In an age where technology and software is improving at a blistering rate, it is easy to get distracted by all the bells and whistles. But as Malcolm Wheatley reports, when choosing the right ERP system and partner, it's the substance that matters.
The ERP marketplace has changed, introducing another layer of complexity for manufacturers to address. Not so many years ago, their choice was a simple one: which ERP system? Now, they must also ask: which implementation partner or reseller should we use to implement it?
And it's a shift that places a huge reliance on the skills, implementation methodologies and integrity of those implementation partners and resellers, stresses Mary Hunter, managing director at Columbus, a global firm of consultants and implementation specialists.
Consequently, she points out, manufacturers assessing potential implementation partners and solution providers should be very clear as to what it is that underpins the reputations and capabilities of the firms that they're contemplating working with. Flashy gimmicks are all well and good, she says, but these don't help to deliver a better solution or to deliver it on time, on budget, at low risk.
"For that you need substance, not just style," stresses Hunter. "And you need a reputation built on solid assets and sound, proven capabilities."
And Columbus, of course, can point to its proven methodologies, built up over 20 years of experience, and over 6,000 ERP implementations many of them in manufacturing companies, embracing discrete manufacturing, process manufacturing, and food and beverage businesses, such as GrainCorp Malt, Progress Railand Origin Enterprises. Plus, naturally, the deep bench of expertise that it possesses in the more than a thousand employees of the firm, working from offices all around the world.
SureStep+ for instance, is a project management methodology enhanced by being embedded with the insights and lessons learned over all those years of experience in implementing ERP. Aligned with Project Management Institute guidelines, it contains clearly defined roles and process ownership definitions utilizing recommended best practice. With comprehensive and disciplined documentation, it has a rigorous approach to change management and resource allocation with everyone knowing what needs to be done and who is responsible for doing it in what timeframe both on the client side and Columbus'.
RapidValue, meanwhile, is a business process modelling tool embedded in Dynamics AX. With added value industry specific content as templates, the tool helps businesses to define and adopt proven industry best practice in respect of the 200 or so separate business processes typically in place in the average manufacturer order quotation, product design and development, purchase order quotation, manufacturing, and so on.
"Having a detailed methodology in the form of SureStep+ makes an enormous difference to a project, and helps to reduce risk while improving implementation quality," emphasises Hunter. "RapidValue, meanwhile, can save thousands of pounds in consulting fees, and a reduction in the amount of related customer input, reducing implementation elapsed time."
It's a mix, she adds, that has undeniably found favour in the marketplace, with the vast majority of Columbus' customers declaring themselves very happy with the way that Columbus approaches their projects.
"They simply wouldn't come back to us, year after year, if we didn't provide long term value," she says. "Our reputation is the biggest asset we have, and we don't gamble with it."
"...you need substance, not just style..And you need a reputation built on solid assets and sound, proven capabilities."
Mary Hunter, Columbus
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