In my opinion, any ERP consultant should possess four types of Knowledge, if he/she really wants to be a successful ERP consultant in his career. They are as follows :
- Functional Knowledge
- Domain Knowledge
- Business Knowledge
- System Knowledge
Let us have a clear understanding of what are the above and how it can facilitate an ERP Implementation
- Functional Knowledge: This knowledge is mainly gained by the consultant out of their Education and Professional qualifications. Many Finance and MBA candidates have good knowledge on the fundamentals of Finance and Accounting. The Knowledge about SCM, Manufacturing, EAM and CRM can be gained by consultants during formal education but the theoretical knowledge can be enhanced only when they get a Practical Exposure to Industries. In order to be a successful ERP Consultant, the consultant should be strong in his domain of his functional education which he has undergone during his college or University. Some of the domains like Projects, Customer Care, and Service Management etc., could not be learnt through academic curriculum and mostly gained knowledge through practical experience only in an Industry.
- Domain Knowledge: This Knowledge can be gained post qualification based on their work experience in an Industry where the consultant works in the Main stream Domain like Purchasing, Finance, Accounts, Warehousing, Inventory Management, Projects, Maintenance etc., The consultant should learn the practical difficulties that are faced and how to overcome them either manually or through a System. (Here System does not refer to Software alone. It can be either be a manual process using registers, excel sheets and documents as well). If the consultants take the required initiative to learn these techniques, they may be able to apply it when it comes to a real life scenario in an Automated System. The primary objective of the experience gained in this phase is that the consultant should not only understand the Problem, but he should know how to resolve the problem as well. Then only he can turn out to be a good ERP Consultant.
- Business Knowledge: Many consultants might have worked in one type of Industry or Multiple Industries before migrating to ERP Implementation. These people will have wide exposure to various industries and understand the intricacies and problems related to one particular Domain in depth (Example: Purchasing process experience in an oil refinery / oil terminal / pharmaceutical company etc.,). This kind of consultants can migrate very fast as a Solution Architect due to their varied exposure and Knowledge they gained out of their experience. If a consultant does not capitalize or gain the in depth Knowledge with his experience and attain only a Partial Knowledge, he will struggle and confuse rather than working as a Problem solver. Example: A Purchasing Process adopted by a Financial Service Industry like Bank or Insurance will not be same for a Government Organization. So the consultant should able to understand the difference and identify suitable solution which can meet the requirement according to the Industry for which he is implementing the solution. If the consultant could not understand the difference and tries to adopt the same solution in all types of Industry, then very soon his incapability will come to light and he will be identified as incapable person.
- System Knowledge: The essential qualification of an ERP consultant lies in understanding and applying all the three -Functional, Domain and Business knowledge gained and who learns the capabilities and architecture of the ERP system and applies them during Implementation. Sometimes what the consultant theoretically studied or practically followed may not be possible in an ERP system. But the consultant should thoroughly evaluate and apply his experience to find a suitable solution according to the Business and industry. That is where the capability of the consultant and crux of the solution lies. The consultant should quickly grasp the existing Processes / understand the applicable future process and see how the system can be configured according to the business and Industry needs. This will decide the success or failure of an ERP implementation.
The biggest challenge and issue in an ERP implementation is that many of the consultants come with Functional Knowledge but without having much exposure to Industry and Business Knowledge for an ERP Implementation. Also those consultants try to gain Industry and Business Knowledge from the ERP system. This is one of the major drawback or cause of failure for ERP Implementations.
Those Consultants who did not get Industry or Business Knowledge should try to learn and listen very carefully during AS IS and TO BE Process discussions and go through various documentations and Forms used by those organizations to get a clear picture about the flow of Transactions and also the challenges faced by them on Day to Day basis. During Implementation they should clearly communicate and demonstrate how ERP systems can facilitate the pitfall or shortfalls in the Legacy system to the implementing Organization. Such a knowledge gained by the consultant can be applied in newer implementations, they should keep a repository and whenever they go to another implementation of same type of Industry or Business, they can talk to them with more knowledge and experience. If the other Organization follows different Process, he should take it as a lesson to learn from them as well. This is how he can improvise and grow up in the ladder.
Quote: My First ERP Implementation Lesson from CFO of a Fortune 500 Company
“Software should be configured according to Business and Business should not be amended according to the Software”