Friday, October 18, 2002

ERP does improve business performance, if implemented correctly

HBR Working Knowledge has a good interview with Harvard Business School's Mark Cotteleer regarding his survey on the effect of ERP on company performance. In the most recent survey, 86% of IT executives describe their ERP implementations as successful and over 60% report that the benefits exceeded expectations. On the other hand, 14% of implementations are "troubled or abandoned," and 40% either just met or fell short of expectations.

Recognizing, as Cotteleer says, that "successful" and "painless" are not the same thing, what makes some companies successful while others fail? The answer is in how ERP is implemented. Cotteleer goes on to describe some useful maxims for successful implementations, including: "stay the course" (i.e. give users time to get used to the new system before rushing off to resolve non-critical issues); "the devil is in the data" (e.g. "Over the years we have witnessed pitched battles erupt over, for example, how to define units of measure"); and "know the difference between understanding something and liking it."

On that last point, Cotteleer says, "Implementations get bogged down when ... project managers focus on finding a way to make everyone happy. Sometimes that way does not exist. Managers should recognize that and move on when needed."