The hidden ERP Software problem

Mark Canes

Up next in the series on problems with ERP software: the problem that you don't know about.

I've read various studies that suggest the average company uses between 40% and 60% of the relevant functionality of their ERP software - "relevant functionality" being the functionality that, if used, would provide measurable benefits to the company. My anecdotal experience in the small and medium-sized enterprise ("SME") arena over 25+ years tends to support these stats. If you stop and think about it, this is a staggering thought: most companies, even if they have selected and implemented the appropriate inventory accounting software, are still only realizing around half the measurable benefits! It's like buying 8 tickets to the Superbowl, then only taking 3 friends with you, and dumping the other 4 tickets.

The reason for this is one simple missing ingredient: follow-on training. When you implement a new ERP system, the initial focus is on addressing key / existing business processes, and managing the key logistical daily functions of the business. This is also the period during which you're most heavily engaged with the ERP vendor. During this time, any training or advice you receive regarding more advanced automation and data analysis, for example, tends to largely go in one ear and out the other, because it does not relate to the most pressing issues you're faced with during those very stressful first few weeks.

The ideal time to really capitalize on the advanced benefits that the ERP software offers is some time after go-live, when you've mastered to routine daily and weekly functions, and ironed out your logistical business processes with the new system. So perhaps 2 or 3 months after go-live (in the SME environment), you really should be re-engaging with your provider and initiating a "phase 2" implementation - based on measurable and beneficial "extras" and advanced options. But in the real world, most SMEs are not willing to do so. I'm never 100% certain to what degree this is an attempt at cost saving, versus a defense mechanism against information overload. But either way, it is most certainly a missed opportunity - because if you leave it too long after go-live, the organization becomes entrenched in the current way of doing things, and even if that's in efficient, it becomes increasing,y difficult to effect change.

Real life example: a company went "live" on our ERP Software around 9 months ago, on the understanding that after 2 - 3 months, we'd show them how to completely automate an Excel analysis tool that they currently spend around 2 days per month manually updating - re-keying data that is already in the software. Well, 9 months later we're still trying to get this customer to spend around 2 - 3 hours with us, after which that 2 days of manual updating per month will be completely replaced with a single mouse click. And yet they remain "too busy" to schedule that session.

At least the good news (from my perspective) is that this is an exception amongst my customer base.