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ERP Help for Companies Drowning in Data But Thirsting for Actionable Insight

By David Shaffer, ERP Practice Head, Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC

Do you feel it is “sink or swim” with the tidal wave of data that is hitting your business? “Data, data everywhere, and not a drop to help us think” is a common lament.

by thisisengineering-raeng

But there is a tremendous opportunity you might be missing that competitors are taking advantage of, including interactive dashboards. These highlight key performance indicators – clearly and concisely – so executives can make decisions based on data and reality and not in a vacuum.

These capabilities are powering a next generation change in how the deluge of data can help you make better decisions. Consider these quick examples:

A men’s grooming product maker successfully implemented enterprise resource planning (ERP) to better track inventory and financial data.

A rapidly expanding confectioner used ERP to standardize thousands of chocolate-making processes and restructure an ineffective warehouse management system that could not keep pace.

A manufacturer of chemical products, which are used in electronics, automotive, and housing industries, implemented an ERP system to avoid human errors and to be able to automate workflows for increased productivity.

In each example, ERP was used to harness data.

Today, any business can obtain ROI with effective systems and processes that promote growth strategies.

Companies, regardless of industry, need to recognize the ever-growing need to integrate responsive information with optimal best practices within day-to-day operations. In the past, the selection of appropriate systems has been confined to those who have large budgets, resources, and time to do extensive evaluations and due diligence. That is no longer the case.

ERP Is The Mortar In The Brick Wall

To use a masonry metaphor, an ERP system is like mortar, the cement-like mixture of sand and lime that keep bricks in place. You can think of an ERP system working like the mortar that binds together the different computer systems for a large organization (your bricks). Without an ERP application, each department would have its system optimized for its specific tasks. With ERP software, each department still has its system, but all of the systems can be accessed through one application with one interface. The systems stand together like a strong brick wall.

by jonathan kemper

Please understand that the appropriate evaluation and selection of systems is equally critical and important to the success of the mid-size, growing business. Based on years of evaluation, support, and success, we have developed a proprietary process that brings the same value and benefits of past selection without introducing extensive costs. Our belief is that hard-earned dollars should be directed toward solution implementation and not toward selection.

We recommend a process that incorporates a series of integrated steps that quickly and efficiently highlight the following:

• Scenarios that mirror operations in order to test the viability of proposed solutions

• Accountability for vendors that align implementation of value applications with operational efficiencies

• Selecting software solutions that follow business processes from ordering through fulfillment rather than just specific application areas

Implementation And Project Management

To help position our clients for success, we created an ERP selection process called Quick Start, developed with the expertise of consultants who bring business and system knowledge to the selection process. Our team recognizes the value of your investment and have first-hand understanding of the impact effective systems and processes can have on meeting growth strategies.

by alexanderstein

The Quick Start process encompasses several key interrelated steps that build upon each other and are directed toward the selection and implementation of the Information System that meets your requirements. The process focuses on your unique and key business flows rather than the nice-to-see demonstrations that many vendors focus on during demonstrations.

We recommend the following steps to select an ERP system:

1. Begin The Right Way. Get a qualified consultant who has traveled this road many times. Start with an initial kickoff meeting to set expectations, including an outline of preliminary observations gathered through an interview and site walk-through evaluation process.

2. Make A List; Check It Twice. Based upon the preceding interviews and data gathering, develop and review a list of key requirements for the new system, comprising needs that are distinctive for strategic growth. Create a list of key requirements and key business scenarios. Receive suggestions based upon observations for possible operational efficiencies.

3. Set The Scenarios. Develop key business scenarios as a framework for software demonstrations Unlike most selections that focus exclusively on application capabilities, recognize that businesses rely on the flow of information across departments. Scenarios reflect overall flows from order through fulfillment.

4. Assure Accurate Scenarios. Review the key scenarios with interview participants to assure accuracy.

5. Round Up The Vendor Suspects. Distribute requirements and scenarios to select software vendors. Identify possible solutions based upon experience and software vendor feedback from distribution of requirements. Assure that vendors understand the need to demonstrate the scenarios.

6. Demo That System Please. Participate in vendor demonstrations. Obtain consultant support to help your team in evaluating the potential fit of vendors. Assure that demonstrations are addressing the scenario requirements. Consultant should assist your team to evaluate the best fit.

