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ERP “Success” in Government


November 28, 2012

Doug Hadden, VP Products

I’ve noticed an interesting trend in Public Financial Management (PFM) conferences such as FMI here in Ottawa: the “premature” ERP success story. This is how it works:

  1. The “case study” has no case: The ERP implementation is in progress and is not yet live – 12 to 24 months into the project.
  2. The “business case” has no case: Claims are made about the business case – the results that will be achieved but have not yet accrued. Wishful thinking.
  3. Phantom Best Practices: Business process changes will be described and consultant-speak like “best practices” will be emphasized – yet few of these so-called “best” practices will be explained. Code customization will be justified when the vanilla configuration isn’t a best practice.
  4. Subtotal Cost of Ownership: Some costs will be described, but no breakdown. Many costs may be omitted: training & certification, staff retention, upgrading, further phases, additional external consultants.
  5. Cracks in the Silver Lining: Despite the optimism of the ERP implementation team, a few “challenge” themes emerge: integration (which is touted as a benefit of ERP, but isn’t), training (and more training), and consulting (high costs and lack of expertise).

There is very much a blind unquestioning belief around “best practices.” Eric Kimberling from Panorama Consulting takes on this myth from a blog entry today:

Beware of the “best practices” trap. Many ERP vendors tout their pre-configured industry solutions, suggesting that their software is designed and built for your industry. While this may be true of niche providers, larger ERP systems such as SAPOracle and Microsoft Dynamics simply cannot be everything to everyone. As a result, they counter these perceived disadvantages by driving home industry “best practices” sales messaging, which has varying degrees of relevance. In most industries in which we work – especially the more complex ones such as food and beverage or aerospace and defense – these best practices are largely irrelevant, necessitating extensive reconfiguration to meet the unique needs and complexities of the individual organizations implementing them.

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Doug Hadden

Doug Hadden

Executive Vice President, Innovation at FreeBalance
Doug is responsible for identifying new global markets, new technologies and trends, and new and enhanced internal processes. Doug leads a cross-functional international team that is responsible for developing product prototypes and innovative go-to-market strategies.

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