Given the fast pace, on-demand business environment that exists today, companies do tend to get caught up in the need for a fast ROI (return-on-investment) when it comes to technology implementations. While immediate payback is good, there is also something to be said for having a bit of patience.
This can certainly be the case with implementing a system like ERP (enterprise resource planning). When it comes to such a system that becomes so deeply embedded into your company and its business practices, construction companies should expect that it will take some time before the true benefits of ERP start to emerge. Part of that comes with the sheer magnitude of such an implementation, and all the different parties that are impacted by such an implementation.
But that isn’t to say companies shouldn’t see some gradual improvement along the way. In fact, if implementation is set up and carried out appropriately, companies should expect some benefits along the way.
Manhattan Construction, www.manhattanconstructiongroup.com, Tulsa, Okla., a division of Rooney Holdings, is a good lesson in such a practice. The company, which operates multiple business units including heavy/highway and general contracting, among others, is currently in the midst of implementing technology from Computer Guidance, www.computerguidance.com, Scottsdale, Ariz. The path it is taking involves moving off an older ERP system considered to be more horizontal in nature to one specifically targeted at construction.
Implementation is a process that needs to be compartmentalized, says Rodney Stephens, manager of business systems, Manhattan Construction. “When you start a process that could (take) a few years and it could be three years before anyone sees (results) it gets hard to keep them motivated,” he says. “It is a good idea to break it apart in order to see deliverables along the way and so that people can see benefit. This can be a big commitment, and this help get through the whole implementation.”
Part of the whole idea as Stephens describes, of compartmentalizing the implementation is so that expectations can be managed most appropriately. As Duwayn Anderson, senior vice president of accounting and IT, Manhattan Construction, says, companies need to have reasonable expectations when it comes to technology implementations.
He says, “It is easy to get caught up in the hype over how quickly ERP can be implemented. Allow sufficient time to thoroughly vet the processes, how processes fit the system, and what customizations are needed, if any. You need to ensure you are not just re-implementing (bad) processes—rather, look at them from stem to stern.”
Managing expectations can be easier said than done. However, having the right people in place, and involving those people at each step, can make a process easier to execute. At all costs, one of the overriding goals is avoiding a bad outcome on any process. Because once you go live, the old analogy of ‘one step forward two steps back’ could apply if you have not managed the implementation most appropriately.