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Sun 13 Sep 2009 04:00 AM

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The winning formula

Shumon Zaman, CIO of the Bukhatir Group, reveals the secrets for building a successful enterprise resource management system in a large organisation.

The winning formula

Many experts have suggested that over 75% of ERP implementations fail without exception due to the complexity of these projects. This is a rough indicator of the difficulties of implementing an ERP application in any organisation.

My journey into the Tier-one ERP world began some 14 years ago in London, where I was working on a global ERP roll-out across four continents.  At that time it was one of the biggest implementations in Europe and was valued at over US$25 million - a sizeable amount of money in anyone's books.

As I am sure anyone involved in these projects will no doubt confirm, there are many highs and lows when you implement an ERP system.  The probability of things getting out of control can be high depending on many variables that a particular project has to operate within.  For example, the culture within an organisation, people's work ethics, leadership styles of the senior managers and project sponsors and so on. Even having the best consultants, best project managers or the best infrastructure will still not guarantee success - unless you are able to identify the issues that may exist in an organisation and are able to gel and change, the processes and technology to work together.

One of the key things that I have learnt is that ERP projects are by their nature linked with change.  This is one of the most understated attributes that people tend to overlook in these types of projects.  It is change that people, processes and technology need to go through in order for the project to become successful and - most of the time - it is this change that an organisation fails to recognise, control and successfully overcome.

ERP projects are not only about technology, but they are more of a people project since everything that is done is for people and they have a major part to play in it.  The true success of an ERP project can only be measured from the utilisation of the system by its users - the people.

Overcoming resistance to change requires careful and robust change management plans, with people that understand and can handle this sensitive area.  It also requires the project sponsor to play an active role in driving the change forward.

 When the going gets tough - and trust me it does - the leaders need to step in and steady the ship before it loses direction and sinks.

In my current organisation, we have over 30 business units with a consolidated turnover of approximately $4 billion and an army of people exceeding 10,000.  We operate in a range of industries from construction, manufacturing, real estate, trade, media, education, shopping malls to sports cities and so on. So undertaking any type of project in this type of organisation was never going to be ‘a walk in the park' as some would say.

Over the last eight years our group has gone through an amazing transformation and technology has played a pivotal role. We have gone through major changes and Oracle ERP has played its part in our transformation to becoming a leading technology-literate organisation. My team and I have now completed over 25 ERP implementations across a diverse range of industries, cultures and people.  Despite the huge challenges that we have had, our strength has been our ability to manage the change process.

Apart from being blessed with a great team, I have also been very fortunate to have an inspirational IT-savvy project sponsor - our CEO and vice-chairman - who has been one of the fundamental pillars for our established success.

In order to successfully implement ERP systems you have to be able to adapt, adopt and understand the people's needs and concerns that your ‘change' project will bring about, only then can you deal with it in an effective manner and avoid becoming another negative statistic.

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