The value of process mapping before an ERP purchase

In rare situations, a company can successfully choose an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system on technical requirements alone. However, for most companies, the decision to incorporate a new ERP into an organization should be a piece of a larger plan that includes process mapping – it shouldn’t be the lone goal.

In a previous post, we referred to companies who, unintentionally, “bought the demo”, where several features of a new ERP resonated with an organization’s current processes, but the new system did not solve many existing problems.

When an organization decides that their ERP system is no longer keeping up with the company’s ability to execute its goals, this becomes an opportunity to take a full-scale look at the business. Think of it as the difference between taking your car in for an oil change and going in for a tune-up. An oil change is a maintenance activity to make sure everything can run smoothly, similar to authorizing a software update for your current ERP. With a tune-up – which occurs far less frequently – more systems are checked for operating efficiency.

An ERP implementation isn’t solely about making sure information flows through your organization properly. It’s also about making sure that production flows efficiently and positioning the company to work from a place of agility – which translates to a place of strength.

Take the time to do it right

Take the time to map your current processes. What are the steps that you have to take from start to finish for order entry through order fulfillment; from product conception to marketable item; from prospect to customer? How does information flow through those processes, and how do your employees interact with it?

Discuss the pain points that come from those processes with your workforce. KnowledgePath consultants have witnessed many a-ha moments with our clients during such discussions. Often, many of the “normal” tasks employees perform are the result of work-around solutions to your current ERP. They’re not trying to take five steps to perform a simple task – their current tool has boxed them into spending fifteen minutes to do what feels like should only take five.

The benefits of this exercise – while time-consuming – offer a large return on investment toward understanding the inner workings of your organization. Regarding the primary objective of securing your next ERP, you will begin developing a thorough list of product requirements you need to see from ERP vendors, which increases the chances of you choosing the best system for your needs the first time.

Identify important gaps

You can identify the information gaps in your current system. “I would like to do Process A, but without Information B that seems impossible.” In the real world, that can sound more like, “When I need to drop a rush order into production, I would like to be able to rearrange the schedule with as little impact to other deadlines as possible. Currently, I use my best guess based on experience, but a scenario analysis tool would make the decisions go faster with fewer errors.”

Mapping your processes is also an opportunity to help minimize issues associated with change management. A new system will be simultaneously exciting and stressful. If you’ve involved your front-line employees in the process of identifying your needs, then you have given them a voice in the process and a greater sense of buy-in.

Finally, if this exercise seems logical but the thought of going through a digital transformation is intimidating, then consider this: what I have described above is a big part of a successful digital transformation. Digital transformation is simply moving away from unnecessary manual and paper-based processes. Mapping out what you do now will allow you to step into a better, faster, and more agile method of doing business, and that will make you more competitive into the future.

David Warford

As co-Founder and Managing Partner at KnowledgePath Consulting, Inc. David applies his 30+ years of experience in the technology industry, exceptional leadership skills, and his commitment to honesty and transparency to ensuring client success. He drives customer relationships that span the globe in numerous industries and product categories.