What do seasoned financial executives from Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, and TESCO have in common? Recently, they each shared candid insights from ERP transformation and integration projects during a panel discussion. Fellow panelist Michael Perica, executive vice president & chief financial officer at Rimini Street, shares their hard-won lessons.
When corporate financial executives gather to candidly discuss ERP transformation and integration, hard-won lessons emerge. These valuable insights can help guide your own path through organizational, cultural, and budgetary challenges inherent in tinkering with your organization’s most critical systems.
That was certainly the case during a recent panel discussion at SSON’s 2023 Finance Transformation Digital Summit sponsored by Rimini Street. Our panel was aptly titled, “Weathering the Storm of ERP Transformation & Integration,” and I encourage you to watch it, but first would like to share some thoughts.
As CFO and executive vice president with Rimini Street and with nearly three decades of financial management and capital markets experience, I was excited to join the other well-experienced panelists, including:
- Vandana Khanna — Johnson & Johnson Senior Director, Global Finance Transformation
- Conor Kellett — Pfizer Finance Transformation & Operations Lead
- András Kohl – TESCO Head of Finance Business Services – CE
Eye-opening CFO experiences
Bringing our more than 80 years of collective experience to bear on the issues of ERP transformation and integration turned out to be just as eye opening as you’d expect.
In fact, as I told participants, eye opening is how I describe my experience when I was first thrust into a CFO role for an organization that was undertaking transformation of a complicated ERP environment.
The key difficulty with ERP transformations? Historically, they’re costly and time-consuming; see 12 famous ERP disasters, dustups and disappointments” (and those are just for starters). By the time these transformations are completed, business strategies have often shifted, resulting in either an ERP that doesn’t hold up to expectations, or a constant rejiggering of requirements (and budgets) along the way.
Few organizations would have the discipline and forethought evident in Conor Kellett’s tale of a 10-year transformation project amidst constant business change at Pfizer. “We kept an agile mindset around the whole thing and from a resources perspective we put the right people on the team,” Kellett said. “So rather than just getting pure consultants on board, we got the SMEs, the actual people who do the process and brought them onto the project…so that kept us flexible and when it came to change, we were able to right size as the need arose.”
Vandana Khanna is heading up a global SAP rollout for Kenvue, a $15 billion spinoff previously known as J&J Consumer Health, and previously she held key roles with Unilever and Verizon, among others. She urged viewers not to rush into ERP transformation, but first to focus on the business case rather than how the effort will transform or change technology. “Why are you doing it? What value are you going to get out of it?” asked Khanna.
Ways financial leaders keep IT on the right track
Transformations go awry when organizations don’t do the necessary advance planning and don’t involve the right people early on. “If you don’t do all these things and plan ahead, it’ll be very tough,” Khanna said. “You can do it, absolutely do it, because this has been a tried and trusted technology, but if you follow a process along the way, then you reap the benefits faster.” Moreover, she added, “you don’t have to transform and change everything, but you should definitely put your forces behind transformation where it is absolutely critical and needed.”
Success hinges on strategy, but also on operational performance, said TESCO’s András Kohl. Noting that large, global enterprises avoided off-the-shelf solutions in favor of highly customized ERP solutions because their enterprise structures are so complex, he said they can end up with, “a legacy burden because they don’t have the time and the energy and the focus to keep it up.”
Data migration is crucial, Kohl added.” Make sure you understand the data integration issues, as moving to a new platform often means different rules, different validation, and data sets,” he advised.
These are just a few of the many insights you can gain from this panel discussion. Watch the full video: