Businesses around the world have had to shift - where they can - to digital workarounds, distributed workforces and online collaboration in order to maintain operations wherever possible during COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. However, there's a difference between maintaining operations and undergoing an ERP upgrade during a global pandemic.
That's the situation PRÆSIDIAD found itself in, where Business Transformation Director Michael Dixon's first day on the job was the same day the company was forced to go into lockdown in the UK. Dixon was brought on board to turnaround an IFS ERP project, but found himself in the unusual position of having to do this remotely, having not met any of his colleagues (except for his boss) in real life and without access to the PRÆSIDIAD's central London office space.
Dixon has spent the past three months navigating how to continue with an ERP upgrade whilst working entirely remotely. However, it seems that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be somewhat of an opportunity for PRÆSIDIAD, as it has given the project team the time to take a step back and reassess its focus. Namely, it has used the time to foster relationships across the business and shift the project from being IT-led to business-led.
PRÆSIDIAD is a market leader in force protection solutions, integrated perimeter security systems and industrial mesh production. Dixon was speaking at IFS's virtual user event MindFuel, which can be accessed here. For all of diginomica's coverage from the event, see our dedicated resource page here.
Commenting on the unusual circumstances, Dixon said:
My first day was anxiously waiting for my laptop to arrive via courier, trying to get set up. I've literally met one person physically in the organisation, my boss, which was some weeks before I joined. So I've had to learn to build a network of people all virtually. All my contacts, all my peers I'm working with I've met through videolink. It's not been a challenge, it's been interesting.
Since lockdown PRÆSIDIAD has decided that it will scale back the size of its London office and that teams will continue to work from, wherever possible. Dixon said that there will always be an element of his job and his team needing to be on-site, given he works in ERP implementation, but that actually the company has found that teams are working more efficiently in a distributed fashion. He said:
People will still be required to travel. We are implementing a project at the moment and there is a point in time where we will have to go back on site to do the final push, but again that's going to be much more limited than it was before. So we've gotten used to the working from home and we've saved money on travel expenses.
Bringing people on board
Dixon said he spent his initial days and weeks trying to understand how far the teams had come in terms of the project and where they were up to. He admitted that this was a little more difficult over video and using shared documents, instead of face-to-face in a meeting, but that this way of working soon became the norm. PRÆSIDIAD decided during the lockdown to take a pause on the upgrade and reconsider its priorities. Dixon explained:
I think as an organisation [we took the] decision to put a hold on the project when we were in the real depths of the Coronavirus impact, because we couldn't travel. And the next phase was to travel. I've been lucky that we've had an opportunity to step back and review and make sure that we've all the inside items ready so that when we are ready we can hit the ground running.
In addition to this, the project faced some challenges because of new management being brought into the company and the business had become disengaged. Dixon added:
The project suffered because of a couple of reasons. The entire management team has changed within PRAESIDIAD, a brand new senior suite, and they weren't the people that had made the original decision. In the early days, the way that the project was structured wasn't quite right. There wasn't that real business engagement - and that struggled a bit with the new management team coming in place.
However, Dixon and his team have taken this on board and used the lockdown time to get the business on side. He said:
I've been able to try and build those relationships and start to build some more confidence that IFS as a product is going to meet their requirements. But also...rather than this massive big project with an end goal in a year and a half's time, [bringing] in items that deliver value earlier. So we start to get some benefit from that as we move forward. That's helped because it's helped to bring people on board and has much more support from the business.
Bringing value, quickly
Dixon said that part of the problem with the way the ERP project at PRÆSIDIAD was being tackled previously was that too much pressure was being placed on it being ‘perfect', instead of trying to deliver what is necessary, early on, to bring value quickly.
Dixon sought to reset the attitude on this, which again has won favours with the business. He said:
From an internal perspective within the project team, I did sort of feel that we were going for the perfect project. And everything was geared up - we'd bought all the rights, we'd bought all the tools, we had a testing platform, they've had external partners coming in to do process review and process flow. There's been a lot of money spent thinking, evaluating and designing, rather than actually let's build the thing and move on!
[We've been] trying to change that mindset a bit from it's not going to be the ultimate perfect solution. A lot of the groups come from an ancient SAP solution that's quite heavily customised and modified to suit them, with lots of complexity built in - and trying to replicate all that complexity is not the right way to go. So we are trying to simplify and streamline at the same time and that's been a little bit of a challenge.
Trying to say we don't need that 100% perfect solution to go live with, let's get 90%-95% of what we need to run the business. Then we add the complexity and the refinement once we've gotten used to it.
Finally, Dixon said that the main lesson learned from joining PRÆSIDIAD thus far and from the progress on the project is that engaging the business is key to success, rather than being a piece of isolated work happening within IT. He said:
I think for me in terms of coming in and turning around a project, it's being able to build those business relationships and making sure that it's a business project, rather than just an IT project. I think what we have now is instead of us having to reach out to people, we've not got people reaching out to me now. We will be going live in Poland on January 1st, subject to COVID-19 air travel restrictions being lifted.