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Traditional Information Systems and ERP Systems

Question:

What are the different issues can emerge in post-implementation phase of ERP implementation? How these issues can be rectified and avoided in future implementation/s?

In case of traditional information systems used in businesses, those systems are based on different sets of programs and data repositories. Usually such systems support only one business process among many. These information systems are isolated and there are difficulties in sharing information among more than one such information systems that are running for different business processes within an organization. The maintenance cost of such information systems are very high and the output from such systems in terms of efficiency is very poor. So, industries and business started to shift towards an integrated solution that will be able to integrate different business processes of an organization into a single information system, will deliver a uniform platform to the users, the business processes will be faster and more efficient. Such information systems are called enterprise resource planning systems or ERP systems. These systems offer wide range of cross functional information system packages and integration of different business processes.

There are several modules in an ERP system. These modules are used for gathering data from various business processes. There are common keys that integrates the modules with each other. There are databases with the ERP system where these modules can store data. The database is a centralized database and connected to all modules. Thus data from all business processes are accessible to one another and stored in a single place. As a result, data flows through the ERP system and business processes seamlessly. It helps to achieve higher performance by the system. (Harwood, 2003)

More and more organizations worldwide are implementing ERP systems for their business. But utilization of full power of the ERP systems is not true for all. There are several success stories or ERP implementation and there are failures also. Mere implementation of ERP is not a successful ERP implementation. So, the business processes also suffers from failures of ERP implementations. There are significant losses also.

In this report, there will be discussion on post ERP implantation issues faced by organization and the consequences of that. There will be discussion on avoidance and rectification of those issues in future ERP implementation also. (Gattiker & Goodhue, 2005)

Post implementation phase of ERP systems in organizations have become a serious issue as there are significant effort and cost associated with this phase. Most of the issues with post ERP implementation are related to project management issues, organizational structure and behavior, human factors etc. Post implementation phase of ERPs is more important as there are several issues and factors to consider. In this phase the system is put into the working environment and the actual end users are given exposure to the system. End users learns to use the system, systems go through dynamic workloads and their performance limits are cross checked in real life scenarios. There may be shockwaves to destroy the environment and the implementation. There may be programming errors but those can be revealed through extensive and rigorous integration and acceptance testing processes. Still, from post implementation phase there may be a long list of bugs found in the ERP system. Thus the process of post implementation needs monitoring and long term support. It is an ongoing process that need finer tuning and improvement of the ERP system. Audit of ERP system in such cases is very challenging but a way to open up the root causes behind the scenarios.  (Hustad & Olsen, 2011)

Modules in an ERP System

It reveals a unique learning curve from the reviews of post ERP implementation phases. However there is a huge challenge in this learning curve in the context of ERP implementation. The learning process for ERP implementation should be very prompt and well. Otherwise the ERP systems are actually complex systems. There are chances that end users may get afraid of using such systems and they may not feel comfortable with such systems.

It can be monitored that how users are using the system. The monitoring process should be detailed process. The management should find out who are facing difficulties with the ERP systems and should act accordingly. A mere training on use of ERP systems for end users is not enough. End users tends to keep using the simpler features of the system and avoid complex ones deliberately. It may dampen the performance of the system and the business process. Such cases can be monitored through the monitoring system.

ERP systems contains various tools and templates for generating reports etc. also there are automating tools. But in reality it has been seen that sometimes end users keep using modules like calendars, available report templates etc. and avoids use of automated tools, customizable report generation tools etc. But if such tools are there in the system then it has some use. Thus these tools should be utilized properly otherwise the objective of the ERP implementation will not be full filled.

The process of making end users accustomed with some ERP system is time consuming process. The primary barrier is resistance and unwillingness to learn. This is true in many of the ERP failure cases. But when the users get accustomed to the system and understand the real power of the ERP systems. This is the set time in the post implementation phase when the end users are enthusiastically learns and use the ERP system.

But here is another factor to consider. As people enthusiastically use the system so, the system will go through heavy usage and it should cope up with the workload and function in the best possible way all the time. But bugs start to come up during this phase. And so comes the ‘aftershock’.

There are some bug reports that are very trivial and maintenance group can easily handle those. Some of the bugs creeps in from tricky usage of the system by users. (Albadri, 2012)

The outcomes of the ‘aftershock’ may be devastating. Because during this phase, the project has been finished and it is very unlikely that there will be enough technical and managerial support other than the maintenance support. Thus in some cases, the whole system becomes unusable due to lack of proper support. In worst cases, the developers are accused for developing some ‘unusable’ system.

However, elimination of the issues in post implementation phases of ERP, is not possible. Even if the development process includes rigorous testing and involvement of group of end users, still there are chances that bugs will be there in the system and will come out during post implementation phase. The reason it, it is impossible to test each and every possible cases that may generate bugs in a software or a system. There will be chances that under some particular circumstances, for some particular values some bug comes out. So, this is very unlikely to understand during testing process. Also, during testing some trained user will use the system not the ‘real’ end users.

Utilization and Failure of ERP Implementations

Sometimes ERP systems are enhanced after getting the ‘aftershock’. In most of the cases these enhancement are not done following the same methodologies followed in the ERP development process or implementation process. Some enhancement require code fixings and it needs to go through system analysis, planning and development phase. But in case of enhancement, the path is not followed. Thus there are high chances that modules and the integrity among the modules may get affected.

