Keys To Aligning ERP Systems With Future Business Needs

Manufacturing companies face pressure from just about every direction to keep their business moving forward despite huge IT challenges like tight budgets, retiring staff and limited resources. But for those who are using a legacy system transitioning to a new ERP system can be an even greater challenge. 

One reason could be the lack of resources necessary to effectively map out existing business processes and figure out how to optimize them to work in a new ERP environment. Implementing a new ERP is definitely a opportunity to relook at old processes and update them installing modern concepts.

Secondly, ERP implementations are difficult and costly. If they fail, it can turn companies upside down. In some cases, we’ve seen multiple, unsuccessful attempts to move to new software. Imagine trying to go live three or four times then having to back up and say, “We’re not ready.” But it happens all the time – and results in huge budget overruns and often times, personnel changes.

So what can you do to “see around corners” and prepare your existing ERP system to support future business processes? Here are some considerations to keep in mind. 

1 | Think Beyond Technology: Focus on Business Requirements

Instead of focusing on the “tech side” of things, focus on your business requirements. Consider how they could evolve in the future. Most companies already have a window into what their general strategies will be in the next five or maybe 10 years – so start by listing them out, prioritizing them and mapping them back to the underlying systems.

This process is simple enough in theory, but by all accounts is the most critical step. If your existing systems don’t support your current and projected business requirements, things just aren’t going to work out. To get started, here are a few questions to ask as part of your business requirements assessment:

  • Are your current business requirements adequately supported? 
  • Does your business have the right expertise to support future technology?
  • Do you foresee any issues with future support?
  • Are there gaps between your business processes and software systems, and if so, can they be addressed with a “best-of-breed” hybrid ERP solution? 

Asking these questions will help you with your first key decision: can you keep your current ERP software as the heart of what you do and apply a hybrid ERP approach to build additional functionality in the cloud on top of the legacy system?

2 | Free Up Bandwidth on the Hardware Side

Instead of wasting your time, money and energy administering and managing your servers and networks, determine if you can leverage outsourced resources for the care and feeding of infrastructure to a technology company. This may give you the bandwidth you need to focus on your business requirements since you no longer have to deal with everyday needs on the hardware and operating systems side.

One of our clients did something similar when their IT staff was finding it hard to support their Power i servers and more than 300 virtual X86 machines. The solution? They outsourced the job of managing their infrastructure requirements, and freed themselves up to focus on their core business aspects.

 3 | Task HR With Change Management Across All Levels

As you’re planning for the future, consider the impact of moving to new software at a company-wide level and the contributions it may require from your HR team.

What are the personnel requirements involved? What are the physical requirements within your manufacturing plant? And above all, what about your organization’s ability to manage change? 

Here again, don’t think about software as being an “IT thing.” Consider it across every level of your manufacturing firm – right from the floor workers who have been doing it one way forever, but all of a  sudden will have new screens and new steps to take – up through executive management, who will have to understand how the new software affects the flow of key business activities and information.  Without participation by every department impacted by the new software, the success rate of a new ERP implementation falls precipitously. 

Read related blog, How to Manage Your Retiring IBM i Solutions Talent

4 | Consider Consumer-Side Trends

The consumer landscape today has changed drastically over the past decade. For consumers, knowledge is power. Today’s consumers increasingly want to know where their products are sourced. And moving to the cloud helps put that power in consumers’ hands, whether that is in the form of incorporating blockchain, IoT and big data. Blockchain, for example, empowers customers to understand where a product in their grocery store comes from just by scanning a QR code!  IoT is helping track the conditions the products are being shipped in. Big data analytics provides organizations a better understanding of consumers buying habits.

But to enable all that, you have to be ready for the supporting IT/technology architecture. Some companies may think “we are in the cloud”, but may have simply moved their applications to an external data center.  To truly take advantage of the cloud, the applications need to built for the cloud, cloud-native, to take advantage of what it offers. The trick is to figure out how to leverage the right technologies to best meet consumer expectations.

Managing the above considerations will ensure that your business ERP systems, and any plans to upgrade them, are in alignment with the core requirements of your business. And if you are on the lookout for a software partner that truly understands business requirements too, contact PSGi to see how we can help!

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