What Enterprise Software Buyers Can Learn from Lumber Liquidators

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A recent article by Eric Kimberling from the Panorama Consulting Group documented Lumber Liquidator’s failure of its ERP implementation.  In their case, it wasn’t the software that was the problem; for Lumber Liquidators, the lack of user acceptance and adoption of the system was the main pitfall. This type of struggle in ERP implementation isn’t uncommon.

Three areas I focus on in this blog post are utilizing your key users, realizing your experience level with ERP implementations, and fulfilling your unique business needs.  By understanding these three areas, you will have a much better chance at having a successful ERP implementation and achieving a larger return on your investment.

Utilize your Key Users

In the article, Kimberling describes that “It wasn’t just that the new system was difficult for employees to figure out – it also had a measurable impact on the business”.  Many companies make the mistake of not involving key users when selecting an ERP system.  This often leads to re-scoping the project when the system is introduced during user acceptance testing.  This can be very expensive, and leads to frustration within the company, and fatigue coupled by a loss of confidence by the users.   By utilizing your key users early in the selection process, you can identify critical areas they feel need to be improved or changed, and you can focus on those requirements with potential vendors. 

Realize your Experience Level with ERP Implementations

The size of the vendor you choose, and the relationship you will have with them, is usually dependent on the amount of knowledge and experience you have with prior ERP implementations.  If your company has little experience with implementations, or has recently experienced a failed implementation, you will want to select a vendor who will be able to provide a higher level of support from project inception to go-live and beyond. 

You want to be more than a number to them, and feel that you have their dedicated support.  Smaller ERP providers are more likely to “partner” with their clients, and be able to tap the developers of the software itself, rather than try to resolve your issues with a tech manual.  To select the right vendor for your implementation, it is crucial to adjust for your experience level going in. 

Fulfill your Unique Business Needs

It’s important to understand that the “best software” might not be the best software for you.  Companies often make the mistake of choosing an ERP vendor for their name or past clients.  Your company is unique, and you shouldn’t blindly assume that the software will work the same for your company as it did for another.  Of course references are important, but buying a brand name doesn’t always lead to success. 

With thousands of software vendors out there, the last thing you want to do is choose one that will limit your capabilities and your company’s growth.  ERP software is meant to enhance your business, and you would ideally want software that will fulfill your unique business needs by tailoring the software to your business (with best practices in mind), not the other way around.  There is a cost to achieve this level of personalization, but you have already factored that in by choosing to implement Enterprise Level ERP software.  The key is to find the greatest ROI. 

Selecting the best vendor for you requires more than picking a brand name or basing the decision solely on price.  It is worth investing the time in understanding your businesses experience and unique requirements.  By utilizing your key users, you will be better prepared to communicate crucial requirements and the results that you expect to achieve to the vendor.  Failing to do so is one mistake that Lumber Liquidators won’t likely repeat.  Doing it right the first time will give you the greatest ROI possible, and will avoid very expensive write-offs like what Lumber Liquidators had to endure with SAP.


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