In my previous blog post, I recommended that a construction organisation’s Board / Senior Management agree and document a series of measurable goals and benefits required from any future investment in new systems. Knowing where you want to head to and what that needs to look and feel like is an important early step before you get into deep-dive software presentations and contract negotiations with suppliers of potential solutions. After all, any major systems change project is likely to impact many or all parts of your business, not just the finance team. There’s no point in paying out for nice, shiny new software that looks pretty but doesn’t make a difference and deliver real payback in return for the investment.
Some key considerations for your selection process
One thing I’ve always focused on for a business system is the eradication of data duplication. Keying the same data more than once is clearly inefficient. A common objective from systems change projects is to achieve a single version of the truth, holding all business-critical data in a centralised “Enterprise Resource Planning” system, entering data only once, either manually or electronically.
It’s also worth considering what you want to get out of the system in terms of reports and analyses. Virtually all business software comes with “out-of-the-box” standard reports, but these typically allow only basic run-time customisations. Modern systems come with, or can connect to, a range of report-writing tools which, with some basic training, can be successfully used by employees outside your IT Department. Users can create and run management accounts, reports, and analyses straight out of the system. They can present the exact datasets required and in the exact layout the business needs. Slick reporting should definitely not require hours of manually re-keying numbers nor require pre-analysis in Excel. And as much reporting as possible should be self-service, reducing the time the finance team takes to run and issue reports internally.
Another key driver for systems change is likely to be a desire to improve accessibility. In our post-COVID world, the definition of employee working patterns and flexible work locations is broader than ever before. Modern software solutions are cloud-based, freeing you of the need for, associated costs of, and security considerations associated with, running dedicated in-house servers. Plus, they’re quicker and easier to upgrade, and provide web-based access on an anywhere / anytime basis via pc, laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. Get approvals done on your smartphone from the comfort of your armchair rather than having to laboriously connect to the office server via VPN or having to wait until you’re at your desk the next day.
Making the decision
Take time to engage fully with identified potential software partners and communicate your objectives, share your current business processes and infrastructure, and conduct formal due diligence on the various solutions. Importantly, this will include demonstrations of each provider’s software to help you assess what is the best fit for your business.
The final, formal internal business case and investment proposal will inevitably require careful review and sign-off by the board of directors as well as buy-in from the senior management team and other key stakeholders.
Get ready to set off on the journey
Making the systems change decision and obtaining board approval is just the first, but nonetheless a significant, step on the implementation journey. That journey is likely to last several months and will pose challenges of its own – long gone are the days of loading a CD containing software on to your server’s hard drive and immediately starting to use it. All ERP system changes represent a business-critical strategy as they impact how things are processed and controlled, and also impact the management of data laying at the very heart of the organisation. It is natural, therefore, that the board will want to remain engaged with the progress of the project as it evolves.
By Steven King, Head of Change Management at Eque2
This is the second of a series of blogs about the systems change journey by Steven King, Eque2’s Head of Change Management. Steven is a Big Four-qualified Chartered Accountant with over 20 years’ experience in senior finance roles in construction businesses and groups. He has led major business systems projects within the industry several times, including at 4 of Eque2’s existing customers. Steven has the benefit of real-world implementation experience, super-user hands-on systems knowledge, and a record of success in delivering big change projects involving our solutions on-time and on-budget.
Next time: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail
Eque2 provides modern solutions allowing all types and sizes of construction, contracting, housebuilding and maintenance businesses to manage the full lifecycle of a project from anywhere, on any device. For more information, visit www.eque2.co.uk or call us on 01628 702702.