7. Plan The Implementation. Review the recommended implementation plan. Some negotiation is required at this point.

8. Support Project Management. Have consultant provide interface between your company software implementation team and the vendor. The consultant should support the implementation of best practices.

Final advice

The selection process must put you in control over the software vendor by assuring the proposed solution meets the process scenarios, and the consultant can help maintain that delicate balance of power. A selection process typically can be completed within an eight-to-ten-week window. Utilize consultants that are able to integrate business understanding with the value creation associated with information systems. Make sure the funds are spent on the right things, which translates to software delivery rather than consulting evaluations.

by Campaign Creators

If you are open to a conversation about an ERP system, improving manufacturing workflow, or how our in-depth work style and personality assessment could help your team, including pricing and the science behind the tests, please contact us at 310-453-6556, extension 403.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com and our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2022

David Shaffer, who heads up the full-service business consulting ERP practice at Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, is recognized for his ability to effectively integrate all aspects of the business, including financial management, information systems, infrastructure, and operations. David assists companies from executive strategic planning through operational and business process improvement opportunities to the selection and integration of management information systems solutions. His range of company support includes start-ups through Fortune 500.

In addition to a full-service Business Consulting Division, Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, sales and customer service training, negotiations training, interpersonal communication, stress and time management, and leadership training.

To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code, Cracking the Business Code, and Cracking the High-Performance Team Code, please go to: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Improving Your Odds For A Successful Manufacturing Workflow Strategy

By David Shaffer

When it comes to succeeding with manufacturing workflow, we are drowning in data but starved for wisdom.

That thought was first put forth by futurist John Naisbitt 40 years ago in his classic book Megatrends. Naisbitt the futurist was indeed a prophet.

His prophecy is true because today even with the ever-expanding use of technology, there is an overabundance of data. The challenge is to disseminate that data into information that can be acted upon to achieve the organization’s mission.

The overall mission and foundation of business today, as it was 40 years ago and undoubtedly will be true 40 years hence, is to maximize customer service. Today this is also referred to as the customer experience.

Great business thinkers like the late Peter Drucker said that without customers, there is no business. Giving the customers what they want, when they want it and how they want it is an ongoing challenge. Simply put, keeping the customer satisfied requires improved manufacturing workflow.

Because improving your manufacturing workflow is about keeping the customer satisfied, the best manufacturers are obsessed with it. These organization’s want to make themselves as easy as possible to work with from a supply chain, distribution and services standpoint. The good news is applications including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) have greatly improved manufacturing workflow.

However, almost daily you can read or hear of information systems like ERP not fulfilling manufacturing workflow expectations established at the time of acquisition. In fact, despite the most diligent efforts in defining requirements, evaluating options and selecting systems, the probability of higher-than-expected investments and system implementation issues are extremely high.

If it sounds like the odds are stacked against you, there are ways to improve your odds. ERP needs to be seen as an investment, rather than an expense, and therefore you must find ways to maximize the return on investment (ROI).

How To Improve ROI

Improving your manufacturing workplace is a bet, a gamble, a wager. Author Damon Runyon once said: “The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.”

No business plans to lose its bet on ERP. It is fair to assume that all participants in the implementation of technology are focused upon improved manufacturing workflow results for their individual and collective departments. The aggregate of these improved results should be focused on, and result in, improved results for the company as a whole.

Specifically, a concise definition of measuring improved results as a positive gain in the implementation of technology. If there is nothing to gain then there is obviously no reason to change.

If you want the biggest gain, bet on quality. To all organizations, quality is what is expected. To that end, in the absence of standard operating procedures, the result is variation in process and by definition; variation is the enemy of quality. By determining the least wasteful method of performing a task, quality is improved, cost is reduced and on-time delivery is the final result. By performing a task the same way each time assures consistency and eliminates variation.

As workflows are identified and the standard operating procedures are put in place, the success of these procedures will be directly determined by how effective an organization is at answering the following questions:

• What are the required inputs?
• How were you trained?
• What do you do?
• How do you know your output is good?
• What feedback do you receive?
• Who are your customers?
• What keeps you from doing error-free work?
• What can be done to make your job easier?
• What would you change as the manager?

