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When Not All ERP Implementations Are Created Equal…

January 7th, 2013 Comments off

As a Finance leader, one of the projects you can always count on having to lead, or at least becoming a key stakeholder in, is the implementation of an ERP program. For myself, I’ve been “lucky” enough to participate or lead the implementation of Fourth Shift, MAS-200, Oracle, and most recently the global SAP initiative with DC Shoes and Quiksilver. All of those projects were with companies that were relatively mature, had established revenue streams, and long histories to contend with in the implementation. However, with a start-up, the rules are entirely different and there’s actually a slightly higher degree of difficulty.
With the SAP implementation at DC/Quiksilver, there was not only the history to deal with, but the “democracy” of finding a solution that everyone could agree on. Not to mention, we also had to go through the process of outlining our processes for the consultants, which up until that point, were mostly undocumented. That SAP implementation became more of an S&OP project as we found ourselves scrutinizing internal process more than the ERP systems we were entertaining as solutions. Nonetheless, there was significant history that played a key contributor in finding the proper solution for our business.

For a start-up, what do you have? Yes, you might have a business plan, but at that point, it is basically still a vision. A vision that does not have a definitive, or at least realized, revenue streams, established & matured expense structures, or even the functional area titles that have been tested and affirmed. While the business plan will be the 95% version and the blue print everyone refers to, it is still subject to change…and will change. That’s the one level of certainty in a start-up. With that in mind, you are then tasked with defining your needs and the vision of the company to the consultants. You need to be able to take an honest look, while understanding the business well enough, lead the consultants through the process and outline your specific needs, not just in the current time, but for the needs your business will have 2-5 years down the line.

Your solution will not be based on what platform is offering the best end of year discount and implementation package, but the best solution for what the business will need and the ability to accommodate the growth and properly report on its activities. At a start-up, you better be able to honestly assess what the needs of your company are down to every level or you shouldn’t be in the position. At a start-up, you won’t have a team of consultants doing the heavy lifting…it’s going to be you. You’ll be the one building the import files, building the vendor files, and configuring the general ledger structure to report at the desired level of detail. You’ll be the one defining the customer and product hierarchies for your management reporting.

It’s definitely a much more challenging task than an implementation for an established company. But then again, that’s what makes life at a start-up so much fun and a test/testament to what you’ve really been doing during your career.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael