So You Think Your ERP System is Underperforming

Business management applications have a bad reputation for being costly and ineffective. Time and again we hear stories of ERP implementations gone awry – going way over budget, taking more time to implement than estimated and in the end not delivering the promised results. To exacerbate this problem, many ERP systems underperform after implementations have been complete, leading decision makers to feel slighted by their lack of ROI.

So what’s really going on with these underperforming applications? It is truly the fault of the sophisticated software application itself, or could it be something simpler than that? And regardless of the cause, what can you do about it?

The first thing you need to do is determine what is really going on.

Is the System the Issue?

It’s fairly easy for the executive team to realize they aren’t seeing the anticipated return from the ERP solution. Money talks and so do things like a lack of timely reports and measurable KPIs. The challenge is to determine why these features or functionality are amiss.

One thing to question first, is user adoption. Implementing a new system is only the start, users must then be trained to use it, and to change the way they do their work. Change management is a major part of the implementation cycle. If people aren’t using the system to its full potential, it’s important to figure out why.

If it’s a lack of information about requirements and policies around use, that’s one thing and should be addressed. However, if people are complaining about the system’s performance itself, it’s time to start investigating that problem.

Talk to the Users

If the system is not performing to your user’s expectations, you can expect to be met with frustration and possible defensiveness. People want to perform their duties effectively and when a piece of software is holding them back, it can create misguided tension. Be open to hearing what everyone has to say, and take it into consideration.

Once you’ve taken the time to understand the issues they are facing, someone from your IT department should shadow the user on performing their common tasks, so they can see firsthand the issues that they encounter. It could be that the system wasn’t set-up properly for your particular end-user, or that the response time is lagging and causing the user to wait. Determining the type of performance issue your users face will help you find a resolution.

Look at Commonly Used Modules and Functions

Another potential reason for an underperforming system is that one component is failing, which leads people to forgo using the system at all. For instance, an improperly configured inventory management module can be sluggish or incomplete, which slows people down and impacts the accuracy of their work. In this situation, the software isn’t functioning, and regardless of its potential, is not being used. This will have an impact on the organization at large, so it’s important to determine exactly why that module isn’t performing and address it. It could be the configuration, or it could be a sign of something more significant, like a lack of data storage which impacts processing speed. Get to the root of the problem before you try to address it – solving functionality issues should never be trial and error.

Consider the Set-Up

Whatever the issue or issues are, you must investigate, prioritize and plan how to address them so you can quickly get the system functioning to its full capacity. If you launched a system on an infrastructure platform that was incapable of handling the large load, it didn’t stand a real chance of succeeding. If, over time, users have grown exponentially, you may need to scale out to properly accommodate them. If new customizations have been installed, the culprit likely lies somewhere in the configuration.

Look for Easy Solutions

Whatever the reason for the lack of performance from your ERP solution, don’t be quick to assume it’s the solution itself. Replacing the solution is costly, time consuming, and likely unnecessary. However, ignoring the problem(s) won’t do your business any favors. Ideally, you undergo a systematic approach to determining the root cause, so you can address performance issues in a way that will deliver the improved business operations you want and need. Don’t forget to you must also consider the impact any changes may have on other parts of your operation.

– Software Delivered as Promised. No Surprises.

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