ERP Systems and the Promotional Products Industry
Let’s start with a verifiable fact.
Everyone hates their ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system.
Yes, a few of you will say your ERP is great, wonderful, etc. However, you are wrong, or at least using "alternative facts."
I hate my ERP system, and yet I realize that my ERP is actually great. I just want it to do so much more.
Levity aside, I don’t really hate my ERP system. I do wish my ERP system was more modern, faster to make changes to, more user friendly, etc. However, I really value my ERP system. Mine is incredibly stable, extremely secure (as much as anything is these days), and arguably has more functionality than any other system in our industry (thanks to years of improvements). Yet, you can talk to quite a few of our ERP users who could point out quite a few things they wish it did differently. I would agree with most of them.
ERP systems are, by nature, very complex, and they need to be. They are responsible to properly track all your finances, customers, orders and more. When your business is simple, an ERP system can be simple. Our business (promotional products) is extremely complex, and there is not any simple ERP solution that works “out of the box”.
When considering replacing your ERP system, there are a few things to be aware of.
- You will still hate your new ERP system.
- I.T. leaders who replace an ERP system tend to be fired or quit during or soon after the replacement.
- The business process changes associated with new ERP systems is sometimes harder than the technical work. It takes a commitment across the organization to make a successful transition.
It’s the third point that you should focus on, whether you are keeping or replacing your ERP (perhaps I need to focus on the second as a CIO). Your business processes are the real culprits in why you hate your ERP. Most businesses blame their ERP for the processes, and often rightfully so. Yet, there are often opportunities to change your process within or outside of your ERP. It’s a matter of will to change your processes (sometimes at the cost of a modification).
Our industry has a few “industry-specific” solutions for suppliers and distributors, which attempt to provide a standard way of doing business within the industry. If you like the processes these tools offer, you will be very happy with an industry ERP and your overall costs will likely be lower. These industry-specific systems require less customization if you will embrace their approach. At the same time, there are numerous ERP systems outside the industry that can be configured or customized and provide great value to organizations.
If you are considering an upgrade to your ERP or are just generally frustrated with your ERP, look at your business processes first. Identify and clearly document the way you want things to work before reaching out to discuss an upgrade or other change in ERP systems.