  4. Introduction of Data Sets: This is a paradigm shift from Oracle EBS to Oracle Cloud. This feature allows the organization to optimize the sub-master data like Payment Terms, Product Groups etc. This may call for a thorough review of existing legacy data.
  5. Reports generation is equally simple and complex: Simple because it is easier to create new reports. Complex because Parameter Level Validation is not available. You will have to rethink the design of the legacy reports.
Each of these points have Project Management and C-Level implications. For example, point one above will call the Organizations to put in place different integration standards.

This article by John Scot looks at two different implementation approaches to Cloud ERP solutions, Big Bang and Phased.

Since the processes are hardwired with minimal customizations possible in Cloud, it is better to adopt a phased approach. Organizations has to adopt new business processes and Employees have to adapt to the new processes. It is better to implement Cloud ERP in one business unit and then transfer the learnings from that implementation to the rest of the Company

The advantage of Big Bang approach is that it will give more time for the Organization to stabilize post the implementation. Organizations must be ready to put in the excruciating workload required of a big bang implementation.

My take is to go for a 'Phased Big Bang' approach. If you have 10 Business Units, use Phased Approach to rollout ERP to the first two units and then use big bang approach to rollout the ERP to the remaining eight units.
Additional Readings

1. ERP Cloud Computing: A strategy for success:  Richard Barker for

2. Five steps to a modern ERP Cloud: Christiane Solo for Oracle Blogs

The five steps are:
  1. Assemble the selection team
  2. Understand the scope of your IT and business needs
  3. Build the business case
  4. Prove the investment’s worth
  5. Pick the right partner
 Not sure how this is specific to cloud.

3. How to ensure a successful Oracle ERP Cloud Implementation: Eric Kimberling for Third-stage consulting blog

The Year at a Glance

The articles that we have so far covered in this series in Year 2019 are:

23. Week 2019-27: ERP On Cloud - 2
24. Week 2019-28: ERP for SMBs


The articles in this blog post are those that I found interesting and relevant to the topic of ERP and technology in general. I have no commercial association with any of the entities mentioned in this article. I may be following a few of these entities on LinkedIn and even some of these entities may be on my LinkedIn or Social Media network. These articles are selected purely based on their relevance to the objective of this blog, to promote ERP. Finally, the summary is mine. While I stay close to the points in the articles, I also elaborate a few of them based on my understanding.

Jul 8, 2019

Five (More) 'Most Important Things' in ERP Implementation

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In his book 'The Most Important Thing' published in 2011, the legendary investor Howard Marks discusses 19 'Most Important Things' in investing. He says that during his discussions with customers, he has heard himself mentioning different 'things' as the 'most important things'

