Translating ambition into strategy

During the numerous conversations that I have had with prospective clients, ambitious plans are often brought to the table. Plans relating to optimisation drives, efficiency improvement, cost reduction, double-digit growth, etc. All very valid and nice future dreams, but actually translating these into results is a different kettle of fish. Ultimately, a well-thought-out plan is needed. It might be the case that certain processes achieve their full potential through a lot of luck, great enthusiasm and hard work, but that is an exception. More energy will have to be put into this, without draining the flexibility and innovative strength from the company. That requires clear thinking and decisiveness. A second aspect that you can’t ignore is that investments have to be made before profits can be made. Investment in people or in solutions. And this is perhaps painful, but thought may have to be given to a cost-recovery model and in some cases this is difficult to determine. Particularly if this is about the ‘soft aspects’, i.e. people. All sorts of models have to be devised in order to arrive at an ROI calculation. But have you also taken into account that not only do you want to be prepared for tomorrow, but you also want to lay a foundation for the next ten years? After all, you don’t want to have grown out of the solution in a year’s time do you? That is why it is recommended that you don’t don a jacket that is too big for you, but a jacket that your ambition can grow into. The latter requires a long-term vision and strategy. This has been difficult during the last four to five years in the times of economic malaise but companies are now fortunately daring to look to the future again and they see that the horizon can actually be blue again.

ERP implementations are often latched on to in order to achieve improvement drives within a company. In some cases, this might be because of an old system which is no longer supported. Or the specific hardware is about to collapse (from age) and unfortunately this solution only runs on that hardware environment. Very often, companies consider new systems because certain functionality is lacking or not supported. You could ask yourself a number of questions. Is the (new) solution able to grow at the same pace as a company’s expansion drive? Today’s ERP solutions are increasingly more comprehensive, so what would really make a huge difference? In many cases, rigorous price comparisons are like comparing apples and pears. Secondly, add up the investment and maintenance costs and divide these by the number of intended years of use. The picture will then be very different. That covers the hard aspects, but now the soft aspects, the implementation partner. Do they understand your business? Is there a cultural click? Does the partner have additional industry knowledge? Do they make the difference with solutions that will help you? Does the ‘relationship’ start as soon as you meet them? The ultimate implementation is often compared to a marriage. The partnership is sealed for an indefinite period of time (even once the project has gone live). But … once the foregoing questions have been answered, have we finished? For a large part, we have, but one crucial factor is missing. Often the implementation partner is able to help you with your business operations, now and in the future. But is this partner also able to lay a foundation for the next ten years? In other words: will this partner help you to fulfil your ambition? After all, you can expect this, no, you ‘must’ expect this from your partner.