ERP systems are more than just some information systems. It needs to understand the business processes as well as the ERP systems. Vendors provide some prototype of ERP systems that are customized along with the business process requirements. Sometimes the ERP system modules are customized along with the business process. There are high chances that there may be issues in integration of the modules in the ERP system, if there is heavy customization of the ERP modules. It may bring more chances of bugs in the post ERP implementation phase.

On the other hand, sometimes, the business processes are reengineered according to the ERP system. This is really tricky. Changing a business process requires extensive change control management. A business process is more than information and IT systems. There are people involved in the business process. It is about the structure and culture of the organization, thus change control is very necessary. Lack of change control in such scenarios can create problems during post ERP implementation phase. (Musaji, 2005)

ERP projects are initiated by the top management of some organization. But studies have shown that there is lack of support from them during the post implementation phase of ERP systems. This issue is very serious as, managerial participation is very much required during development, implementation and post implementation phases. In spite of verbal communication and assurance, it needs active participation of top management in decision making etc. (Ifinedo, Rapp, Ifinedo, & Sundberg, 2010)

ERP development, implementation and post implementation is an ongoing and continuous process. IT management and professionals are needed to participate and support the entire process. That is their participation is needed in the post implementation phases also. But in reality is shows that, during the ‘aftershock’ adequate support from IT professionals are unavailable. For some organization this issue becomes more severe due to the lack of experienced and skilled in house staffs. As the project development phase gets completed along with training and implementation phase, so there is also not adequate support from the consultancies that are hired for ERP development project. Untimely participation and improvement of the bugs in the ERP post implementation may sometime lead to failure of the system.

In most of the cases, the post implementation phase is not considered as a part of the ERP development and implementation process. The top management and project sponsors do not allocate funding for coping up with issues that comes out during post implementation phases. That can lead to severe scenarios. Because, if the number of bugs increases in the system then it may need serious improvement and that requires significant costs.Lack of Training to the end users

End users should be properly trained to understand the ERP system and should be able to troubleshoot in minimum and trivial cases. As they are the users who are going to use the system daily for carrying out the business processes. So, they should understand how the system works rather than mugging up what input and commands should be given. This will reduce the number of wrong attempts in working with the system and users can supports one another in some primitive cases. (Scott, 2005)

But in reality training to end users are not considered very important by the management. So they provide minimal or low quality training to the end users.

There are various processes to deal with the ‘aftershock’ and other post implementation issues in case of ERP implementation. (Nicolaou & Bhattacharya, 2006)Some of the possible countermeasures to deal with the issues in post ERP implementation phase are,

  • Organization should keep aside some money or funding for such adverse scenarios.
  • The testing process should be rigorous and if possible then it should introduce the system to the actual end users. In some software development methodology like agile methodologies, it let the end users get involved into the development process. It will help to reduce the number of bugs in the final ERP implementation.
  • There should be proper user management. This is important for the success of the ERP implementation as a whole.
  • There should be some technical and managerial support available for the post ERP implementation phase.
  • There should be monitoring for user interactions with the ERP implementation and monitoring of the bugs etc.
  • Proper change control management should be planned and followed to deal with post implementation cases when there is business process reengineering.
  • Monitoring the user acceptance of the system, how they interacts with the system etc. should be done very carefully. All required assistances should be provided in such cases.
  • Rather than competing the project management phased with implementation, maintenances should be included.
  • Training to the end users should be provided in a better and engaging way. People should understand the system and how it works, better understanding will lead to better utilization, faster ‘aftershock’ and will reduce chances of trivial bugs from wrong use of the system.

Conclusion

In this report, it has discussed about the post ERP implementation scenarios, the issues and possible solutions to those issues. At first, there is a brief discussion on ERP systems, how those have become important for business and how those differ from traditional IS systems. Then the post ERP implementation scenario have been explained in details. Following to it, there is detailed discussion on the issues that comes from the post implementation phase. Finally there is a discussion on how to avoid the post ERP implementation in future.

References

Albadri, F. (2012). Cases on Enterprise Information Systems and Implementation Stages. IGI Global.

Gattiker, T. F., & Goodhue, D. L. (2005). What Happens After ERP Implementation: Understanding the Impact of Interdependence and Differentiation on Plant-Level Outcomes. Management Information Systems Quarterly.

Harwood, S. (2003). ERP: The Implementation Cycle. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Hustad, E., & Olsen, D. H. (2011). ERP Post-implementation Issues in Small-and- Medium-Sized Enterprises . Enterprise Information Systems Communications in Computer and Information Science , 290-299.

Ifinedo, P., Rapp, B., Ifinedo, A., & Sundberg, K. (2010). Relationships among ERP post-implementation success constructs: An analysis at the organizational level. Computers in Human Behavior, 1136–1148.

Musaji, Y. (2005). ERP Postimplementation Problems. Information Systems Audit and Control Association.

Nicolaou, A. I., & Bhattacharya, S. (2006). Organizational performance effects of ERP systems usage: The impact of post-implementation changes. International Journal of Accounting Information Systems, 18–35.

Scott, J. E. (2005). Post-Implementation Usability of Erp Training Manuals: The User's Perspective. Information Systems Management, 67-77.

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