The thought of shifting to a new ERP system can be daunting, even for a well-established company. But, if the transition goes well, a firm can gain a significant technology edge in the marketplace. That’s exactly what the people at The Vernon Company (asi/351700) think they’ve just done.
“Our ERP transition was as smooth as I’ve seen in our industry over the past two decades,” says Chris Vernon, president of The Vernon Company. “We’re extremely excited about the dozens of new capabilities available to us.”
Of course, smooth doesn’t mean easy. Vernon spent two years developing its system and performed several dry runs before going live. “Was the project stressful? Absolutely,” says Vernon. “However, the fact that our team said the heck with deadlines, emphasizing that we would go live only when we were ready, took some of the pressure off.”
Here’s ERP system advice from Vernon and his company’s VP of Sales and Marketing, Dave Regan.
Counselor: What factors did you consider in looking for a vendor?
Vernon: Our previous ERP system was a JD Edwards System (JDE). JDE was purchased by Oracle, so it made sense for us to consider an ERP company that knew where we were coming from. We also desired some add-on features that included customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI) software. Oracle offered both of these, as well.
Counselor: How much input did your employees have in the upgrade process?
Regan: Our employees had a great deal of input in the process. A core team was established at the very beginning and this group had key players from every department. This assured that all voices were heard in the design and implementation phases. Everyone had some skin in the game and the buy-in was there.
Counselor: What are a few of the benefits that the technology allows?
Regan: There are many features available, but one of the most important features is that the ERP is browser-based. The same is true for the BI and CRM software. All three are easily accessible with mobile applications. One can easily run reports or look up real time info from an iPhone, Android phone or iPad, from anywhere.
Counselor: How did the integration process go?
Vernon: It’s an understatement to say that the process was complicated and extensive. I believe that we did five to six dry runs before going live. We learned things and made modifications after each and every one, paying special attention to what worked as expected and what did not.
Counselor: Were the tech packages customized for the industry?
Vernon: No, the ERP and CRM packages that we chose were not customized for the industry. What we found is that Vernon is unique. For example, our ERP includes an accounting and payroll package that allows for us to pay advanced commissions before an order is shipped, invoiced or paid. This is a concept that is foreign to 99% of ERP systems. We have hundreds of custom modifications built into our ERP that make it uniquely our own.
Counselor: Was leveraging mobile technology a huge priority in the process?
Vernon: Having mobile applications was a key factor in selecting our vendor for these software projects. Mobile apps are in place for our ERP, CRM and BI platforms today.
Counselor: How have Vernon’s employees been trained on the new systems?
Regan: Training has been taking place all throughout the ERP development process. Key players from each department have helped design the process and then rolled out training to the personnel in their respective areas. Training is provided utilizing a variety of methods, including face-to-face, one-on-one and in groups. Plus, we use webinars, online manuals and user videos.
Counselor: What advice do you have for other firms considering ERP upgrades?
Vernon: Test, test and test some more. Double the cost estimates and double the time estimates. Establish a team with members from across the employee spectrum. Only go live when all team members say you’re ready.