A key point in my presentation to AICPA last week was that enterprise system projects often require significant business process change in order to ensure success. Our cumulative experience in the 1990s shows that it simply doesn't work to slam new systems into an organization without addressing the culture, attitudes, and processes that will need to be changed.
To reinforce this concept, at the end of each workshop, I asked participants to think about a current or planned enterprise system initiative at their companies and to consider what business changes would be needed to ensure success.
The participants volunteered a number of such initiatives, including new financial systems, complete ERP replacements, CRM and supply chain systems, and one custom development system. But what was interesting was to look at the business changes they indicated were needed to make these systems effective. After the workshop, I clustered the responses and came up with the following observations.
- User ownership was indicated in 25% of the responses--an important recognition that without the buy-in of those whose jobs are affected, no system will be successful.
- Cultural changes, such as salespeople being willing to openly share sales pipeline data, was mentioned in another 25% of the responses.
- Data integrity issues were indicated in 19% of the responses, possibly in reaction to the strong emphasis I gave to this point in the workshop.
- Specific business process changes, such as purchasing, operations, and sales processes, were mentioned in 13% of the responses. It is likely that with more time for consideration, participants would have been able to list more of these.
- The remaining responses pointed to improved disciplines and changes in performance measurement and incentive systems.
Over the past decade, companies invested heavily in information technology, sometimes with disappointing results. Business leaders are now recognizing that the key to success is to focus on the business changes needed to make the new technology effective.