Go Live Success!

Go Live Success!

Tonight, guest writer Christ Kohart shares the ins and outs of how to succeed at ERP in Go Live Success. 

How to Succeed at ERP despite what you’ve read!

Time to upgrade your dealer business system (ERP)? In a continuing series, this question was recently asked of you. If you answered ‘Yes’ or ‘Maybe,’ the following information is for you.  Approached wisely and thoughtfully by both the dealership and the ERP provider, an ERP upgrade will reap the rewards starting with day one. This article will share one of the best practices that delivered positive experiences for those well-prepared dealerships (and for their business partners). The dealership that provided the bullets below had a successful go-live and continues to thrive on its ERP.

Here are a few improvements experienced shortly after going live on the new ERP:

  • Increased accuracy
  • Ability to track your dealerships share of customers spend
  • Instant, real-time reporting
  • Financially close an accounting period within two business days
  • Simplified transaction structure
  • Immediate updates to global data from all areas of the solution

How were these results apparent so quickly? Preparation, research, planning, establishing metrics, training, and execution. As with anything we approach, properly planned new endeavors have a much higher chance of success than when planning was only at a high level. This article will look at the importance of reviewing processes you use throughout the dealership and then the subsequent implementation of standard processes throughout your dealership.

At this dealership, during the early stages of transformation (before committing to a specific ERP), there was extreme pushback from staff regarding the number of processes requiring review and standardization. There is still the thought process in our industry that “we’ve been successful for decades doing it this way, why change?” I’m going to continue those out who do not standardize processes now, whether or not the dealership is considering digital transformation. Why? If you do not embrace standard processes throughout the dealership, you are not creating consistent, repeatable (and reliably reportable) results. This same dealership demonstrated the fortitude to thoroughly review 300 processes across all business areas (Accounting, Sales & CRM, Rental, Product Support).   At the start, many processes had not been standardized between departments (such as purchasing) and locations (“every branch has their individual way of doing it”). At the end of this endeavor, the dealership had created a solid purchasing and purchase approval process and standardized operational processes across their branch network. The first result realized before selecting an ERP:  The dealership had the documentation necessary to establish metrics used during the ERP selection process. The second result:  The dealership solved their difficulty in capturing and correctly categorizing purchases, whether for internal consumption, resale on a work order (how many times have you received an invoice for outside work & materials long after a work order was closed and invoiced without the charges?), or components that should have been capitalized vs. expensed when installed on prime products?

Let’s address each bullet point and how cleaning up and standardizing their processes affected the outcome after going live:

  • Increased accuracy. By creating standards (processes), every manager and staff member creates and enters information in the same format. If your staff doesn’t format correctly, the entry will not be accepted until corrected. You are now reporting on clean, accurate and identically formatted data from all sources.
  • Ability to track your dealership’s share of customer spend. Suppose your machine ownership database is accurate (I will save that for a future article). Your employees follow an established process for tracking all sales and activities by equipment (asset). In that case, your ERP can produce a report based on product support sales by specific equipment and customer based on operating hours vs. sales. Telematics can further enhance this activity, and I’ll reserve this topic for the future. The bottom line is that you will gain the insight necessary to increase your product support sales to your customers.
  • Instant, real-time reporting. Since ERP’s run in real-time, the overnight batch functions required to update different modules within the business system disappears. A couple of examples: Once a rental contract is created, the status of a rental asset instantly changes from available to reserved; once it’s on rent, status changes from reserved to on-rent. When you close a work order, it updates A/R and is available for review within service history.
  • Financially close an accounting period within two business days. You deployed standardized purchasing processes: when goods are received, they are on the books whether or not you have received the vendor’s invoice. In Service, work orders or individual segments close the day after the completion of work, and labor hours are entered and posted each day. Closing periods become more of a final review. The ERP either automatically creates reports or advises management when the period is closed and allows them to create their custom reports.
  • Simplified transaction structure. Everyone undertakes the same activity the same way, and fewer steps lead to greater efficiency and fewer mistakes. It also allows personnel to cover/take over other activities as a standard process guide is available. Many ERPs will enable you to upload your process documents directly in the program help files.
  • Immediate updates to global data from all areas of the solution. Since you have deployed ERP, information entered in one area updates all pertinent information system-wide. Your CRM connects to Sales, Rental, Product Support, and Accounting instantly. For example, suppose a PSSR makes a customer visit and discovers they are unhappy with a recent rental billing. The PSSR can enter this information in CRM. The responsible rental sales representative, branch rental manager, accounting department, and anyone within the dealership who needs to know are notified instantly. This is all driven by a standard process that drives activity within CRM and, if you deploy it, workflow.

While only one of many steps, it’s incredible how vital the “boring” process becomes when running your business. It’s imperative to undertake this review if you want to have excellent odds to succeed when you go live.

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Everything Seems Obvious in Hindsight!

Everything Seems Obvious in Hindsight!

