Even with all our technological advances, complexity is the bane of many IT-related projects around the world. A key reason for this is that most companies are trying to evolve their IT environments on a legacy foundation featuring disjointed systems and processes.
While organizations are wise to consider a modern approach to enabling their business processes – such as adopting various cloud and mobile applications – they often experience common barriers to success.
Particularly in the context of significant business and IT undertakings such as the implementation of a new ERP system, companies can avoid the perils of complexity by following a few best practices:
- Center the IT project on a small number of key business objectives. In their excitement to take their IT infrastructure and business processes to new levels, many organizations try to take on too much. Ideally, they should focus on the areas that are most likely to improve operations and business processes, as measured by a number of selected key performance indicators (KPIs). If a project is very broad in scope, organizations should divide it into manageable milestones that can be delivered, with demonstrable benefits, in a relatively short time frame. For a new ERP system this could even be as little as three to four months for going live with the first phase, including – for example – three to four SAP modules.
- Focus any customization efforts on IT elements core to the business. The goal is to zero in on systems and processes that enable a company to differentiate itself from the competition. With that defined, the organization should minimize the amount of customization required and leverage preexisting, standardized templates to support non-core functions. In other words, take advantage of what has already been tested and proven successful, and tailor only the key, differentiating aspects to fit the business.
- Carefully select applications for the cloud. As organizations leverage some of the wide variety of multitenant cloud applications available, the benefits they gain often come at a cost of lost control over certain aspects of the cloud application. These include performance, availability, functional enhancements, and the timing of upgrades. Additional risk is introduced when organizations rely on cloud applications with complex data interfaces, potentially from different vendors, to become an integral part of a critical process workflows. This is because each integration point involving the transfer of data and control between different applications introduces a new potential point of failure into the process. That’s why organizations should carefully consider the integration between the different parts of their key processes and the number of handoffs from one part to another. Cloud applications that help manage parts of the business by covering selected end-to-end flows, with just a small number of simple integration points, can deliver significant benefit while keeping things simple and minimizing risk.
- Address online and offline process needs. Many organizations, including quite a few of Illumiti’s customers, find that their users of mobile applications have either cellular or WiFi coverage most of the time. Such organizations can often simplify their technology stack by connecting these applications directly to the ERP system of record. This ensures information is always accurate, up-to-date, and reduces the costs for both implementation and support. Field workers needing to use a mobile application in areas with no connectivity to the ERP server can use a different solution. In this scenario, the solution stores relevant data on the mobile device itself and synchronizes this data – and any relevant operations performed on the device – with the ERP server at a later time. Choosing the simpler option when it’s sufficient to cover the business need is another way to reduce complexity, risk, and cost.
Our mission is to enable any company to benefit from the world’s leading enterprise software applications and realize its vision. To do that, we simplify the implementation process by employing the practices outlined above.
A case in point is that of Capstone Mining Corp., an Illumiti client that implemented SAP ERP, including business intelligence dashboards, for improved visibility and decision making in the area of procurement. Within a seven-month period, Capstone realized a 92 percent reduction in the length of its procurement cycle, as well as an 80 percent reduction in maverick spend.
Similarly, our own company has recognized benefits by unifying our data and process flows. Previously, our consultants recorded their time in one system. In turn, we had to manually enter related summary data in our financial system in order to produce customer invoices and post cost and revenue into our general ledger. Now consultants enter their own time online and the information is automatically posted to the appropriate accounts and aggregated into invoices.
We are always looking for new ways to achieve the goal of simpler, more effective operations.