Why Ask “Why” During an ERP Implementation?

Why ERP consultants ask whyThere is one thing that I am aware of when a consultant comes on-site to assist with an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Implementation: They ask “why” a lot.

I was a customer not so long ago and our project team would get a little frustrated when the consultant kept asking them why we did things a certain way.  Now that I am a manager of a Professional Services Group and I have been a consultant for an ERP vendor for the past 6 years, I know why they ask why.  They want to understand the reason why you may be doing something a certain way when utilizing your current system and why you might want to do it the same way in a new ERP system.  Sometimes it takes your consultant asking “why” five times before they know the “real” reason is discovered of why you may be doing something a specific way.

Manufacturing Resource Planning (MRPII) systems have been around for a long time and a lot of companies have been utilizing the same system for twenty plus years.  Older systems definitely have limitations compared to the newer systems available.  Older systems often can’t be upgraded because of all the numerous changes they had customized way back in the stone ages (kidding of course!).  Knowing this, we realize that older MRP systems had limitations that forced users to do things a certain way.

Here are some common answers that consultants get when it comes to asking “Why”:

  • We have always done it that way.  It works for us so why change it.
  • I wasn’t around when they implemented this system so I have no idea why they’ve been doing it that way.
  • That’s the way I was shown so I don’t question why we are doing it that way.
  • The best one is: Because I want to do it that way!

How an ERP Consultant Can Help You

An ERP consultant is not your enemy; they are there to assist you with best business practices on maximizing the ERP system. They are asking questions to better understand your processes/procedures that will allow them to help you utilize your “new” system.  They are not to questioning you just to question you; they want to better understand how they can help you.  We understand that you may have done it that way for the past 20 years but things have changed and ERP systems have come a long way in the past 20 – 30 years that you no longer have to process data the same way.

Here is an example of a specific process that a customer had requested recently:  They wanted to be able to put a note in a location to explain why they did not want to ship a specific lot of product and they wanted this note to follow through the system.  After asking why they needed this note, the main reason was because they did not want to be able to ship this product.  Solution, instead of changing the program at a potential thousand dollar cost to the customer, we discussed with them adding an attribute that would simply not allow them to ship this lot.  Not being able to ship a lot is much easier to address than changing all the programs that were affected by any inventory transaction within the system.

So think about this and do yourself a favor the next time you are asked to answer the “why” questions because you just might be pleasantly surprised by the results!

Diane Ramaglia, IQMS Technical Sales Specialist, has more than 20 years of manufacturing, accounting and IT experience, including holding positions in bookkeeping, assistant controller, materials management, operations and project management at industry-recognized manufacturing facilities across the country.