From Spreadsheets to ERP...

(Why We've Gone Way Beyond Spreadsheets)

Pat Garrehy, CEO, Rootstock Software

Spreadsheets are very popular, powerful devices that most business people understand and know how to use. For small and start-up companies, they are able to provide a picture of what is happening in important operations such as production, inventory, supply and quality.            

Most companies employ them but there becomes a time when they are just not enough. As companies grow, data volume increases, multiple users need data simultaneously, audit trails must be protected and operations become more intricate, spreadsheets become unwieldy, overly complex and outmoded. Let's also not underestimate the harm that a misplaced comma,or an extra "0" can create.

Also, be aware of the problems arising when too many spreadsheets start causing big problems. A jumble of on-premise legacy systems, acquired configurations and new, cloud-based arrangements will drive everyone into a frenzy. "Let's use our spreadsheets to consolidate," somebody suggests. "They will give us the security and  integrity we need."

Companies who have tried this will disagree. It has been proven that only an integrated platform for enterprise applications, such as quality, transportation, CRM  and ERP, works. After all, these apps can capture sales, operations, inventory and purchasing data plus combine with production and quality control.

Why Replace Spreadsheets with a Cloud ERP?

Why not an on-premise system? The answer is quite uncomplicated. Cloud systems are much easier to implement and don't need as many IT resources as on-premise systems. Additionally, if the cloud ERP is a newer model, it probably uses low-code technology which, without getting into an entire article on this topic, lets users customize screens, modify workflow processes, build their own apps and embed AI without needing a squad of over-priced consultants or dumping the project on your unprepared staff.

Now, it can't be disputed that ERP implementations have the reputation of being one of the most daunting and difficult projects across the whole of the IT landscape. However, much of the fear of such implementations can be minimized. Based on decades of project experience, there are three critical factors for successful ERP implementations:            

1) Drive success from the top. The difference between success and failure starts with management. Executive involvement must begin early and carry forward. Oftentimes, unfortunately, executives might attend the project kickoff and initial steering committee meetings but that's not enough. In other sub-optimal scenarios, executives may use a rearview-mirror approach, dealing with challenges only after they’ve become problematic. The results show that vendor costs escalate and team morale plummets. Success is more probable when executives stay engaged throughout – from the start and beyond the finish line. In this way, they’re able to lend decision-making support to overcome challenges as they emerge. They can help keep vendors on task and motivate team members through tough situations.

2) Make “go live” the priority. Your company will only begin to reap a return once the ERP is live and being used to run your business. There’s so much benefit to gain in this “go live” feast that you shouldn’t get held up embellishing the table with fancy dinner napkins. Fine-tuning and new configurations are best left for a later phase of the project. And, with the low-code technology approach, this fine tuning is something that can be accomplished by non-IT personnel.

Think of it this way. Once you go live, you can multiply your returns. Go-live success gives your organization a baseline of 1, to which you can amplify the return in follow on phases. But failure to implement gives you a zero baseline – to which you can’t multiply any additional value.

3) Ensure strong change management throughout the project and across stakeholders. Moving to a new ERP represents a significant change, not just for end-users, but anyone affected by business process modifications.

Today’s best-in-class ERP systems enable connected experiences with customers and vendors so these parties can also be brought into the change-management fold. You’ll also need a change-management leader, one who will launch user initiatives early, thereby ensuring successful adoption from the go-live date.

From Spreadsheet to ERP

Let's take a look at how some successful companies have already moved from spreadsheets to cloud ERP.

Inventory Control. This successful multinational used its spreadsheets to manage inventory across approximately a dozen warehouses and anticipate demand and handle distribution to over 50 countries. First, it upgraded its customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities and its enterprise resource planning (ERP) functions.

A single cloud platform, instead, provided a dashboard to view all inventory. This meant that the multinational now could have an enterprise-wide perspective on demand in various regions and found it easier to shift inventory between warehouses to meet demand.

Supply Chain Management. Using spreadsheets, an international organization cut and pasted requisitions into individual supplier spreadsheets and emailed them out. On a master spreadsheet, they tracked overall supplier performance. Needless to say, this process was tedious, prone to error and often relayed outdated information.

Upon switching to a cloud platform, the company built an online community and leveraged real-time dashboard assessments. Today, in real-time, it shows production forecasts and individual supplier performances.

Quality Control. In many organizations, such as medical devices, aerospace and autos, quality control not only covers product integrity and associated items but also gets into government policies and regulations. Thus, quality control encompasses design, manufacturing, customers, supplier management, risk management, complaint handling, distribution and more. Spreadsheets were deployed to house standard operating procedures via using different point solutions.

Needless to say, as a medical device supplier discovered, following such procedures via spreadsheets was painful. Instead, the company upgraded its cloud ERP to track and trace complete product history. It also employed an electronic quality management system (EQMS) to ensure safety and compliance with FDA regulations. Ultimately, quality for this company now embraces a total digital approach.

Cloud ERP into the Future

Going from spreadsheets to a cloud ERP lets companies connect people, data and systems to produce greater collaboration, efficiency and insight.  Although originally useful, spreadsheets have often held companies back from these objectives. Today, with cloud ERP providing an end-to-end view of data, companies can uncover opportunities to deliver better products faster and more affordably, thus gaining a competitive edge.


About the Author - Pat Garrehy is CEO for Rootstock Software. Rootstock Software is a worldwide provider of cloud ERP on the Salesforce Platform. When combined with Salesforce CRM, Rootstock Cloud ERP offers manufacturing, distribution and supply chain organizations a single platform to grow and manage their businesses. Rootstock Cloud ERP is a flexible, modern and digitally connected system that transforms companies to deliver a more personalized customer experience, efficiently scale operations and out-service the competition.