Adapting to the New Normal

The Times Newspaper has reported that economic activity expanded at its fastest pace in seven months in March with businesses receiving a rush new orders in anticipation of the easing of lockdown.  Encouraging as it is, this in turn presents its own challenges as businesses look to adapt to the “new normal”.

With COVID guidelines advising more regular cleaning of machinery and work-spaces, and social distancing, it is only inevitable that productivity will suffer.

For manufacturers who have been working at reduced capacity, or even dealing with shutdowns, there is the challenge of commissioning production lines.

This requires a formal plan for getting back up to speed to meet increased customer demand. This all needs to be done, whilst working within continued working constraints.

All of this requires businesses to quickly operate in the most efficient manner possible and to get the most out of every resource.

This, therefore, requires streamlined business processes and effective IT systems, accessible by a workforce spread at multiple locations.

But how do you achieve this quickly at a time when you are not likely to be “cash rich” after a year of lockdown?

Ultimately, there is no “quick fix”, but a change management plan can be developed that gets you to where you need to be, and provides you with some “quick wins”.

Businesses that develop a plan and take action will be the ones who survive and even thrive in this challenging time for everyone.

In some ways, the Pandemic can be seen at the catalyst for you to evaluate your business, streamline your business processes and upgrade legacy IT systems that you have worked around previously.

This won’t be easy. But it can be achieved. We have outlined our “top tips” for success:

There are no shortcuts to successful ERP projects

  • Don’t fall into the trap of going out to market first and choosing an ERP vendor based on quick demonstrations without having defined your requirements first.
  • ERP vendors may try to convince you that they can get a system up and running in a matter of weeks – a more realistic view is months depending on complexity. Time taken up front avoids the need to repeat work later on.
  • Avoid ERP consultants who will “fast track” you a specification and list of ERP options without a thorough evaluation of your processes.

Take a structured approach to ERP system evaluation and selection

Focus on your processes first

The aim should be, wherever possible, to work as closely to how the standard processes work within an ERP system, rather than customise it to your business. However, conversely, you cannot afford to overlook elements that give you competitive edge. You need to take an objective look at your processes, identify opportunities to improve them, understand the potential nuances that make you different, and then use that to determine your requirements from a potential new system.

Document your requirements

Having reviewed your processes, capture the critical system requirements to support the desired improvements to working practices. Use this as a means of evaluating potential systems and for assessing the impact on your business.

Develop an ERP Change Management management plan

Introducing new processes and systems involves changes to ways of working and organisational structure & roles.

Research consistently shows that resistance to change, and not developing a plan for managing this, are amongst the top reasons why ERP implementations do not deliver the desired benefits.

Barriers to successful ERP Implementation

Businesses that recognise implementing an ERP system is a business change rather than IT project, are those that typically have the most successful projects.

Seek Independent ERP advice if needed

If you don’t have the internal skills or experience of ERP systems, seek external independent advice. This can provide you with far more than knowledge of the marketplace.

If you find the right independent ERP consultants they can help you by providing:

  • An external perspective of your processes
  • A structured approach to evaluating potential ERP systems
  • Knowledge of which ERP vendors can be relied upon
  • Change management support to secure buy-in across your business
  • Experience to avoid the many pitfalls associated with ERP implementations

Explore Funding Opportunities

In the recent Budget the government outlined plans to offer discounts for the purchase of business software and services. This can therefore make implementing the changes needed to thrive in the “new normal” less costly than you expect.

We hope these tips have been useful and thought provoking.

If you would like to discuss how your business can implement the changes needed to thrive as we come out of lockdown, please contact us at AHC.