Sir Isaac Newton was one of the most important scientific minds in history. I am always humbled at his genius in multiple disciplines; he was the definition of a polymath. Newton’s interests ranged from astronomy, physics, optics, classical mechanics, mathematics as well as philosophy and theology. As brilliant as he was, I bet he did not realize that he also predicted the science of ERP selection via his three laws of motion. SCIENCE! ERP selection can be a scientific, predictable, and controlled process. If one follows the laws, well, the universe is in alignment and your company will go live on time, on budget, and in scope. Below is a brief review of Newton’s three laws, for those of us who had forgotten our junior high science classes, and how they relate to ERP Selection.
- Law Number One: Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.  My junior high science teacher, Mr. High, called this rule the "Law of Inertia." When I was Mr. High’s pupil four decades ago, he raved about Newton and he was not incorrect. The ERP Selection Corollary to the First Law, known colloquially as “Joel’s Lazy Man Theory” is that your business will keep doing the same tired processes and actions until a forward-thinking CEO knocks the company off center. At the very least, you will want to create some forward inertia and do the same processes more efficiently. If Newton was your ERP PM, he would want you to do a bottom-up review of your requirements, identify your critical requirements (those that differentiate you from your competition), and find a system that will accomplish the re-engineered processes in an elegant manner. He would also do all of that in a sweet English accent. However, all this inertia requires a swift kick in your company’s flywheel to get things moving.
The sunny side to this rule is that once things are moving, they tend to stay in motion. Getting an ERP selection going is the beginning of a long and sometimes difficult journey. Once the selection is underway, inertia will take over and assist your team in maintaining progress through implementation. Make sure you have the right trail boss to keep your motion going in the right direction. Even though you may be moving at 100 MPH, if your team is going the wrong way it does not matter how fast they are moving. Which brings me to Rule Number Two.
- Law Number Two: The relationship between an object's mass m, its acceleration a, and the applied force F is F = ma.  This was an incredibly important discovery because it allowed predictive calculations of moving objects, a new concept in the 17th century. In 7th grade, Mr. High used to say what this law means is that “you can’t push a rope.” I still don’t have any idea what he meant by this or how it related to F=ma. However, my current teacher, Professor of ERP Stuff [i] Joel Schneider, has helped me understand what Newton would have said about ERP Selection. Professor Schneider reminds us that for functions called “ERP Selections,” the bigger the organization, the bigger the force needed to implement a change like a new ERP.
Simply stated, it is much more difficult to get things moving in an organization with 1,000 employees than a three-person startup. However, once that force (i.e. a forward-looking CEO, CFO, CIO) impacts the mass of the organization, actions accelerate, and good things begin to happen. Important science tip: a professor of ERP (or even a competent consultant) would ensure you accelerate your company appropriately and deliberately through selection, contracts, process re-engineering, workshops, data migration, conference room pilots, and training. While some aspects of ERP selections and implementation can be accelerated or fast-tracked (workshops), other facets require due diligence and time to do things right (data migration and training). Another concept to consider is that “The Force” (even in the Star Wars franchise) cannot be a onetime application of strength. It must be a consistent and coherent application of leadership, determination, coordination, and optimism. Whew. Finally, that brings us to Law Number Three.
- Law Number Three: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This law is what happens if you step off a fishing boat on a cold mountain lake and attempt to set foot on dry land. I found out how the third rule works empirically last spring. As I moved in the direction of the shore, the boat moved in the opposite direction leaving me face down in some frigid, glacial meltwater. My other Professor of ERP things [ii], Joe Nordstrom, says Newton’s third, the ERP director’s cut, is exactly what happens when a big force, or change, happens to a stagnant organization. Friction. Resistance. Pushback. In his third law, Sir Isaac Newton predicted that Change Management, as well as Expectation Management, is critical to ERP selections. Any decent ERP consultant will communicate clearly and often to the project team and other employees in several mediums. She will detail what change will look like, how job descriptions are likely to change, and the hidden opportunities in ERP selections. She will also set realistic and achievable expectations, predict the rough patches coming up (data clean up and migration), and keep the steering committee and project teams informed on scope, budget estimates, timelines, and level of effort.
Here is the bottom line: you don’t need advanced degrees in physics to pull off a successful ERP selection. What can be extremely helpful are competent guides that can keep you in compliance with all the laws, both natural and manmade, and get your company on track for accelerated performance (F=ma remember?). Which ERP system would Sir Isaac Newton choose? Contact LTA and we will let you know in our very cool American accents!
[i] Disclaimer: Joel Schneider is not really an accredited Professor of ERP Stuff. It is an imaginary title as I tend to utilize artistic license in my blog posts. However, Joel knows a great deal about organizational behavior, software selections, implementations, and all things related to ERP.
[ii] Disclaimer: Ditto for Joe Nordstrom, although he exhibits many polymath-like qualities, including program management, fluency in multiple languages, corporate leadership in the c-suite, and salsa dancing.