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How can I address ERP problems caused by a rushed implementation?

When ERP implementations are rushed, system issues are likely to arise in multiple areas. Here's how to do damage control and avoid a full-on failure.

Some of the worst ERP problems are the result of rushed implementations. Indeed, many CIOs are pressured to implement...

ERP systems before the systems are ready. As a result, they are left with a flawed and broken system filled with garbage data and untrained business users -- to name just a few repercussions -- and a mandate to "make it work."

Having a go-live before a system is ready is clearly ill-advised, so why does it happen? There are a few  potential reasons. For example, late hardware may cause delays in testing and training, but stakeholders will still put pressure on the team to make up time. Also, business users may be unavailable to test and validate crucial business scenarios, which may include incorrect master data submissions. This can cause delays that can't be corrected, but IT will still require them to stick to the go-live deadline. Or one company may buy another and want the acquired organization to have SAP systems and applications quickly up and running no matter what.

ERP problems are not easy to deal with, but there is hope. A flawed ERP system that was rushed to go-live for whatever reason will need fixing -- and it will need it immediately. To do that, here are five areas to concentrate on.

Master data: The backbone of SAP systems -- be they SAP ERP Central Component, Advanced Planning and Optimization, Ariba or Customer Relationship Management -- is master data. And it's critical for that data to be correct. However, a rushed, chaotic implementation may mean that users were not given enough time to cleanse, correct or validate master data. Hence, they were rushed to submit whatever data they had available for upload into the new ERP system due to looming, tight deadlines. The result: A new ERP system with the old, incorrect data that has now come back to haunt users. This will need immediate correction, and there's no shortcut to it. It is a critical to correct as many master data issues as possible, as quickly as possible.

Another important step for creating correct master data is for the master data controller to prohibit data to enter the system in question until after the business users have completely filled out Microsoft Excel-based templates that capture all data-related details in one place.

Training: A culture of training and learning is a key component of ERP success. Every instance of a recurring issue brings with it an opportunity to train business users on how to minimize data entry errors. It's also a chance to teach them how to fix routine issues themselves.

Change management: Change management is key during implementation, so if it has gotten short shrift, it's critical to make up for that. CIOs who continue change management initiatives even after ERP implementations increase their odds of success in fixing a broken, flawed ERP system. Focusing on change management should also be an integral part of the systems and processes stabilization efforts. This will ensure the communication and coordination channels among all stakeholders remain open, thereby reducing the uncertainty surrounding their roles and responsibilities.

Building in-house competency: Considering outsourcing to save costs once the SAP systems have matured may make sense. However, the initial chaos will likely require an in-house, mixed team of business and SAP techno-functional experts. The business users understand the business processes and can provide valuable input to SAP functional and technical teams. They can offer effective solutions to business issues. Further, that cross-section of expertise can help limit the scope of custom development to only business-critical issues and, in turn, save money and time.

Solution Manager: Using SAP Solution Manager for end-to-end support ticket resolution ensures complete traceability of every support issue and the resolution provided. The support consultants, or even business users, can then use this repository of resolved issues in case of an issue recurrence. Also, if the in-house team is unable to internally resolve an issue, it can escalate the issue directly to SAP.

By paying attention to the above five areas, CIOs and their teams can do a lot to transform ERP problems and create a system that will better serve the company and its users. 

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