Six lessons from a lightning ERP rollout

From zero to SAP with time to spare: How Daiwa House completed its ERP implementation early -- despite downtime from the Tohuku earthquake

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Lesson No. 5: Be aggressive about business improvement

Regular Advice Line readers understand a core principle of next-generation IT: There are no IT projects. It's a principle so important that my consulting company advises clients to never name a project after the technology. As Daiwa House's project title was "SAP Implementation," I was curious as to whether that was, in fact, the actual focus.

Interestingly enough, as initially chartered, this was very much a classic IT project. Its primary goal was to support management, particularly in accounting, human resources, and compliance by providing a more coherent view of the company's information. The main expected business benefits were to close the books faster, improve HR management, and support international compliance requirements.

Over time, though, the project team became more aggressive in defining business improvements. Designing different and better processes and practices enabled by the new software became a formal part of the effort. It shifted, that is, from implementing SAP and figuring out how to take advantage of the additional capabilities it provided to implementing better business processes and practices as a central implementation deliverable.

One example the Daiwa team was willing to share was that prior to the SAP implementation, pricing mistakes alone totaled 0.5 percent of overall billing. As the company's revenue hits $20 billion per year, that's a number worth paying attention to.

There's little doubt that fixing errors of this magnitude resulted in an enormous reduction in wasted effort. There's even less doubt that the impact on customer relationships was immense.

Short version: Daiwa House's experience validates the principle. In spite of the name, this project wasn't an SAP implementation. It was a business improvement initiative that relied, in part, on implementing SAP.

Lesson No. 6: Provide a holistic view for all team members

On any project, it's easy for participants to develop tunnel vision, focusing narrowly on their own task responsibilities. This can result in a collection of parts -- each excellent when considered solely on its own merits -- that don't fit together into a coherent whole. The folks at Daiwa House were clear on the importance of making sure everyone on the team maintained a sense of the big picture while addressing their individual responsibilities.

ERP implementations have gained a bad reputation, in which merely late is considered very good, and spiraling out of control is considered common. There are always more ways of doing something wrong than doing something right. Beyond that, the act of defining an effort as an ERP implementation contributes to the likelihood of disappointing results.

Daiwa House's experience demonstrates that while problem implementations are common, they're far from inevitable. Even better, it demonstrates that success isn't a statistical accident. It's the result of good leadership, management, and technique.

This story, "Six lessons from a lightning ERP rollout," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bob Lewis's Advice Line blog on InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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