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ERP Optimization Best Practices in ERP Optimization

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Outsourcing Optimization

Outsourcing mundane IT department functions is becoming an increasingly popular strategy. While it is worth looking into, it is not a panacea for every company in every situation. Nevertheless, it bears consideration in your ERP optimization plans.

"For many IT departments, implementing Enterprise Resource Planning solutions is like having at least two full-time jobs," laughs Chris Rafter, vice president of delivery, UC services, for Logicalis. That doesn't leave much employee bandwidth for the monitoring and management required to maintain the underlying IT infrastructure on which everything depends, including upgrades, patches, backups, etc.

"Outsourcing some or all of the responsibility for that IT infrastructure is one way to free time for IT departments to stay focused on the business side of the ERP deployment," adds Rafter.

It’s a strategy employed by many of the biggest business players. "Outsourcing large chunks of the ERP maintenance and development is more common than not in the Fortune 500," says Alsbridge’s CEO Ben Trowbridge. "While cost has been the primary driver for these outsourcing efforts, over time the outsourcing service providers have developed tremendous insight into ERP optimization."

That insight, says Trowbridge, comes from the outsource vendor’s ability to look across 50-500 implementations for best practices, tools and methods. "No company with an in-sourced ERP optimization effort could ever develop or get access to that many reference points," he says. "For example, outsourcing service providers routinely build ERP test labs, sandbox environments and highly valuable add-ons and often in collaboration with the ERP software vendors."

Data Hygiene

Data storage has become a bit of an albatross for businesses and an increasing cost driver in ERP implementations and optimizations. There is no apparent end in sight, at least not in the foreseeable future, as regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 are joined by new regulations in the wake of the global economic recession. Certainly, the need to store data in compliance to governmental regulations is not limited to the U.S. and global companies quickly find themselves storing the same data in different forms in order to comply from country to country,

But beyond storing data, there is also the need of keeping it current. "For all of its cognitive prowess, ERP takes whatever data it is given as true-even when a human observer would easily recognize it is not," says Rafter.

If the data isn’t scrubbed before implementation and then rigorously updated and purged periodically, then the business intelligence rendered is useless. Ditto with all other elements of the ERP system. Much of the effort of keeping the data clean will come from the end-user but it will also never cease to be a responsibility of IT at some level as well.

It is imperative that you have an end-to-end data plan in place that includes identification, governance, management, and testing. Define the policies, processes and tools to handle data quality issues early on. You’ll also need to guard against data issues that can poison the adoption of the entire ERP system.

As to the storage and back-up end of things, periodic data classifications can reduce your costs. If you are taking advantage of storage virtualization to tier your storage service, you are a step ahead in both lowering use of the more expensive tiers and in finding and eradicating duplication of data to reduce the amount of total storage needed.

"When virtualization and tiers are implemented properly, you can reduce your administrative costs as well," says Chris Coker, vice president of Major Accounts at Future Tech Enterprise. "The key is having the right data management strategy supported by the right virtualization tools."

Finally, it is absolutely critical not to overlook your disaster recovery plan for ERP. While optimizing your company’s server, storage and network resources to improve efficiency, don’t forget to consider how these changes are impacting your disaster recovery strategy. Include what you find there in your failover action plan. Make DR impact testing part of your overall testing program throughout the optimization process. This should not, however, replace your annual testing of your disaster recovery plan as part of an emergency drill. End

ERP Optimization Short List Reference Guide

Several ERP best practices have been discussed. However, in the interest of providing a summary list for quick reference, here is a compilation of the top ten ERP optimization practices:

  1. There is no final destination but there are specific destinations en route to the future. Clearly articulate each of these destinations so that people, processes and technology converge in the right place at the right time.

  2. Keep affected and interested parties routinely updated on progress and regularly motivated to stay involved. Then hold a ‘tweaking’ session after each optimization to make sure the system is performing at peak expectations.

  3. Regularly assess your ERP system to ensure your feature inventory is current and to guard against project drift and scope creep; at absolute bare minimum do updates annually.

  4. Software maintenance should be conducted on a monthly basis, at minimum, in order to keep applications and database servers well tuned. If you have outsourced app management, make sure the outsourcer’s maintenance schedule is equally rigorous.
  5. Regularly check to ensure you are using the right performance monitoring tools. As ERP goals shift, the tools might need to be changed or modified to fit. Always re-check your list of tools any time there is a change in reporting.

  6. Maximize gains in virtualized environments. Benchmark the workload; look for trends and demand peaks. Plan for seasonal and ebb impacts. System administrators can then tweak workload shifts to maximum virtualization and uptick gains in ROI.

  7. Compare all process adaptations to governance and compliance guidelines before making any ERP system changes. Track changes in business processes so that you can easily follow the progression and identify problems down the road. The IT department should be immediately notified of all process changes so that equivalent changes can be made in the ERP system quickly.

  8. Track all customization changes as they are made and keep a log for easy reference should problems occur down the road.

  9. Plan for data hygiene and leverage virtualization (from desktops to storage) to reduce the cost impact of both growing data and system optimizations.

  10. Consider the impact of optimizations on your disaster recovery plan. Make adjustments so that you can retrieve everything easily.

ERP OptimizationERP Software OptimizationERP System OptimizationERP Systems OptimizationERP Application Optimization

 

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There is no final destination but there are specific destinations en route to the future. Clearly articulate each of these destinations so that people, processes and technology converge in the right place at the right time.

 

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