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“Resentments Under Construction” by Paul Saunders

by Debbie Wilson  |  February 5, 2019  |  Comments Off on “Resentments Under Construction” by Paul Saunders

American author Anne Lamott is quoted as saying ‘Expectations are resentments under construction.’ Unfortunately transformational ERP initiatives often prove this adage to be true. As ERP teams focus on delivering all functionality on time and on budget (the ‘what’) they often miss  communicating the expected business value and its relevance to the overall organizational strategy (the ‘why’).

mistake-1966448_640Based on over 4,500 interactions with Gartner clients since 2016, we estimate that in addition to the 20% to 25% of ERP initiatives that are considered failures, 55% to 60% are compromised in some way by the organizations undertaking them. This results in a gap between end-user expectations and the delivered reality. In our research ‘On Time, On Budget, Fully Functional and Disappointing: Why Expectations Matter for ERP Success’ Christian Hestermann and I highlight some of the reasons for this gap. Here are a few examples:

  1. Uninspiring program leadership: Let’s face it, ERP isn’t the most exciting of things. In fact it ranks just slightly higher in entertainment value than this year’s Super Bowl. The emergence of digital business has resulted in ERP losing its appeal to top talent. Unlike in the 2000s, ERP is no longer viewed as a high-profile area in which successful IT careers are forged. Many young and visionary IT leaders want to be associated with digital business and other new initiatives, rather than with ERP. An uninspiring (and uninspired) ERP leader can send a message to the organization that the ERP program itself is mundane, unimaginative, lacklustre and of low value. S/he won’t attract the needed talent to the ERP program. However an ERP leader with the charm of a snake oil salesman can often over promise and set expectations way beyond the program’s scope, leaving the team to deal with the resentments when fully constructed.
  2. No / Unclear Success Metrics: During the early 2000’s I had Six Sigma theory drilled into me in a metaphorical act of process trepanning. Although I glazed over during a 4 hour, 300 slide presentation on the Null Hypothesis (Ho) and the wonders of Minitab, one thing that did stick was the need to have clarity around metrics, especially when end users explain only the ‘fuzzy front end’. The example used in my training was of the design for a new car that customers stated should be ‘cheap’ but ‘fast’. By turning these into metrics such as ‘the car will have a retail price of less than $20,000; a top speed of 140mph and acceleration of 0-60mph in under 8 seconds’ the expectations can be set. Those customers expecting a Porsche 911 at a bargain price would have their expectations set early. Similarly an ERP program that aims to ‘standardize core processes’ and ‘free up resources for more value added activity’ needs to be clarified in much more detail with the metrics around how these objectives will be measured.

There are many more examples of the importance of setting clear, realistic and attainable expectations within the research note. It is key to realize however that clarifying expectations does not equate to satisfied end users. The goal of an ERP program is not to satisfy individual end users but to satisfy the strategic objectives of the organization.

Anyone who has ever led or been part of an ERP program will probably agree with the philosopher and writer Bertrand Russell who said ‘man is a rational animal. So at least I have been told. Throughout a long life I have searched diligently for evidence in favour of this statement. So far, I have not had the good fortune to come across it.’

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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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