Basil Daniells (Middle East) - Five Challenges and Pitfalls of Implementing ERP in the Middle East

If you are based in the Middle East and thinking about evaluating enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions make sure you look at how well the product fit your business, you shouldn't have to fit your business around the application. A good fit is more important than the local brand image of the potential vendor. You should also look at total cost of ownership over a five-year period (or more), not just the initial investment. Another key point to consider is how future-proof the technology architecture is, will you be able to keep up with advancements in years to come, or will the solution be outdated in just three or five years?

Because most countries in the Middle East are operating in a tax free environment, there is no great requirement for submitting financial data to a government body, as businesses in Europe and the US have to, but there is a growing demand from international customers and institutions for better transparency so if local businesses want a share of the global commerce they have to fulfill the requirements.

In our experience, the top five challenges when implementing ERP in the Middle East region are:

  1. To create a focused team of managers who truly understand their business and understand that the new application will run on an advanced technology platform.
  2. More often than not, the scope will change during the project due to the business not having fully understood the implications during the selection processes. However, in the Middle East clients expect to do an implementation on a fixed time and budget basis. Clear communication between all parties is imperative to resolve scope changes.
  3. Lack of rigor by the top management sponsor - to be successful ERP is a project that has to be strictly managed from the top with buy-in from all managers.
  4. Change management. The end user's acceptance of a new system is imperative to how well it will become embedded in the organization and what benefits will be realized.
  5. Avoiding the ‘toy box effect'. Once a Middle Eastern customer sees the functionality available they often expect everything straight away, perhaps not realizing that there is a process they have to go through in order to use the features they want.

In summary, to be successful make sure you avoid these five pitfalls:

  1. Be generous with resource allocation, both in terms of quality of people and their time commitment.
  2. Insufficient software evaluation. Make sure you look at product functionality and business fit in detail, don't finalize contracts based on a brand.
  3. Set the right expectations from the beginning. Everyone involved in the project should understand what the ERP solution will deliver in terms of business value, and what the key performance indicators are right from the start of the project implementation.
  4. Be practical in terms of the initial data migration.
  5. Arrange regular project reviews by the top management and project sponsors to ensure that you're on the right track and can identify issues before they become show-stoppers.

Basil Daniells is senior director for Epicor in the Middle East and Africa. Epicor Software Corporation is a global leader delivering business software solutions to the manufacturing, distribution, retail, hospitality and services industries.



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