In an earlier article, I had identified the following as five 'Most Important Things' in an ERP Implementation. 
  1. Risk Identification:
  2. Accounting Configuration:
  3. Having the Right Consultant
  4. Data Migration
  5. User Training 
In this article I discuss five MORE 'Most Important Things'. These are: 
  1. Naming Convention is the most important thing: This is the most under-stressed and the most important aspect especially in a big implementation. A good naming convention can improve the system performance and increase user satisfaction. The areas where naming convention should be focused are the masters - Item Master, Customer Master, Vendor Master, Category Master etc. Without a proper naming convention, a lot of transaction errors could happen. For example, in many projects 'John Smith', 'Smith, John' and 'Mr.John Smith' are three separate customers, and an invoice against 'John Smith' is received against 'Mr.John Smith' leading to period end reconciliation and reporting challenges. When you are naming inventory, it is important to use Alpha Numeric Codes to improve indexing in the database. It is important that Naming Convention should be decided by the customer.
  2. Documentation is the most important thing: Documentation is always a challenge in ERP implementation since consultants are interested in starting the work rather than documenting. Project Managers encourage task completion rather than documentation (as if they are different things). I have seen that all the troubled projects are thin on documentation. There could be many challenges relating to documentation. One, it would not have been prepared at all, two, it may have been prepared casually, three, it may not have been shared with the customer, four, it may have been shared with the customer but not accepted at all and five, the initial documentation may not have been updated based on any changes. The effect of documentation impacts the project when a critical resource leaves. Without documentation, part of the knowledge walks out with the resource. Documentation helps in convergence of ideas between two teams Finally, ERP implementation is a process of delivering one task after another and handing the same over to the customer for acceptance. A proper documentation ensures seamless transfer of ownership to the customer team. Documentation is the most important thing in ERP Implementation
  3. Closure is the most important thing: It is very easy to complete 85% of any task. Last 15% is very difficult. Hence consultant must insist on closure. What is closure? Closure is formal acceptance by customer of the point of view of consultant. I will say that the most frequent sentence in an ERP implementation is consultant complaining, 'I send it to customer. I have completed my work'. Closure is the most important thing. Without it, the project will go from one issue to another, ending up as an 'average' implementation. And that is the best case scenario.
  4. Focus on Business is the most important thing: One of the projects that I was a part of, was technologically complex. Project meetings ended up discussing technology rather than business. There were many new technologies involved and the customer did not understand most of the things discussed in the meeting. Project meetings must discuss business issues and challenges. Focus on business is the most important thing. If your project is discussing mostly technology, flag it as a project risk.
  5. ERP Adaptation is the most important thing: Many customers view ERP as an expensive 'mirror' of their existing business processes and they adapt ERP (customize) to the processes. of the company. This is called Process Adaptation. This is not desirable. What is most important is a mindset in all levels of Organization to change their business processes to meet the process requirements of ERP.  ERP will simplify complex processes, be ready to adapt to ERP (ERP Adaptation). I will say that ERP Adaptation and a mindset to re-look at the current processes is the most important thing in an ERP implementation. 
So here we are: My list of Ten 'Most Important Things' in an ERP Implementation. What is your view.? 

Jun 26, 2019

Top 5 ERP News and articles: Week 2019-26: ERP and Block Chaiin - 2

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You can read the part I of this article in this URL:


This week we are looking at another set of five articles on Blockchain. The first article from Ultraconsultants blog discusses the Blockchain integration with ERP. An example is given of Smart Contracts where based on various Blockchain events, activities are initiated in ERP. Other well known use cases of Blockchain like Global Traceability are also discussed. Second article is a skeptics view. Mr.Bill Barhydt, CEO of Abra thinks that Private Blockchains aka

Jun 24, 2019

Five 'Most Importatnt Things' in ERP Implementation?

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In his book 'The Most Important Thing' published in 2011, the legendary investor Howard Marks discusses 19 'Most Important Things' in investing. He says that during his discussions with customers, he has heard himself mentioning different 'things' as the 'most important things'

The idea is relevant to ERP Consulting too.  During my 20 years of experience in ERP Consulting, I have heard myself telling my team and customers about different things that I felt were 'the most important things' in ERP Implementation. Each of them was the 'most important thing' for the situation that we were encountering at that time.

Here are five 'most important things' that I have heard myself discussing at different points in ERP Implementation. These are not listed in any order of importance.
  1. Risk Identification:
  2. Accounting Configuration:
  3. Having the Right Consultant
  4. Data Migration
  5. User Training
1. Risk Identification is the Most Important Thing: Recently we heard news of few high profile ERP Failures This could become frequent as evolving technology acts as a disruptor I am sure that all these reported (and not reported) failures would have germinated as minor concerns in the mind of some stakeholder. This would have been ignored since there is no formal process to document these concerns. These concerns gradually grew into risks. 

Had there been a robust process of risk identification, these risks would have been identified, reported and handled earlier. thereby avoiding / minimizing the impact of the failure. In almost all the project, Risk Identification is the task of the Project Manager. It should not be. While the Project Manager will remain the 'Owner' of the risk, the task of Risk Identification should be the responsibility of every stakeholder. 

