Many years ago, when I started my career in consulting, I got into a project which was very interesting. That project’s goal was to roll out what they were calling at that time “One ERP” (I just realized that this name pops up every now and once in different clients/projects, so not a very original name). As a fresh and inexperienced guy, I was fascinated by having a business process model in hand, which would fit and standardize things across the local operation. Someone would even paint the picture for me: “can you imagine having a process, that is so similar across regions, that we could bring someone from abroad, that could operate and help us down here?”
A couple of projects down the road, I ran into an acquaintance from that company. We both had a little bit more grey hair than when we first met, and we also had a bit more stories to tell. So, at some point of the conversation, I asked him how things were going in his company, especially around the things we designed and deployed ourselves. He frowned a bit, scratched his head and said:
“Well, let me say this. After we finished that project and stabilized the system, things seemed to be great. However, as time went by, we in the local operation felt a little isolated from everyone else. Not only because HQ would not allow us to deploy new enhancements which made sense to us on a local perspective, but also because we did have to find a lot of workarounds for many missing functionalities which were key to our local operation. That did affect us on an operational perspective, because we had to hire more people to enable the operation of that global model – and didn’t get the return on the investment, but it was this or not being to operate at all. Customization has been building up, as we have recurring new localization requirements, which are fulfilled by the global team, and costs us more than if we were to deploy this with local consultants. We certainly had better expectations on how this new global template could help us grow, and not necessarily turn into a burden. My key users, especially those who come from other companies, think we are in the 20th century with back office apps”.
He finally said they were now thinking about upgrading into the new version of that application and creating a new global template. He asked for my opinion, on what I thought had to be different this time. Among the many things we discussed, some questions came from my side:
- How are the company operations different among regions (or business areas)? Did that change with time?
- What is the business vision for the future and what are the priorities?
- And what type of consolidation is being pursued this time?
Unfortunately, he is not a Gartner client (Gartner clients can access the following notes that relate to this: : What CIOs Need to Know About ERP Consolidation, 2-Tier ERP: Modernizing the Hidden Jewels of the Enterprise, Toolkit: Evaluate the Applicability of 2-Tier ERP to Your Enterprise) but I tried to sketch one of the graphics I have in one of those notes, which I thought it would be useful for him to discuss with his peers. We finally shared goodbyes and left as we both had meetings to attend later that day – not without noticing how much grey hair we both had grown since. I think we both should blame ERP initiatives for that…
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