Monday, September 1, 2014

Life Cycle Part Two

Nature duplicates life we create or is it really that the life we create duplicates nature.  It really makes sense if you think about it, because we tend to replicate our environment in the way we live, learn and grow.  Last time we looked at the life cycle of ERP solutions with a comparison to Sunflowers and plant life.  Sunflowers are an interesting plant.  The flowers follow the sun through the day, supply food for birds and animals in their replication cycle.  Their plant-life-goal is to mature, grow and plant the seeds for the next generation. 

Dragonflies are also interesting in general and in their similarities to ERP solutions. 

First there are some 5000 varieties of the species.  There are a lot of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions too.  

Each solution has its benefits, limits and niche where they work best. 

Dragonflies start as larvae in water where they spend the bulk of their life.  The early stages of ERP is often a developmental stage where a lot of the work is not seen and includes implementation, migration and training to fully take advantage of the service offerings.  

The winged version of dragonflies are what most of us are familiar with and comes after growth and trials and struggles to survive.  Once mature there is the need to stay alive, stay current and continued growth.  This is similar to ERP as more and more function is utilized in the solution and give need via growth and life cycle to a new generation. 

The next generation is inevitable. 

That next generation can be an upgrade or new solution, but it will come.  No new generation and the solution will eventually wear out and perish.  

Business needs and cycles change and ERP solutions need to change and adapt to the way your customers prefer to do business.

Choosing an upgrade or new solution is not always an easy task even if what is currently in use does not work.  Decision makers need to decide if they want to keep a narrow focus on their industry such as manufacturing, distribution or application like order entry.  Or, the decision makers need to take a more broad view of their applications and embrace the ERP moniker and include more functional roles such as customer service management which would include order entry, inventory, procurement, and manufacturing applications, like capacity planning, in one big picture.

Enterprise solutions are optimized to maximize their return when the entire enterprise is integrated.

Industry solutions are an important grouping of applications that are used and optimized for specific industries such as retail, wholesale distribution, or manufacturing.  Decision makers now have to consider traditional on premise or hosted solutions as well as more traditional questions.

Some questions to consider:  

How long has the particular software been used and how successfully? 

Total cost of ownership (TCO) is an important factor.  Most people realize that the initial upfront costs are often outpaced by the ongoing administration and operational costs. 

What initial costs must be absorbed in your return on investment (ROI) calculation?   Hardware for on premise, software licensing, maintenance, support, implementation, migration, and training?

What type of support is available?  On line, documents, phone and what time windows?

What skills are needed?  Who will provide training?  Train the trainers?  How much time will it take to get your staff up to date?  Which modules will you activate and in which order?  Do you need to know how to run everything all at once or can you train as you go after having covered the basic modules first?

Should your solution be an open-source solution or is a proprietary solution better?  What size provider is right for your business?  Are you a global organization?  Do you need a global solution? 

An open source solution may seem like a winner especially with lower license fees, however, getting support may be limited or a challenge when you get locked into a custom solution that few outside of the solution provider know how to support.  A proprietary system actually can be more “open” in the sense that people that know how to support the system will have knowledge of how to support any solution running on this same platform. 

Regardless there may be nothing worse than having a solution that is not a fit for the culture of your organization and how your customers prefer to be served.

Maturity of the solution may be a more important factor that what platform they run on.  How responsive is the solution provider to listen and understand the nuances of your operations?  Or, do they just want to pack you in a box that “works” and hope you can manage the internal changes needed to fit their mold.

Conversely, be wary of too much customization.  An over eager solution provider that will customize everything will equally box you in.  With so many customizations, how will you take advantage of new releases?  How will they keep you current with industry trends?  

Too many modifications either means the solution is not the right fit for your organization or you have highly unique business requirements.

Where will you get support?  Will it come from, is it available directly from, the solution creator?  Are there local dealers with expertise that can be onsite to help?  How many of your staff will need to be trained in support? 

It is one thing to purchase a solution, it is entirely another matter to maintain it.  Like our dragonfly, your ERP solutions need regular tending-to, environment, and opportunity to grow.  Likewise it also has to be protected from and fend off predators.  A dragon fly starts small and is usually unseen until it has passed through various growth stages until it emerges mature and winged.  It is only then we see and appreciate its beauty and appetite for the insects it consumes daily.

Let Dolvin Consulting help you navigate to a new solution, upgrade or to feel comfortable with the solution you are already using.  Contact us today to get started.  We are here to help.

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