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Tips on ERP Integration

7/29/2015

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.

There are tremendous benefits to ERP-CRM integration, but many companies struggle with unification because of workarounds and customizations. Search CRM gives five tips from industry experts to help ease these pains:

  • Take an enterprise view. One of the first steps in ERP-CRM integration is to start with an enterprise process view. According to Ray Wang, an analyst at Forrester, organizations need to think about how integration will improve the business as a whole rather than just a particular business process.
  • Determine how it can benefit end users. What is good for the company isn’t necessarily good for individual employees. According to Richard Smith, vice president of CRM strategy at Green Beacon Solutions, in order for integrations to work, everyone has to see a measurable benefit. Employees must understand how it benefits them personally.
  • Reduce fears around loss of control. Companies can reduce risk by employing one-way integrations, in which the CRM can query financial data and change it only through approved business processes.
  • Cultivate the right team. One of the biggest questions with integration is who should be brought in to help plan it. By having too many people involved, the project risks getting mired in endless debates that are likely to reduce the efficiency of the enterprise-wide process. With too few people, it risks being sabotaged by departments that weren’t involved and resent the changes. According to Wang, there will be many hard decisions to make that will impact business models. This is a business process problem that requires both business and IT. There’s process integration and technical integration, and both require assistance in not only the planning and design, but sometimes the implementation.
  • Assigning process ownership. As the organization begins to evaluate the project, the planning team needs to look at which systems manage the different types of data. It’s best not to put everything in both systems. Use each system for what it is best suited for.

What do you think of these tips? What tips do you have from your own implementation experiences? What challenges have you faced? We’d love to know what you think.

Posted by Epicor ERP Insights Team


 

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