ERP is the abbreviation for Enterprise Resource Planning. There are an array of ERPs to choose from such as SAP (the daddy of all ERPs), BAAN, Oracle Financials, Navision, Xapta, Integrated Business Solutions and the list could be endless. Entity choses an ERP based on their business model and the budget. The organizations that implement the ERP usually operate on a mega scale. ERPs would support such entities to exercise desired controls on all resources. ERP based business houses are as rich as Croesus, so now you know what type of companies to approach during a job hunt! Further one could expect a decent working environment in such companies.
ERP sounds all Greek to the employees who are ancient in the organization. Hence measures must be taken to avoid their resistance for the upcoming implementation. Basic orientation program highlighting the need for training on the ERP to be implemented and the new job profile of the current employees is sufficient to gain their confidence.
Being wet behind my ears I had no clue what an ERP implementation was all about. For me it was just a lucrative job – this opinion had ripped to shreds in the very first week of my work. I would never hear my boss say “Let’s call it a day”.
What does it take to implement an ERP? What’s the hype around an implementation?
The implementation team I worked in had accounts executives who knew the accounting software “Tally “ like the back of their hand. They are called the end users in the Finance module. End users are those officers who capture the regular transactions of the company’s operating division(s).
The second level has consultants. These are Functional Consultants & Technical Consultants.
(their role is discussed in a later para) Usually a CA or ICWA handles the functional part and an engineer with hard core programming experience is a tech guy.
High co-ordination and trust among the end users and the consultants is a must for a successful implementation.
Looking anxiously for the zero hour we finally had the ERP executed on the server. The vendor linked the interfaces with the database and thereby jumped the gun on the first task.
I handed over the opening balances to the team and the project kicked off with a blitzkrieg. At the crack of the dawn the ERP team was as busy as a bee. The list seemed impasse as it ran into several hundred pages. Though not a word was uttered I could feel the bystander effect! Half way on the job a data operator clicked “Delete” to edit an entry and all hell broke loose. We were almost back to square one. After a class for an hour from my boss I coined a new word “Rights”. Now, being a little smarter cookie (I hope I still am) I assigned rights to all the users based on their role. We could finish this job only towards the end of day4.
“Brown cow now how?” said the team. There came the summon for the team meeting. We, called as paper lions by the armchair critics, headed to the conference room to realize that our new task was to co-ordinate with the Engineering/Projects division.
As the core business of the company was Offshore Engineering, the data from the projects division was crucial. Though in a silly-shally, I along with my colleague went up to the captain of the projects – the General Manager to understand the workflow in his division and mainly for the divisional data. The tete-a-tete went on for a couple of hours and finally we came out of the Jujitsu (a Japanese form of wresting) with some graffiti and data for a quarter. This information was nectar to me as it could keep us going for the next few days. I thought to myself “is getting information so difficult?”
I could now figure out the flow in the business of the company based on the data from both the accounts and the projects. Based on my business analysis and the data on hand we started with:
1. Identifying Data requirement for a Purchase Order and a MRN.
2. Designing the interfaces for a Purchase Order and a MRN.
3. Procedure for raising a PO & a MRN including the person responsible.
4. Criteria for linking the PO & the MRN.
5. Above four steps with respect to the Work Orders & JCCs.
6. Flow with respect to Tenders raised & Quotations received.
7. Criteria for shortlisting a Vendor and a Service Provider.
8. Vendor/SP registration in an ERP.
Further, ensured the above data was pulled into the finance module.
The acid test for the ERP finally began, we started pushing the actual data of the quarter into the system. In Info. Tech parlance, this is called as the testing stage. Towards the end of this testing phase most of us felt we had finger in every pie (involved in many things at the same time).
Something interesting happened with a colleague. An armchair critic raised cain by offering a lucrative offer (a highly paid job) to a key team member who ended up voting with his feet (he simply walked out). We were thwarted! This made us feel as poor as a church mouse. The Vice President- Finance showed knee jerk reaction and the team was on a break for 2 days.
It was a pyrrhic victory (loss > gain till date) at the end of 3 weeks. Each member in the team could see only $$$$ (money). We felt this ERP implementation could be our way to El Dorado (ancient fictitious city where boys play marbles with diamonds and streets & roof tops are paved with gold).
After a break of 2 days, the team comprising of the VP-Finance, consultants & the end users were as fit as a fiddle. The set-up we worked now was altogether different. All were shifted into a conference room. This meant each one of us were under the scanner.
Scope of work for the week was discussed. It touched several bases in accounts so the team participation was high aka it was more easily understood by the people at the officer level. All the paper work done by the Projects division converged into the finance module. We had to ensure that it was captured in all respects and the controls were correct at each stage. The role of a consultant was to ensure the settings were proper for all the transaction in the following domains:
1. Accounts Payable (Please refer my article: Accounts Payable Process)
2. Accounts Receivable.
3. General Ledger.
5. Asset Accounting.
Once the basic settings (such as Creating the Tax Tables, Chart of Accounts & so on) were complete, the end users started testing the above sub modules with the actual data as collected from the Engineering division. The system threw terrible errors. This set the tongues wagging – “Will the project go belly up?”One could see no end to the gibble-gabble (the senseless chatter). Being familiar with the programming I could analyze the probable reason for the errors and soon found myself as a mediator between the team and the tech consultants.
Business model of the company involved using the imports, local purchases and sub-contracting (at the high level) to provide the offshore services. Hence, the ERP was to be customized according to the provisions of the relevant Acts which included,
Value Added Tax.
Income Tax Act.
(Customizing the ERP under the above acts could be each separate article)
It’s near time for me to end the article and based on the responses I’ll share my experience on the others modules including the “Controlling” module (used for generating MIS).
I’d say ERP implementation requires both domain expertise and people skills as well. There is no shortage for functional/tech experts. A combination of both is a rare commodity.
This write up is based on my experience. There are many areas that are untouched. Have tried to give the reader an insight on implementation.
Any comment, question, feedback or any other view is most welcome.
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