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“ERP is a Marathon, and it doesn’t end at the finish line” by Paul Schenck

by Debbie Wilson  |  July 6, 2018  |  Comments Off on “ERP is a Marathon, and it doesn’t end at the finish line” by Paul Schenck

Anyone who has been through an ERP implementation will tell you that it feels like a marathon. Vendors and System Integrators may try to sell you on the idea that it can be a sprint, but it isn’t, not in a true Agile sense or metaphorically. A marathon is a more apt metaphor because it requires significant preparation, and execution takes persistence and dedication over time. However, it doesn’t end at the finish line (go-live) like the original marathon.

284711_997694156081_8236624_nThe original marathon race comes from the Greek legend of Pheidippides. He was a messenger for the Greek army during the Battle of Marathon circa 490 B.C. At the end of that battle, the legend holds that Pheidippides ran non-stop from Marathon to Athens to declare to the Greek assembly “Nenikēkamen!” (We have won!), before promptly collapsing to his death of exhaustion… which is the OPPOSITE of going-live!

During your modern ERP marathon it is important to do things the right way. Don’t take shortcuts to reach your go-live or the next release by skipping test scenarios and training time, or cutting scope of valuable functionality. Stick to your original plan and deviate only where necessary. Don’t overexert yourself by pressuring stakeholders to hit unrealistic timelines through extended crunch times of development, testing, data validation and code migration during which many bugs will occur. Add time and budget knowing the ERP systems may be used 10 to 20 years. Without these steps you may never reach your initial finish line, the ERP go-live, and you won’t be able to continue on with later releases or phases.

Even if you do make your finish line, the compromises you made to get there will catch up to you just like Pheidippides. The bugs that were created and overlooked in test and staging will hit your production system causing critical business disruptions. The staff needed to scramble and fix those bugs will be exhausted along with the testers who are also usually change agents supposedly championing the great new system.

These issues and the negative perceptions of the system can have long lasting impacts that could limit benefit realization for years to come. The later releases or phases will become much more difficult. That is why it is vital to treat ERP like a modern marathon giving it the preparation, dedication and persistence necessary. If you follow this advice, you and your ERP systems will keep on running successfully… and feel free to call out “We have won!” periodically, because victory is staying in the race, not ending it.


Deborah R Wilson
Managing Vice President, ERP Strategy Team
12 years at Gartner
20 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a recovering Gartner research analyst, leads the Gartner ERP strategy research team. Read Full Bio

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