It is hopefully fair to assume that all employees want to do a good job and would rather do an activity right the first time and not be faced with rework or quality issues. Standard operating procedures, as information or product, are passed from one group to another allowing for consistency in both input and output, resulting in improved quality and happy customers. That is a winning parlay.

Those Pesky Competitors

For a significant number of businesses however, changes are dictated externally by competition, customers, and vendors and for publicly traded companies, possibly the shareholders. This external pressure, when coupled with potentially internal conflicting goals tends to increase anxiety levels and can further contribute to poor system selection and/or utilization. How often is it heard that if we don’t change we will lose? The Internet and e-commerce are recent examples of technology forcing many businesses to react.

One of the ways businesses have tried to deal with change and the expected pressures is through strategic planning. When done correctly, and shared appropriately throughout the organization, the strategic plan becomes a roadmap and a source of reference throughout the year. By establishing a Target Operating Model (TOM) that reflects the strategic plan, the selection of the appropriate ERP can be measured against its alignment with the TOM along with value derived.

Procedures And Policies Are Linked To ROI

It is assumed that the procedures and policies associated with a new system will be integrated as part of the implementation process. Vendors of technology and software will do their best to provide the appropriate operational training however are not generally in the business of assuring that the organizational infrastructure can absorb the change. That is left to the management and implementation team.

Recognizing that a new system carries risk as well as rewards, the management team is functioning under its’ own level of pressure and may not be the best in soothing the concerns, issues and change being felt by the employees. The good intentions associated with the new system may indeed be counterproductive without the corresponding balancing of the attitudes, goals, objectives and concerns of the people that comprise the organization.

Implementing The Strategy

Regardless of the status of the current information technology, that is utilizing an existing system or entering into the selection process of a new one, it is essential that the TOM and value to be derived are clearly defined. That is, just how will we as an organization measure the ERP value and, equally important, how will our customers measure us to decide if we are in fact successful in implementing our strategy. In addition to this measurement is the strategic plan. It must be reflective of where we want the business to be and how we will measure our success.

Finally, the integration of technology and infrastructure are essential to maintaining the balance of maximizing customer service. We must place equal emphasis on understanding and implementing positive attitude as we are in implementing technology.

Defining and achieving improved results is critical to the on-going success of most businesses. To invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in technology and systems without recognizing that tools are only as good as the operator is a formula for disappointment. It has been said that the majority.

Monitor And Communicate Progress

Many organizations struggle with the implementation of key initiatives; accountability is frequently a major stumbling block. By assigning Project Managers and the consistent use of project chartering, project plans can be well defined, resourced and monitored. The aggregate results of the charters collectively address the implementation of defined key initiatives. It is customary that on a weekly basis, each Project Manager reports the status of their charter so that combined project plans are managed by a single source. That is, for quality and consistency the overall progress of the initiatives is maintained in a central repository accessible to the entire management & leadership team.

There are many ways to distill strategic planning into execution. Chartering is a great way to focus on execution while creating accountability & buy-in throughout the process.

If you are open to a conversation about improving manufacturing workflow or how our in-depth work style and personality assessment could help your team, including pricing and the science behind the tests, please contact us at 310-453-6556, extension 403.

If you would like additional information on this topic or others, please contact your Human Resources department or Lighthouse Consulting Services LLC, Santa Monica, CA, (310) 453-6556, dana@lighthouseconsulting.com & our website: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.

Permission is needed from Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC to reproduce any portion provided in this article. © 2021

David Shaffer, Senior Consultant with Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC, is recognized for his ability to effectively integrate all aspects of business including financial management, information systems, infrastructure, sales management, sales strategies and operations. David assists companies from executive strategic planning through operational and business process improvement opportunities to the selection and integration of management information systems solutions. His range of company support includes start up through Fortune 500.

Lighthouse Consulting Services, LLC provides a variety of services, including in-depth work style & personality assessments for new hires & staff development. LCS can test in 19 different languages, provide domestic and international interpersonal coaching and offer a variety of workshops – team building, interpersonal communication, stress and time management, leadership training as well as our full-service Business Consulting Division. To order the books, Cracking the Personality Code, Cracking the Business Code, and Cracking the High-Performance Team Code, please go to: www.lighthouseconsulting.com.