–Scott Adams, Creator of Dilbert comic strip
I, much like you I assume, was raised with the idea that there are no stupid questions. A question can be naïve, tedious, ridiculous, obvious, trivial, even rhetorical, but never stupid. I could ask you what brand of playing cards will most likely lead to a winning hand in Texas Hold’em or do you think the off brand post-it notes will be less sticky than the branded post-its? Neither of these questions are stupid …per se.
I argue that there are, in fact, silly questions especially when it comes to ERP.
In the world of Enterprise Resource Planning, there are hundreds of questions to ask and thousands of answers to give. Every other blog, article or social media post about ERP is about questions to ask someone. Pick any number, just off the top of your head, then add a person who is, in some capacity, related to ERP software. For example, this could be a CFO, vendor, consultant, SME, project manager, the list goes on. Now add an adjective such as critical, vital, frequent or, my personal favorite, powerful. Put it all together and you have a smorgasbord of articles that individuals have written about questions you absolutely MUST ask someone.
10 Powerful Questions to Ask your CFO
13 Frequently Asked Questions your ERP Consultant Should Answer
8 Tough Interview Questions to Ask an ERP Systems Expert Prior to Hiring
30 Critical Questions to Ask your Team When Considering a New ERP System
Implementing a new ERP system or upgrading your current software can be immensely expensive and time consuming, and with so much at stake, silly questions can be costly. The list of what is just too silly to ask is much shorter than any list of what you should ask. So, in the spirit of silliness, I give you…
3 Utterly Silly ERP Questions and Their Equally Silly Answers
Should I do something about my legacy ERP system?
Yes, of course you should look into doing something about your legacy system. For those who don’t know, a legacy system is is an older enterprise system that is no longer being enhanced, merely maintained. A legacy system is like having a 1998 Ford Mustang with no AC for your 25-mile commute and wondering why it doesn’t offer the comforts of a 2016 ‘Stang. It’s a decent car that gets you from point A to point B but where is the GPS? Where are the heated seats? You need the ’98 to get to work but its clearly not the best car when its 95 degrees out and you are sweating through the oxford shirt you wore for that really important meeting.
As the marketplace changes and technology advances, a business must keep up with the demand or it fades into the background. If your ERP system is merely maintaining your business rather than helping it grow or working to increase efficiency and productivity, then what is it doing for you? With as much advancement as we have had in technology in the past 15 years, I find it hard to believe that anything functioning exactly as it always has, could be moving the company forward. So, if you are asking if you should look at other options than your legacy ERP system in the off-chance there is something better for you our there, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’!
Should we host our server on–premise or in the cloud?
Let’s take a step back for a second and talk about the definitions of each of these terms because once you know these, it makes the question pretty irrelevant. On-premise hosted servers means it is somewhere in your office or in your building. Its probably that little closet with its own AC system softly humming in the hallway. The Cloud a server, just stored in someone else’s closet. You are getting the same access and functionality and its still on a server, just somewhere else. Its storage that you can access wherever you have, you guessed it, internet. Anything you store in the Cloud, while not locally stored, is still locally accessible. The placement of your server does not change the functionality of the software you are installing. You aren’t all of a sudden going to get a better ERP system because you chose to host in the Cloud and you certainly aren’t going to have improved anything by going the on-premise route. The better, and I’ll argue more correct, question to ask in this situation is really about maintenance and who wants to be responsible for it. This includes things such as data security and updates. You, the company, can be responsible for maintaining your servers whether in the Cloud or on-premise. The same goes for an outside company, they can maintain your servers on your property or in the Cloud. Many ERP packages that offer cloud hosting will have a selection of hosting companies narrowed down for you. There are some who offer one single choice, which doesn’t seem like the right word considering you don’t actually have another Cloud hosting option with packages like that. Some Cloud hosting companies will allow only their team to provide maintenance. As you can see, the server being on-premise or in the Cloud is not really what you want to ask. You want to figure out if you want to maintain it or if you want someone to maintain it for you.
Additional Note of Knowledge: Cost does come into play when you are at this stage of your ERP selection process. There are subscription options for payment, flat, up-front fees, or hybrid but the method of your payment doesn’t really matter. Whether you pay via a subscription (which you likely break even at three years, by the way) or via an up-front fee for a perpetual license, you get the same ERP software. The only caveat here is some software manufacturers may only offer on-premise or only offer Cloud hosting.
Can I ignore my consultant?
If your ERP consultant or vendor says a company of your size and industry should expect nine months to implement, then it will be nine months. ERP implementation is not simply installing new software on your PC, you are overhauling the operations in your business and presenting a steep learning curve for your employees. Hershey’s may be most known for their confectionary delicacies that grace our presence at every holiday (and every day in between) but in the world of enterprise software and IT, they are remembered for one of the biggest, costliest, and most preventable ERP implementation failures of our time. Basically, Hershey’s had a legacy system that wasn’t able to do all that they wanted it to. They wanted to switch over to their new system before Y2k. But the problem was they were quoted a 48-month implementation process but Hershey’s said no, do it in 30 months (Koch, 2002). To accommodate the expedited timeline, much needed testing phases were eliminated from the schedule. To add even more to their plates, the launch and official switch to the new ERP was smack dab in the middle of their busy season. When it came time to go live, Hershey’s was unable to process $100 million of orders, saw a drop in quarterly profits and 8% decrease in stock price (Wailgum, 2009). The demand to shorten the timeline of their ERP implementation cost them dearly. When you are asking your implementation team how long the implementation will take, you should think about asking ‘how much time do you need to be successful?’ Unless, of course, if $100 million is no big deal to you. I equate this to surgery. You want your body up and running ASAP but would you ask the surgeon to hurry while he is elbows deep in your intestines, trying to sew up your liver?
The point I want to get across with this is while there may be no stupid questions, let’s make sure the questions we are asking are relevant, educated and not utterly silly. If you are at this level in your career, where you have the decision-making power behind a software choice that could effect your company for the next ten years and cost thousands if not hundreds of thousands, you better be up on your game.
Koch, C. (2002, November 15). Suppy Chain: Hershey’s Bittersweet Lesson. Retrieved Januray 12, 2016, from CIO.com: http://www.cio.com/article/2440386/supply-chain-management/supply-chain—hershey-s-bittersweet-lesson.html
Wailgum, T. (2009, March 24). 10 Famous ERP Disasters, Dustups and Disappointments. Retrieved January 12, 2016, from CIO.com: http://www.cio.com/article/2429865/enterprise-resource-planning/10-famous-erp-disasters–dustups-and-disappointments.html