ERP implementations are full of challenges. One common obstacle project management consultants and internal teams alike often encounter is the prevalence of data silos, where information can’t properly flow between the various systems and the ERP.
Looking across the numerous existing platforms that typically integrate with a new ERP solution, it’s a given that seamless data sharing throughout the enterprise technology stack is a key functionality. But data silos can quickly impair an organization’s ability to move information, leading to diminished access to important capabilities, less reliable results from analytics tools, and lower productivity.
If you aren’t sure how vigorously you want to work to break down the data silos in your company before your ERP implementation begins, consider some of the complications that can arise if your project team can’t access and utilize all the information it needs.
When system or functional barriers prevent data sharing, your project risk management efforts are likely to be less effective. It’s nearly impossible to accurately identify, assess, and mitigate risks if the necessary datasets aren’t available for review and analysis. Unfortunately, you may not know you’re missing vital information until far along in the project’s lifecycle. At that point, it might no longer be possible to carve out enough time to cost-effectively address the risks. If the problems are serious enough, you could be facing delays or even a complete halt of project activities, both of which have the potential to lead to project failure.
The integrations between your ERP system and other platforms may not work correctly if you don’t have full access to operational and other data. Developing, implementing, and testing the various integrations is a core step toward ERP project success, but if you’re missing data then the necessary connections may not be properly deployed. The integrity of data flowing through your existing systems will also be compromised if updates and deduplication activities can’t be carried out. If pre-implementation testing reveals the absence of required information or improperly configured integrations, then it might delay your go-live date. You’ll need to develop a fix before the cutover, otherwise you’re likely to see flawed results or incomplete workflows.
Your data management program—along with your data privacy and security measures—could be hindered by data silos. You might have trouble applying good data management practices to information that can’t be accessed easily or that isn’t available through standard tools. Lack of access to critical information may also mean your data privacy and security measures aren’t sufficient to protect sensitive datasets. You need a full understanding of the data flowing through the ERP to apply the proper information safeguards, and this becomes a serious challenge if data silos prevent you from developing a complete view of the situation.
End users and customers are likely to have a poor experience. If the various systems can’t leverage all the expected information streams due to data silos, then users and customers—whether they’re internal departments or external buyers—will experience glitches and delays. New workflows designed to enhance productivity won’t be able to deliver on that promise and you may find that workers fall back on the processes they used prior to the ERP’s implementation, which will only further complicate the situation.
Despite the powerful capabilities offered by many ERP platforms, you may continue to have an incomplete view of the business in the post-installation environment. Results from analytics could be skewed, forecasting functionality may not be reliable, reports are likely to be incomplete or inaccurate, and the organization won’t be able to receive the full financial or operational return on its ERP implementation investment.