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Every organisation sees itself as unique. That’s why, in the past, companies often ran their processes on bespoke IT systems. Now these are reaching the end of their useful life and organisations are looking for alternatives, increasingly opting for standards-based systems. Why is this? And how do you create a fit-to-standard design like this? Business consultant Henk Palsma and change expert Pascal van de Vijver explain.
Although every organisation considers itself to be unique to some extent, most companies share the same core processes. This includes processes such as administration, purchasing, sales and logistics. It is inefficient to develop bespoke software for these core processes when very good standard processing is available.
Bespoke software has several disadvantages. For example, it’s harder to manage, and costly to build and maintain. If you want to update a bespoke system after some time or level it up, you will likely hit the system’s limits – or will need to do a lot of work to improve it as bespoke systems are often more complex.
If you’re looking for a new ERP system, it may be tempting to roll forward the process flows you’re used to. After all, they feel familiar, and emotionally that makes the changeover less radical. Nowadays, however, many organisations are deciding to start with a clean slate when making the switch. Instead of taking your old situation as a starting point, start with the best available standard practices in your sector.
A theoretical explanation for this standardised way of thinking can be found in what is known as the Pace-layered application strategy from research and consultancy firm Gartner. The model suggests that you assign applications to one of three different layers. A layer with highly standardised basic transactions for your non-unique processes, with a long useful life. A second layer with solutions that make your organisation stand out from the competition. And a third application layer where you can experiment and innovate with new, out-of-the-box ideas.
In their model, Gartner recommends that you standardise your company’s backbone that includes your most important processes. Suppliers such as SAP make this possible by providing many best practices with standards tailored to your specific market. Ctac also offers an additional bonus here, with complete Fit4 standards for the sectors in which we specialise, such as retail and real estate.
Why is layering your systems popular and sensible? Here’s why:
If you want to upgrade your systems, you no longer have to worry about your core processes. The standards automatically move up with you.
Standards deliver clarity and greater efficiency. You can use the same methods everywhere, for example in different countries. In addition, your employees learn to master your system more quickly, because different processes work in the same way.
Standardisation also makes it easier to
measure and compare your processes, for example to benchmark against others or between different countries. Standardisation is therefore an important basis for process improvement.
Finally, there are numerous integration options for standardised systems. These make it easier to link your processes to external applications and systems.
Have we convinced you? That’s great! Now for the rest of your organisation, because internal traction is essential for the adoption of any new system. What’s the best approach to take? Here’s what we at Ctac consider important:
When switching, we involve your main users right from the start of the process. We do this using Fit2Standard workshops, for example. Here we teach IT and business to speak the same language, so that we get a full picture of the context in which the processes occur. We map out processes and demonstrate what they might look like in SAP S/4HANA in future. This is how we get users thinking. From there, we design the new processes and build them up together in an iterative way.
Because key users play an active role in the process early on,
they are in charge of the process and become ambassadors for the solution. To a large extent, they develop the solution themselves. After each sprint, the ambassadors demonstrate to each other what improvements they have made. This not only ensures a better solution, it also accelerates adoption. After all, the learning process has already happened during the change process.
Instead of asking in detail what exactly your teams need, we start from the available best practices. From there, we investigate to what extent these meet their needs, and where any variations or additions are necessary. Variations from the standard are only accepted where there is a good reason. One question we always like to ask is: this way is working for tens of thousands of companies, so why not for you? Is there a solid answer to this and a viable business case? Only then will we opt for customisation.
If you’re looking for a new ERP platform or are considering switching to SAP S/4HANA, hold up a mirror to your organisation. It’s difficult to let go of the past, but that doesn’t mean you have to keep on doing things just because they’ve always been done that way. Take change management seriously. This means that you nurture the acceptance of change and the ambassadorship needed to enable your unique organisation to thrive with the help of standardisation. If you need help with this, Ctac is at your service.