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Business Process Ownership: How to Get the Most Out of Your ERP Investment

A competitive business rarely stays stagnant. Rather, your company should be constantly seeking new ways to optimize performance, seize opportunities and adapt to changes. Equally important to adapting to change is having sound, established business processes. However, transformation initiatives, especially an ERP implementation, can put these concepts at distinct odds. How do we establish robust business processes and also remain agile? How do we get everyone onboard with the systems and processes so they don’t naturally revert back to more comfortable old habits? If an organization values flexibility, will they resist new processes altogether? We believe you can do both – adopt solid business processes and manage them in a way that ensures scalability well into the future to get the most out of your ERP investment. 

ERP Investments: Business Process Maintenance for Long-Term Value 

During the process of an ERP implementation, the project team will rightfully be focused on the plan and deliverables to achieve a successful go-live and post-production support. We see beautiful go-live count-down clocks and go-live celebrations that all imply the work is over when the system turns on. To get the most out of your ERP investment, however, we believe you should be thinking well past your go-live. Thinking through business process ownership after go-live will truly transform your business and take post-production support to a whole new level. 

Business processes are the backbone of a ERP implementation. They should be properly documented, trained, and reinforced with business users. These processes also require consistent maintenance, governance, and improvement over time. That enhancement log that was growing through the implementation, that will drive some of the need for process change. As will system upgrades and evolving business needs. This ongoing attention to business process is the only way to drive sustained success – and to truly get the value form your organization’s investment in ERP.  

Have the Right People in Place to Lead

The key to driving consistent maintenance and improvement is establishing strong ownership and governance of business processes. Long after your post-production support has ended, the system and processes will continue to adapt and evolve, with cross-functional impact. 

It’s important to create a governance team with a focus on business process ownership who can: 

  • Be a liaison to the business to understand improvements that are needed to evolve the system and processes over time. 
  • Ensure interdependencies across functions are considered and understood, so that processes and data remain intact as changes are implemented. 
  • Perform cost/benefit assessment and have the right to challenge changes that are perhaps not right for your business. 
  • Bridge the gap between siloed functions by building cross-functional, end-to-end process knowledge. 
  • Update documentation, policies, and training materials as needed. 
  • Manage elements of change management with readiness assessments, knowledge building, communication, and resource identification. 

When a governance team is cross-functionally represented, they can properly execute improvements to the system, processes, or data according to business needs. The team should also have executive sponsors who can help adjust business priorities, seek buy-in, and pull in additional resources when required. The team will establish the priorities and requirements to drive continuous improvement and ensure your ERP system grows with your business.   

Business process ownership is also a vital asset to M&A integration efforts. When the company acquires a new business, this team can help to assess the gap to bringing any new business onto the system and efforts around change management and training. 

An ERP implementation is not “one size fits all” and will look different across organizations. Different businesses with different needs and maturity will have to adapt their own individual strategy using this framework.  Effective business process ownership and governance requires clear, consistent messaging, access to information, and supporting resources. It also requires two-way communication structures for sharing feedback regarding what is or isn’t working. Good change management will deepen and quicken adoption, therefore enabling a better return on investment. 

ERP Investments: Best Practices for Business Process Ownership

Below we outline three best practices for business process ownership with your ERP investment: 

Flexibility: Ensure your strategy offers enough flexibility so that it can be adjusted as your business needs change and grow. Governance is a long-term journey, and the team will find they need to adjust their ways of working to fit new situations and adjust to new variables. 

Transparency: Transparent communication is key to success. Provide all levels of the organization clear visibility into the priorities, changes, and improvements being assessed. Ensure the change management process is well-defined and imbedded in your strategy.  Clearly communicate goals, progress, and expectations to the business. 

Cross-functional : On-going cross-functional documentation and education will help to bridge learning gaps, increase efficiency, and grow expertise across all business operations. It’s important to plan and allocate adequate resources to manage change requests, address systemic issues, and provide necessary changes to all core functional areas. 

Business owners must keep in mind that the organization’s needs change with time, as do customer demands. The software you choose to implement must be adaptable and flexible to change, in addition to having an organized approach to maintain and improve these systems as your business grows. Implementing a new ERP is a major undertaking regardless of the size of your organization, but with proper planning and the right investment in business process ownership, your company can get the most out of your ERP system for years to come. 

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Contributions by Julia Hoffman 

Tags: SAP, Vendor Selection & Advisory, SAP ERP
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