Chris Kohart has over 30 years of direct management experience in the heavy construction equipment distribution industry and more than a decade in the technology sector directly supporting equipment dealers globally. Chris is Principal of C.A. Kohart & Associates, a management and marketing consulting firm dedicated to equipment dealerships, private equity investment firms working within the industry, as well as OEM’s and industry solutions providers.  He brings substantial knowledge in all aspects of dealer management, product support, sales, financial planning, cost control, operations, customer retention, and the technology that best fits their needs. Chris possesses a unique ability to translate conceptual models into specific processes and growth strategies, increasing operations excellence. Tonight, he shares some of his thoughts on technology in “Everything Seems Obvious in Hindsight!”

The thirty-plus years in dealership management roles and twelve years in the IT world supporting dealers globally has provided me with an understanding of how dealership management views the “digital transformation” revolution. No matter the location or the size of the dealership, the concerns are always very similar: our dealership management platform is not ideal, but we know how it works (or we think we do), and we don’t have the time (or money) to make a change; we’ve asked our customers what they want, and the resounding reply is that we need to be leading with current technology to manage their fleet and their business successfully. 

 

How do we get the dealership to the point where we’re giving our customers (they are our business partners) what they need while removing some of the constraints placed on our business by the current business system? How do we accomplish this without breaking the bank or severely limiting operations while the conversion takes place?  It’s an extraordinarily complex and challenging process to undertake, but very necessary. Here are suggestions for basic first steps before making a decision:

 

  1. Ask your business partners:  
    1. Do you use our online tools now? If not, why not?
    2. How do we improve our current digital offerings to you? 
    3. What can we add to our digital presence to better serve you? 
  2. Audit your current business system: 
    1. Are you using your existing software to its capacity? 
    2. What functions that are available in your solution are you not using and why?
    3. Can we find a way to utilize/optimize the functions we are not using? Why not?
    4. What are other software programs used within your dealership today? Why are these functions not being completed within your business system?
  3. Does your current solution incorporate integrations with?
    1. OEM’s: (e.g., whole goods and parts ordering, warranty claim and reconciliation, telematics, standard repair hours, machine intelligence)
    2. Your financial institution, credit card processing, sales tax management, purchasing solutions such as Ariba
  4. Map out and identify every single software package deployed within your dealership. 
    1. “One-offs” that may only be used by one or two individuals.  
    2. Understand why these are being deployed separately instead of completing the process within your business solution.  The higher the number, the greater the chance you are either on the wrong solution, or your people do not fully understand how to utilize your current solution. 
  5. Are your internal reporting capabilities able to meet current requirements?
    1. How many reports run automatically every month? How many are necessary?
    2. Are your people able to quickly generate ad-hoc reports?
    3. What reports are mission-critical for the growth and success of the business?
      1. How do we deliver them?
  6. Review your three and five-year business plans: will your current software support the organizational and market changes you plan to accomplish?

 

If the results to the above points are all positive, and you’re using few, if any, “one-offs,” you are in good shape. However, if the results indicate your current business system is lacking, you should begin preparing to either upgrade or replace it.  Here are some thoughts on decision-making steps to take (in parallel):

  1. Upgrade or replacement:
    1. Does your current solution provider offer a more up-to-date version of the software you’re currently using?  If so, that may be the most cost-effective solution to your problem.
    2. Begin understanding the solutions on the market that fit your dealership today and where you plan for your dealership to be in five years
  2. Cost of transformation (over five years)
    1. Pre-selection costs (all due diligence expenses)
    2. Software (including enhancements and support)
    3. Hardware (servers, upgraded laptops/desktops)
    4. IT services (either internal or contracted) to support the entire IT landscape
    5. Implementation services (everything from data migration to employee training to go-live and post-go-live support)
    6. Add 30% to the above as projects rarely are completed on time or within the original budget
  3. Effects on your customers, employees, and daily operations:
    1. What are the positive and negative effects of staying on your current solution vs. upgrade or replacement?
    2.  How do we accentuate the positive and mitigate the negative?
  4. Net long-term benefits to the dealership
    1. What customer-facing improvements do you require? (Suggestion – for now, stick with the absolute “must-haves”)
    2. What operational efficiencies (ROI) will you gain (people, time, customer satisfaction)
  5. Dealership Processes:
    1. Identify and understand every process in all departments.  This evolution will create the hierarchy for new solution requirements and provide you with a map to compare dealer management solutions accurately.
    2. Chances are, there are many different variations of each process in your dealership today. Your dealership needs to conform to one set of standard processes for every area of the business. Enforce the golden rule of the “standard process,” and your eventual upgrade/replacement will run smoother, and the operating efficiencies gained will be enormous. Your process maps can also become the basis for employee training and system reference, reducing training time and cost.

Replacing your dealer business system while operating your business is difficult but possible if the proper planning is done and expectations are set within your dealership and with your business partners. There are no universal or straightforward answers in making these decisions. If you decide to seek outside help, many qualified individuals can help guide you successfully through the process.  There are plenty of ERP selection consultants; make sure the firm you engage has a track record of working with dealers your size and that they fully understand the industry.

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For our course lists, please click here.