The Project Manager must put in place processes by which every stakeholder can document their concerns. These could be reviewed and upgraded as risk as applicable.  In my projects I ask my team members to identify potential risks as a part of their weekly reporting. Some of the risks they identified ended up becoming critical and timely identification helped save the project from certain failure.

In summary, Risk Identification is the most important thing. Not Risk Management, Not Risk Mitigation, Not Impact Analysis - plain and simple Risk Identification.

2. Accounting Configuration is the Most Important Thing:  In my blog post on 'Seven Mental Models for an effective ERP Implementation', I had mentioned Gestalt (German word for 'Completeness') as a mental model. Every transaction has an impact on the Company's Balance Sheet. The consultant has to configure the right accounts so that this impact is seamlessly handled.

Wrong accounting configuration has implications on the reporting process of the company. The reports could get delayed, by months and years in some cases (One implementation took about 7 years to stabilize, partly due to data migration issues), or the reconciliation may fail. In addition, there will be profitability mismatches since these reports are taken from General Ledger. Another challenge is control account reconciliation, for example, tallying the Inventory Value in General Ledger with the Physical Inventory Value in the Valuation Reports. 

Some of the examples of wrong configurations are tagging Balance Sheet Accounts where Profit and Loss accounts are required, tagging the same account for different types of transactions (some of which may reverse each other, the most common example if tagging Inventory and Receiving Inspection with the same account) etc.

Localization requires additional country specific accounting to be incorporated. 

With the wrong accounting configuration, you can be sure that CEO will not get the reports that he expects and hence he / she is going to be unhappy.Corollary is that the right accounting configuration is easiest way to a delighted customer. 

3. Having the right consultant is the most important thing: Earlier I mentioned a paradox about ERP Implementation failing despite having three decades of collective experience in such projects. This could only mean that the problem lies with the team that is implementing the project. An ERP Implementation is only as good as the weakest consultant in the Implementation Team. Having right consultant is the most important thing in ERP Implementation, definitely.

4.. Data Migration is the most important thing: Data Migration has a long-term impact on the success of a project. Projects often mistake Data Migration as another phase in a project. It is not so. Users are comfortable with their data. If they do not see the familiar data in ERP or if they see wrong data, they will immediately become cautious and dissatisfied with the ERP system. In some cases the impact of migrated data is irreversible, for example in Process Costing. Migrated data will impact every aspect of ERP Implementation including Transactions, Profitability, Cash Flow Planning, Cost Details and Financial Reporting. 

Another aspect of data migration is related to localization impact of the migrated data. If there is a mismatch between base data and localized data, this will impact taxation, audit and statutory reporting. This could have serious repercussions

In correctly migrated data will cause dissatisfaction in the mind of all stakeholders from CEO down.

Data Migration is the most important thing in ERP Implementation. 

5. User Training is the most important thing: The success of ERP is measured by User Adoption. And user adoption will increase if proper training is given to the users. In project, User Training is one item in the project schedule that the consultant has to deliver. User training is not just a classroom session. Even discussing multiple options for a critical requirement with their implications will act as a user training. If consultant spends a few additional minutes discussing the context of the problem before providing a solution, that will act as a user training. 

Inadequate user training leads to lower user adoption. Users will not want to accept that they have not been trained, so as Mr.Vijay Venkatesh pointed out in his article on ERP Failure in LinkedIn, they will couch their lack of knowledge as Software Issue, Consultant's ignorance etc. 

Corollary is that an empowered and well-trained users will act as an enthusiastic ambassador of the ERP application. As I mention in this blog post on Delivering Healthy Projects, the earlier the user is empowered, the more successful the ERP Project will be.

There is no question. User training is the most important thing in ERP Implementation

There are five more points that I have identified as the 'Most Important Thing' in ERP Implementation. I will share them next week.

Happy Reading.