Approaching an ERP Migration with Analytics in mind

Growth companies today rely on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems to manage their daily operations and collect and retain vital business data. The ERP space continues to evolve . . . cloud-hosted ERP, AI-based automation, digital transformation, etc.; eventually an organization will find itself upgrading or migrating to a more modern enterprise platform. This move will likely involve a Systems Integrator (SI) specialist to drive the effort, and an SI’s focus may need to incorporate more than just the operational systems at hand . . . the organization’s approach to data integration and analytics should be accounted for as well.

Your SI and internal migration team will initially be concentrating on the operations of the systems. Efforts will be focused on how the current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) will translate to the new system. All eyes are on operations that will keep the lights on so that you can continue to generate revenue hopefully in much more efficient manner. Change management will be tied to what the SI can do in configuring the new system, all with the mindset of processing transactions with best practice workflows for the departments that are involved. Any talk of reporting usually implies that of financials or operational reporting. You want to know how much you sold last month, put in the parameters in this screen and hit ‘Enter’, there you go. What orders are over two days old that haven’t shipped, go to this screen over here and put in your parameters and it will report that to you. Thus, the system has reporting capabilities and it sounds like everyone can check that from their list of to-dos for setting up the new system.

System Integrators may only be concerned with onboarding the enterprise application and not on your BI initiative, so it is up to you to drive the conversation. I have seen cases when new applications enter the technology stack at a company that reporting comes after the application is live. First the business units need to get comfortable with the change, and then they realize they have questions to ask about the data that they are interacting with. I say it takes two months after go-live for actions to take place for analytical reporting. After the first month the business units scratch their heads and wonder why they don’t have the proper reports on trends that would help them make decisions. Then the second month rolls around and they realize they need to do something. By this time upper management gets wind and makes it an initiative that needs to get added to the project queue.

When planning an ERP migration, you do need to have dedicated staff to help drive the analytics component. Whether they are members of your current group of analysts or new hires, they need to be part of that conversion team because I doubt that your SI is providing that role in their project plan. This analytics team must also do more than just wait to hear from your SI on which fields they can pull out of the ERP and land them in an ODS or Data Lake. This is where the strategy needs to be developed on how to approach your BI initiative with your ERP in mind. What you ultimately want to analyze determines how the ERP is configured which drives how workflows are developed in operations.

The analytics strategy starts by thinking as a data driven company. What data do you need at what granularity? Can the ERP be configured to capture the supporting data elements at those levels and intervals (or what would it take for the SI to modify the system to do that?) What would it then take for the front-end workflows to be designed in such a way for they generate the data and still be efficient in getting the way they perform? What skillsets are needed by the analytics team to make this successful? How to get buy-in from upper management to make this part of the ERP project? We can start looking at these components that make up an overall strategy in future segments: {ex.Data Governance for ERP initiatives, Analytical Business Analysts, Forward thinking Data Steward wanted for ERP migration, etc.}

About the Author

Victor is a Senior Consultant with Pandata Group and works with clients on their overall businesss systems architecture. He brings a tremendous wealth of experience in the direct mail and e-commerce space which has included Duluth Trading and Artful Home. Currently, he is working with several Pandata Group clients in this space to re-engineer business processes for analytics, execute ERP migrations, and design cloud-based analytics architecture.

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