Hanneke started her journey with epic ERP in December 2022. With a background in analysing, interpreting and implementing system-supported business processes, Hanneke had little experience on how to apply this knowledge to the world of ERP. Here’s how she describes her first year at epic:
The past 12 months have been an amazing year of learning and self-growth for me. Having come from an EduTech background, I was familiar with systems like Moodle, Sakai and other learning management systems, but ERP was comparatively new to me.
Soon after I started at epic it became apparent that ERP projects are unlike other software system projects. For starters, ERP systems directly support the finances and operations of a company, no matter what industry the company operates in. These processes are the lifeblood of a company, and therefore – as epic ERP’s MD, Stuart Scanlon, so aptly puts it, “Implementing an ERP system is like performing open-heart surgery on a patient who is walking around and interacting with his/her environment. You simply cannot shut an entire company down in order to implement an ERP system. The company has to remain operational with as little disruption as possible.”
This seamless go-live requirement adds a unique layer of complexity to ERP projects.
A misconception that I had before working at epic ERP was that ERP projects are mostly reserved for large enterprises with extensive budgets. I was familiar with SAP, through academic learnings, but unaware that there were multiple mid-market focused ERP solutions that can add immense value to smaller and medium-sized businesses, with annual turnover between R75 million – R10 billion. To me, this continues to be a beautiful element of ERP – that it is accessible, and becoming increasingly accessible, to all companies. Even smaller ERP solutions are leveraging the power of emerging technologies, such as AI, AR and the Internet of Things, to grant customers access to cutting edge technologies and be at the forefront of innovation.
Another beautiful element of an ERP system is that it can be tailored to fit the needs of diverse industries such as manufacturing, distribution, biotechnology and horticulture. Working at epic ERP has exposed me to incredibly interesting business operations, including a rubber manufacturing plant, a tannery, complex distribution warehouses, commercial printers, and more.
ERP projects are unique in that they do not focus on a single division within a company or on a single department, but on the company as a whole. That is where the value of such systems lies – to consolidate disparate, siloed departments and manual processes into a single system that supports automated, digital processes. This is also where the complexity of these systems lie, as the sales, pre-sales and technical implementation teams have to holistically maintain a bird’s-eye view of the company and its overlapping processes, while also considering the granular elements that make up each department and its unique processes.
With this in mind, epic ERP has recognised the value in employing engineers across the sales, pre-sales and technical divisions. My background is in industrial engineering, and the majority of my colleagues are either industrial or mechanical engineers. It might come as a surprise to some, as one wouldn’t typically associate an engineering background with a sales role. However, selling an ERP system is essentially an exercise in business analysis, with sales cycles that take months to conclude. To recommend the right solution to a client, you need to understand their business landscape, their needs and pain points, and very importantly, what defines “value” for them and how a system will add this value.
Applying an analytical “systems engineering” mindset to this problem and approach can be invaluable, especially in terms of identifying and addressing risks to the project upfront. Failure to identify and address these risks can be extremely costly, both to the implementation partner and the client.
In this regard, the term “sales”, as it applies to an ERP project, can actually be misleading. When the term “sales” comes to mind, it is typically associated with the mentality to chase quarterly targets and sell at all costs. However, in an ERP project, a “sale” is nuanced as a good fit has to be achieved on both the side of the implementation partner and the client. It is definitely not a “sell at all costs” mentality, and implementation partners can even walk away from prospective opportunities if there is excessive risk involved without the prospect of mitigation.
One of my great learnings during my first year was around value. Every customer defines value differently. For some, value can be quantitative – how many man-hours or money can a system save them, or will it improve some productivity or customer satisfaction metric? For others, value can be more qualitative – will it allow me to resell my business to prospective investors, or will it allow me to go on holiday while still maintaining a remote overview of my company’s performance?
A universal value adding element of a system that might not be apparent to clients when meeting for the first time is the data and analysis possibilities that ERP systems unlock. For example, an ERP system allows a customer to analyse profitability of product lines, or the productivity of their manufacturing operations and individual workstations. Beyond automating manual operations and streamlining day-to-day operations, this is where ERP systems add business intelligence and allow informed decision making.
Considering all of this, I am incredibly proud to have entered this field and excited about the future of the ERP industry, especially in the South African, and broader African context. South Africans and South African businesses are resilient, having to overcome mounting problems such as loadshedding, inflated fuel prices and crumbling infrastructure. Despite these problems, we find ways to innovate and overcome. Leveraging the power of ERP can be another tool through which businesses innovate, improve and overcome.
As a Solutions Specialist, forming a part of a customer’s journey is incredibly rewarding and I am grateful for having the support of my epic ERP teammates, who challenge me and allow me to grow every day.
If your organisation is considering implementing an ERP solution, let’s chat. You can reach out to Hanneke on ha******@ep*****.za