At a retirement party, I was talking to a CFO. He was reflecting on how he had arrived at his organisation, a large educational institution, and his intention was to make his mark by buying a new ERP system. This is a common story for me after 30 years in this industry but what surprised me was his next bit of frankness. After arriving he realised there were many opportunities to improve and the smart approach was not about changing the system but changing how people used systems. Refreshing!

How many ERP system changes and swop outs are done when in reality, all that was required was a new lens and focus to be applied to the existing system? Don’t get me wrong. If the system can’t meet the requirements then throw it out.  The point I make is that if the system is not working for you, look to your people and current processes, not just the system.

If you do make the choice to change then make it efficient and harness learns from others.  Recently we were invited to bid for an ERP solution for a not for profit organisation. The instructions to respondents were that only written correspondence will be entered into; there will be no meetings, exploratory discussions or phone calls. This did not make for a mutual learning opportunity, rather for me my visual was a circus act where the vendor was jumping through hoops.

This sounds normal, you say. The thinking could be to keep the bastards honest; get them to answer the RFP and whatever happens don’t talk to them, because they may just sell to you. In my experience this misses the point. Ask questions talk and hear out others, and you will learn something.

So what was our thinking about the RFP where there is no opportunity to discuss?

The first question I considered “Were we making up numbers?” It is not the first time we have been ‘cannon fodder’ where an RFP needs three respondents for governance but have already made up their minds The next step is our assumption the system of record is the same for everyone, so to win this RFP how could we show extra value. This is very hard to work out when you can’t have a discussion to understand a vision, a goal, or a strategy.

The next big issue for us is the allocation of resources needed to respond to a RFP. For our response to present the best solution we involve our best people. And this takes time. And makes for significant costs. Last week we had five high effort proposals. We needed to make choices as what resources would get allocated. After the review we decided we should opt out of at least one RFP response.  Opting out of the response where the organisation would not permit us to talk was an easy choice.

But the main point when we workshopped the RFP none of us were able to articulate the organisation’s vision nor how we would support the strategic goals. Putting software into an organisation is a component of the total solution.  You need to know this fits into the overall strategic goals and the overall culture. The chance of success is diminished if these factors are not considered and included by the supplier. To reach for the sky you need all the parts to be a winning combination.

It is a simple fact that when we align our solution with software requirements, culture and strategic goals the project outcomes are more positive and are more real, for longer. That is honest.

Thinking about a new ERP system? We have a number of useful whitepapers here.
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