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11/26/2010
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Tips for Installing 'Big Business' Applications on an SMB Scale

In this series, we've been following the exploits of a particular company in the small to midsize business (SMB) category as it implemented the type of enterprise resource planning solution typically associated with Fortune 1000 firms. In fact, with its four full-time employees, Torelli Bicycle Company in North Hollywood, Calif., may be among the smallest companies to ever install an integrated ERP system from a leading software provider such as SAP.

In this series, we've been following the exploits of a particular company in the small to midsize business (SMB) category as it implemented the type of enterprise resource planning solution typically associated with Fortune 1000 firms. In fact, with its four full-time employees, Torelli Bicycle Company in North Hollywood, Calif., may be among the smallest companies to ever install an integrated ERP system from a leading software provider such as SAP.However, the tiny firm is only one of the many thousands of SMBs around the planet that are taking on the challenge of an ERP implementation this year. InformationWeek SMB recently caught up with the chief information officer of another, somewhat larger SMB, that undertook the process of installing an ERP solution from SAP last year and is now beginning to reap the benefits.

We asked the CIO of this U.S.-based midmarket specialty retailer to elaborate on some of the unique aspects of deploying an ERP solution at an SMB, and how the implementation process for his company differed from the way a large enterprise would typically handle the situation.

"Where we emulated a large enterprise was in selecting a Tier 1 implementation partner," the CIO said. "Where we were different was that we actually followed the advice of the implementation partner," he added wryly.

"Another area where we were different was in knowing that we could not consume all the SAP modules in one implementation," he said. Rather than stretch the company's limited resources beyond the breaking point by trying to take advantage of all the myriad new features offered by the integrated ERP system, "We chose to take a safer route and keep some of our best-of-breed systems [in place] to support some business processes." Banking on the familiarity his staff already had with the existing applications, he decided it would be simpler, less risky and more cost-effective to leverage the existing applications and simply develop interfaces to the ERP system. "Turns out that we were correct," he said.

An additional area where the retailer deviated from typical best practices established by large enterprise firms was to forgo some of the standard configuration options of the ERP platform, he said. "Instead, we made sure that we had optimized processes defined in our selection process and [that we] implemented them during our 'blueprinting' phase. While this may have introduced some nonstandard industry processes, it did not require modification to the ERP, so we were still able to install a 'vanilla' package."

By avoiding customization wherever possible, the company was able to deploy the ERP in record time, while keeping costs low - both at the time of installation and in terms of support and maintenance as it moves forward with the new ERP operating environment.

Have any enterprise software deployment tips you'd like to share with the InformationWeek SMB community? Please let us know how your small company has taken a fresh approach and avoided the pitfalls associated with installing "big business" applications on an SMB scale.

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