Who Should Own the ERP System? Hint: It's Not IT.

Besides payroll, one of your organization’s largest spends is probably on technology. You spent thousands of dollars to implement your new ERP system. Years later you’re still using the same version with manual compliance-related workarounds. The ERP system needs to be kept current. What do you do?


As the business continued to grow, you struggled to make the ERP system work for you. There was no written documentation for the end-users, and you created manual workarounds. Training was done verbally so end-users weren’t trained consistently, and they ended up having a lot of dirty data. In the end, the business was expending extraordinary time and effort muscling to use the ERP system, and only getting a small fraction of value.

How did this situation happen? Individuals thought the small IT group should be responsible for all technology including the ERP system. So, the business wasn’t involved as much as it should have been.

ERP stands for enterprise resource planning—the entire enterprise should be involved including finance, information security, internal audit, regulatory compliance, and legal.

ERP System Responsibilities For Each Department

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Although the ERP is a system (with a significant investment), the sole responsibility cannot be put on IT. Instead, the business needs to take the lead and own the system. The ERP consists of multiple modules and those “owner” departments have a vested interest to keep the system current and to maximize using the features and functionality.

IT is responsible for understanding how the system is intended to be used.

The business is responsible for deciding what to use.

One way to break out the responsibilities is as follows:

Dept

Sample Responsibilities

IT

  1. Obtains release notes for bug fixes, patches, and upgrades; explains features/functionality to the business
  2. Configures settings and security based on business decisions
  3. Recreates any issues reported and works with vendor on issues, bugs, custom code
  4. Creates and maintains testing documents (test plans and scripts) and performs unit, integration, and system testing
  5. Loads tested code into production environment – change management

Business

Departments “own” their respective modules (e.g. finance, human resources, operations), which includes the internal control system

  1. Decides which features/functionality to use
  2. Creates and maintains master data records
  3. Creates end-user documentation (workflows and procedures), and updates documentation when code is updated
    • If you’re using the system out-of-the-box and following the vendor’s best practices, the vendor should be able to give you standard end-user documentation for the basic workflows, procedures, and training materials. Then the business just needs to customize the standard documentation, and then create any outstanding end-user documentation.
  4. Creates and maintains user acceptance testing (UAT) documents, and performs user acceptance testing
  5. Reports issues to IT

Training

  1. Maintains training documents, videos, and cheat sheets per business, and updates documentation when code is updated
  2. Offers ongoing training classes (for new employees, refreshers)

If there isn’t a separate training department, then this responsibility reverts to the business.

Summary

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In the end, the business has the most to gain (or lose) by utilizing the ERP to align with the business needs and growth. Similar to the idiom it takes a village, the entire enterprise should be involved to keep the ERP and other major systems current and maximize their use.

For more information on system ownership, follow me on LinkedIn!

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