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Stop using ERP workarounds

Genius ERP: ready out-of-the-box for custom manufacturing.

Does “ERP” actually stand for Excel Runs Production at your shop?


You may have an ERP in place, but too many of your employees are using ERP workarounds, meaning they are using Excel, and other systems, databases or processes to perform tasks that your ERP was built to do. These workarounds often stem from good intentions — your staff is just trying to get their job done quickly and as easily as possible — but the road to you know where is paved with good intentions. Your staff may believe that your ERP is too complex, too slow or not aligned with current business processes, and instead of incorporating your ERP into their daily tasks, they choose to still do things the way they always did, or create a new process that lets them do their job quickly, without interacting with your ERP.


And though these ERP workarounds may seem harmless to your staff using them, they are actually hurting your organization. One of the reasons that you chose to get an ERP was because you wanted to integrate and streamline data — and give your organization an accurate and centralized data repository for your entire company to run off of. ERP workarounds create the exact opposite: they create data silos which reduce productivity, increase security risks, and undermine your company’s production and automation goals. If even one department in your organization is not using and entering data into your ERP correctly, it can throw off your entire shop. Each department in your organization needs, and relies on, accurate data from other departments, and, for example, if your purchasing department isn’t putting accurate information into your ERP, your whole inventory management and control system will be undermined, and your production department won’t have the right materials on hand to complete a job. A small ERP workaround may seem harmless enough to your employee who is doing it, but it can have a major impact on your organization.


The first step to figuring out how to stop these ERP workarounds in your shop is to understand why your staff might be doing them. Implementing an ERP is hard, and one of the biggest things you need to do is get your staff on board with the new system. If you didn’t take the time to create enough buy-in from your staff during the ERP selection and implementation process, you are probably paying for it now. (Learn more about why our President and CEO Jean Magny thinks creating buy in is so important during the ERP implementation process here.) And you may have put too much focus on the ERP systems capabilities, rather than focusing on how an ERP can help your staff do their jobs, and help your organization in general. Your staff needs to know that if every department uses the ERP correctly, you’ll be a smoother, streamlined, and more efficient organization. Another major reason your staff is using ERP workarounds is that The way the ERP system works doesn’t map to how the company operates. People don’t want to adapt their processes to fit the software, which is probably the biggest trigger of workarounds there is. Ideally you would have spent time mapping out your business processes during the selection phase and chose an ERP that fit well with your existing processes, or could be customized to work for you. If you didn’t take that time now — and figure out ways to make your ERP work for you, and how you can make changes and tweaks to existing processes to make them mesh with your ERP.


Tracking down who may be responsible in your shop for ERP workarounds may take a little detective work. Look at who is accessing spreadsheets and other databases. Look for who has whiteboards hanging in their office or department, and what information is included on the board. These may tip you off to the source of the ERP workaround. But once you have identified those responsible, don’t punish or reprimand your staff members, but take the time to do what you should have done in the first place. Create buy-in for the project, and involve key stakeholders in your organization with the ERP system.


Show your staff how the ERP will help them do their jobs — and make life easier for everyone at your plant. Emphasize the strategic impact of an effective vs. non-effective ERP implementation, and the importance of patience and team effort on everyone’s part. ERPs are amazing tools, but they need to be used right to get the benefits. Make clear that the new system will help your staff do their job better, even if in the short run it seems that the system is making their job more complicated, and how the ERP will transform your organization.


And now is the time to train, train, train! 95% of companies that have an unsuccessful ERP implementation, and fail to reap the benefits of their ERP, only devote 10% of their total budget to education, training, and change management. Short-cutting a training regime ensures problems at minimum and overall disaster at worst. Invest time and money into properly training your staff on the ERP system. And make sure people actively learn the system and are positive about the experience. Passive learning and apathetic users will lead to guaranteed workarounds as well. Once you have a better trained staff, and one that believes in the ERP system, you will have an empowered staff that will stop using workarounds.


You invested a lot into an ERP system. Make sure you are getting the ROI you deserve, and stop ERP workarounds now!


Anne Mulvenna

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