Transforming Digital Enterprise Solutions for the Middle Market
Fifteen years ago, digital solutions were still developing and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems were considered ‘a nice to have’ for a growing middle market company. But in order to be competitive today, middle market companies need a comprehensive digital foundation that enables real time performance monitoring and ongoing scalability. Having an effective ERP solution in place is a business imperative in today’s increasingly interconnected business world. However, despite the many financial and competitive advantages of an effective ERP, we still see middle market companies as large at $500MM in annual sales running their business using outdated “single purpose” systems or PC-based tools like QuickBooks and Excel. And why? Upfront investment, lack of interest, and fear of failure are just a few reasons we have heard from middle market companies over the past few years. In many cases, the business owners are rooted in past practices and this mindset blocks any investment in an ERP system. While many of these companies remain marginally profitable without an ERP solution, they are usually underperforming their more professionally managed industry peers and incapable of scaling due to the ever-increasing business complexity that comes with growing and expanding the company.
The digital foundation of a middle market business should include systems such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, e-Commerce, project management tools, business intelligence, and ERP software. Through our OneLink offering, FortéOne focuses on critical elements that are managed by an ERP system, including the company’s Supply Chain and Operations. However, in cases where we are asked to optimize these aspects of a company when the company has not previously installed an integrated (ERP) system, the solution is usually to assist these firms in selecting and implementing an ERP.
Many companies that have implemented an ERP in the past 10 to 15 years will relate the challenges they incurred during their ERP implementation. They will also relate that they can not imagine “going back” to an operating environment without an ERP, nor could they have obtained their growth and industry leadership without this essential tool. Bottom line, the challenges were worth the rewards.
But firms that have an ERP more than a decade old many find they have outgrown the system, given the limited “useful life” of many older systems. And this presents a new challenge: can they justify the investment and potential business disruption of installing an updated ERP system, or should they just “make due” with their outdated system? In addition, employee turnover in that timeframe may be significant in many companies, leaving them without knowledgeable resources to help design and implement a new ERP solution. When you combine fear and lack of knowledgeable internal resources, many middle companies, even those that have an older ERP system, do not know where to start on the ERP journey.
Unfortunately, the experience required to plan and install an ERP system without disrupting the ongoing business is not generally available inside a middle market company. It’s a bit like a new heart – most people who need a new heart do not have the experience to plan and mange a successful transplant. And with ERP systems, this requires a combination of project management, business operations, financial, and technical skills that are “one time” needs. A middle market business simply cannot justify this level of talent on staff full time, nor would they be able to keep these people occupied once the ERP installation is completed.
And this requirement for short term, but highly experienced, resources is why FortéOne provides an ERP implementation service. On behalf of our clients, we manage client personnel, the certified software implementation partner, and the FortéOne team as a single implementation team. Our approach reduces fear and uncertainty because our combined team has all the specialized skills required to plan and implement an ERP solution for the middle market. Rather than being on an ERP team every 10-15 years, our team members implement solutions on an ongoing basis. As part of our change management approach, we train and impart our knowledge to the client team allowing them to use the implemented capabilities after we leave.
At FortéOne, we combine best practice knowledge and change management experience with certified solution (technical) partners to implement comprehensive business and technology solutions for the middle market. We have relationships with major technology partners/providers across different platforms (e.g., Oracle, SAP, Microsoft). While the certified solution implementation team knows how to configure the solution based upon your company’s requirements, they are not experienced business leaders that have deep knowledge of your business. FortéOne’s Strategic ERP Implementation Services leverages the expertise of our executives to bring industry best practices, and the program management needed for a successful ERP implementation.
Our experience has proven that successful ERP implementations are possible, provided middle market companies plan and execute their implementation with proper guidance and support from their company and implementation partners. FortéOne is available to work with you to create an ERP implementation approach and structure to ensure you obtain the business benefits you desire and the results you need to make your company more successful now and in the future.
For additional information regarding our perspective on ERP implementations in middle market companies, please read our latest eBook on the matter.
Today, many companies have selected their ERP solution prior to engaging consultants for implementation assistance. Because most companies are selecting cloud-based ERP solutions, the selection of an ERP solution is not as technologically-driven as when all ERP solutions were on-premise, server-based solutions managed by internal IT resources. More and more, we see business executives leading the internal selection of the cloud-based business solution. However, if you need assistance with the selection of your ERP solution, we can assist you with that process.
It is important to make sure that there is business alignment between business and technology leaders within a client organization prior to beginning an enterprise digital solutions project such as an ERP implementation. Our consultants conduct business vision and change management sessions to identify the key business and technology drivers necessary to make sure there is alignment and common goals for the ERP implementation program. In addition to creating a consensus business vision, we work with all client leaders to establish the ERP program operating model, including the change management strategy and tactics to ensure that change management components are incorporated into the ERP program operating model.
Data governance, sometimes referred to as Master Data Management is a critical component of a successful ERP implementation. Since data is the fuel that feeds the ERP engine, poor fuel creates poor ERP performance. Master data in most middle market companies is of poor quality because they lack the proper data governance program and resources. FortéOne consultants work with the client business team to design and implement a data governance program that fits with the client organization.
Working with the client team members and the software implementation team members, FortéOne consultants facilitate and document the enterprise business and technical requirements necessary to configure the ERP application. FortéOne consultants share industry specific business best practices with the client business team members so optimal business requirements can be defined and documented. Our experienced team members are able to accomplish requirements definition in 5-7 sessions.
In many cases in middle market companies, we find that business processes, procedures and policies are not documented, and we find multiple processes are used when a single process is needed. Excluding Human Resources (where procedures and policies are usually in place), other business functions lack written procedures and policies. As we engage the client on Day 1, we begin documenting the processes, procedures and policies that need to be developed to support the new business model. As we construct these documents, we incorporate the use of the new ERP as a key enabler of the new processes, procedures and policies. These documents are used to train business personnel on the new process and the use of the new system.
FortéOne Consultants, along with the software implementation team, clarify and prioritize the enterprise business requirements. As software configurations are completed by the software implementation team, FortéOne consultants review and test the configuration to make sure the business requirements and configurations meet the needs of the client. In some cases, business users from the client assist in the review and testing of the configurations.
In this step, we bring together the new documented process and/or procedure and we test it against an application prototype to make sure the process and application works together as designed. In some cases, we need to modify the process or the configuration or both in order to achieve the desired result.
Once the application configuration has been completed and the process and procedures have passed the prototype review, we conduct application testing and user training with actual client data. This approach allows for comprehensive testing and user training in the new ERP application.
Prior to beginning this testing and training, business users are educated on how the new process will work, and how they will impact upstream and downstream functions via the new integrated business process and information technology.
A data conversion strategy and plan are developed by the software implementation team with support from FortéOne team and the client business and technology team members. The software implementation team executes the data conversion prior to the beginning of the Go-Live execution.
The software implementation team is responsible to develop the Cutover strategy and plan with support from FortéOne team. Ultimate, FortéOne directs the Cutover activities and supports of the initial post Go-Live support.
Six to nine months after Go-Live, FortéOne and a representative from the software implementation team conduct a 2-Day post implementation review to determine how well the new business processes, procedures and policies, and the new ERP system are supporting the new business model. A list of changes and improvements are documented and discussed with client management.