ERP systems vs Elephant Trails

Do you recognize this?

You install a large ERP system because you want to produce and ship products efficiently.

Over time, you add to that a quoting software for your sales team. You proceed to purchase even more specialized software (CAM, MES, BI, etc.), each with its own subsystems.

You want to quickly adjust something for a customer order. You think it’s much easier to solve this quickly in Excel and type something into the mail than to have to tinker with back-end stuff.

After some time, you wake up one day and find that no one knows where anything is. It takes six months to even get anything done. And then you wonder: has it all been for nothing?

What went wrong here?




Cause 1: It starts with elephant trails

In the physical world around us, we constantly see deviations from the planned route: cutting corners from A to B, regardless of whether that is the deal or really the fastest route.

Using elephant paths may look attractive and save time in the moment, but skipping them often costs you more time (and thus more money) later in the process. So beware of a “cat in a bag”!

Cause 2: Lack of integration

The reason no one knows where anything is is that it’s built up as a patchwork of systems. Often there is a lot of data overlap, systems are unconnected and proper documentation is lacking. All this makes it a hopeless task to update each system separately, with all the frustrations that this entails.

Cause 3: Unnecessary complexity

If the design in the software world is too complex, it becomes difficult to maintain the established workflow or keep working. If no one can really follow it, the plan is written off as ineffective. If this happens long enough, the normal path decays.

What can you do about this?

  1. Start with the end in mind. If you know in advance that you will need these systems, why not map this out in advance? You include things like this in a blueprint.
  2. Make sure it’s someone in charge of the process, aka the “end user,” who knows how to adjust things easily. This person you want to involve from day one.
  3. Make the elephant path unattractive. Refuse to make exceptions in the organization when these paths are trodden. Once an exception always means an exception.

Getting started?

Are you planning to start an ERP project or make major software changes in 2023 and don’t want to run into such a scenario? Or are you already suffering from this? Consider hiring a project manager who, like an architect, conceives the system and then oversees construction.

Right now I am fully booked until February. But I recommend you schedule an appointment now before this option is also forgiven.

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