5150 Business Strategy

Life in the Corporate Fast Lane and Still Remaining Intelligent

Square Peg, Round Hole

Why do companies continually believe that they can force fit an ERP system anymore than they can get a square peg to fit a round hole, or a round peg into a square hole??

For instance:

  • Why would you think that software written for grocery stores would work in an architecture firm?
  • Why would state of the art software work in an environment not acclimated to the workflow required?
  • Why do we believe that best practices project management will spring from the software application?
  • Why do we perpetuate the idea that flicking a switch or pushing a button on a program will be all that is needed to correct deficiencies in internal practices or culture?

Glad you asked, let me enlighten you:

  • Reenforcing behaviour/Group Think – individuals tend to drive decisions towards alternatives that they have already decided meet their individual needs. They will do this even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Every negative is downplayed while every positive is accentuated. Those opposed are cast as naysayers or as having ulterior motives – usually having to do with wanting a fair evaluation of alternatives. The best example of this is the selection of software used at Safeway or Lucky to implement in a project based architectural firm. Even on the face of it most would say “WTF” but given the power of reenforcing behaviour, and other factors, that is exactly what one “world class” architectural firm selected and failed to implement. Not only did very few people say “WTF” but the further along the implementation went the more people jumped onto the bandwagon. Those opposed, or who brought up shortcomings, were summarily pooh poohed and sent off to Siberia, or worse. The entire firm was subjected to a countdown clock on the intranet that heralded the day when the “New World” would dawn!! There was no New World as the software was never turned on – can you say crash and burn. Square Peg, Round Hole.
  • Flick a switch/Push a Button mentality – many in management believe that with the advent of large sophisticated ERP systems every process, or company shortcoming, can be cured with the flip of a switch or push of a button. Just MAKE IT SO is the common refrain when confronted with a situation which does not fit their nice vision of reality. Best example is when the proposal team that made the short list came to me wanting to know what the clause “full cost accounting standards (CAS) covered” meant. My reply, ” It means you cannot win this project”. Went over real well and they did not believe this was not something cured with the flick of a switch or simple insertion of one or two line explanation in the best and final. How could I dismiss all their hard work so offhandedly when, without a doubt in their mind, this requirement could be remedied by someone more knowledgeable. Off they run to the powers to be who similarly believed that surely something could be done – wrong, the awarding agency confirmed what I knew all along. Cue the sound of a toilet flushing.
  • Only the best most sophisticated system will do – we all have been oversold on the idea that unless every process is modeled after the published “best practices” that any implementation not reaching 100% of those objectives is not worthy. What many fail to take into account are the existing internal cultural dynamics which may make attaining those objectives impossible or unrealistic. Why pay top dollar for a system which will provide you the capability to implement state of the art features which you will never use?
  • Consultants abound – read my previous post “Consultants Feeding at the Gates of Hell”.

Lessons learned: ignorance is bliss until you run into the wall at full speed. A firms cultural norms need to be taken into account when determining the needs to be met with an ERP. Aiming for the highest standard when the culture does not support that objective will only lead to purchasing more than can be utilized.

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