Fast ERP implementations still a fantasy

ERP (enterprise resource planning) software vendors may be trying to decrease implementation times for their products, but short time frames aren't the norm yet, one ERP specialist said. Glyn Homer, who runs Homer Computer Services in Victoria and produces 'The ERP Software Selection Guide', said ERP vendors are proposing shorter implementation times -- "but the reality might be something different".

He said generally everyone wants to reduce the length of implementation periods, but often there are preconditions -- such as not being able to do any business process change and putting the software in "as is", without any modification.

"And you need to look at what applications are being installed," Homer said. "If it's just financials, then it can be fairly easy and straightforward, but if you're looking at manufacturing, planning and control, that can take a lot longer."

Homer said there are some impressive reference sites being quoted, but he doubts short implementation times are standard yet.

He said some of the bigger implementations also have a full-time team of at least five people from the customer's staff -- in addition to external resources.

The smaller manufacturers more often found in New Zealand can't afford that kind of investment. "So there's still some way to go because of the complexity of those products," Homer said.

Baan is one of the ERP vendors endeavouring to make ERP implementations simpler. It completed a 16-week implementation at Sydney-based party product supplier Alpen Products.

Alpen rolled out Baan to replace its previous TBM system from Australian developer Scientia, said Alpen's managing director Greg Byrne. He said the rollout was one of Baan's fastest ever.

Baan has developed an implementation technology, Dynamic Enterprise Modeler (DEM), which it says speeds up the process. DEM accelerates the rapid use of Baan solutions by building business process models across the enterprise application lifecycle, a Baan spokesperson said.

That model has helped Baan find success with small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Byrne said the implementation process was something Alpen didn't fully understand, given its last enterprise rollout was in the early '80s when the term wasn't used. However, he said the rapid deployment of the software certainly benefited the business.

"It's inconceivable for an organisation of our size," Byrne said of a longer SAP-style implementation.

"It would sap too many resources out of small business."

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