Lack of an Engineering Approach to ERP – 6th Cause of ERP Failure

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Engineering Approach to ERP

Today I would like to discuss the sixth factor giving rise to ERP implementation failure –Failure to apply an Engineering Approach — with a weight of 6%

What IS an Engineering Approach?

By an Engineering Approach I mean – rigorous, systematic, formal, check and double check, laboratory, precision configuration, executive custody, strategic alignment, design against failure – an approach which encapsulates ALL the factors for success that are discussed in this series of articles.

Lack of an Engineering Approach – a Practical Example

All the failure case studies relate to projects that lacked an Engineering Approach at some level.

Perhaps the best example is the Bulk Chemicals distribution company that implemented a big brand ERP using one of the big four consultancies and which lost its biggest customer as a consequence of a shockingly bad implementation.

The project was run by the ERP implementation division of one of the big four consultancies and failed.  The client then brought in another major implementer and they were unable to rectify the problem.  In the process all knowledge with regard to the configuration was lost.

When I was brought in the client had lost its biggest customer and the word in the industry was that they were about to lose several more.

The big issue was a service promise “if your order is in by 3pm you will receive your delivery not later than 10am the next business day”.  Their customers were large manufacturing companies using the bulk chemicals provided by my client in their just-in-time manufacturing processes.  The client was missing this deadline by one to two days!

On investigation I found that a paper based report was being generated on a large line printer in a shed in the very large warehouse using the big brand ERP.  The output of the printer was then being manually recaptured into the same big brand ERP.  In another shed, a further printout was being produced off the same ERP and the load scheduling was being performed on a white board.

On inquiry from the implementers, no one could tell me why these manual interventions on a supposedly comprehensive, fully integrated mainstream ERP were required.  Furthermore, no one could tell me how to fix it.

In terms of an “Engineering Approach” there was no rigor, no systematic approach, no formality, no check and double check, no laboratory, no precision configuration, no executive custody, no strategic alignment, no design against failure – an approach which failed to encapsulate even one of the factors for success that are discussed in this series of articles.

As previously reported.  I reported back to the CEO of the client and advised him that since there was no-one in the implementation partner who could explain the illogical operation, let alone who could tell us how to fix it the CEO had two options:

1. Continue with the current haphazard attempts to fix the problem with no certainty when or if the problem would be solved.

2. Abort the implementation and revert to the previous ERP – I had first contacted the software house that had successfully written and maintained the niche vertical ERP for the previous fifteen years and established that they still had a complete instance of the client’s former installation that could be brought up-to-date and commissioned in about four weeks.

The client CEO commented that it was “a no brainer”, and immediately gave instructions to abort the failed ERP project and to contract with the former ERP implementers to reinstate their system.

About six weeks later, at a business function, I bumped into one of the directors of the client concerned who advised me that they were fully up and running and delivering on their service promise once again with the old ERP.  He commented that the decision to revert to the previous ERP was the BEST decision they had ever made.

This case study demonstrates what happens when a project is not executed with Engineering rigour.   I will discuss effective business integration, training, change facilitation and process specification, the 6th factor for success, in the next article.

If you find what I share of interest and desire more information please email me by replying to this email.


Next week I plan to discuss how effective business integration, training, change facilitation and process specification can deliver huge benefits and increased profitability and is critical for success – the sixth factor required for success.

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