Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems can be one of the best investments a pharmaceutical corporation can make, with the benefits of streamlining operations and increasing overall efficiency numerous. Although ERP systems are often thought to be a necessity in today’s multinational corporate landscape, pharmaceutical companies are still struggling with the same basic implementation problems that have plagued companies since ERP systems were first developed. To complicate matters, pharmaceutical companies are highly regulated and controlled. When a pharmaceutical corporation operates in many locations, these regulatory controls change according to the laws of the country of operation. Regardless of how many countries or locations the pharmaceutical company operates in, the challenges of solving departmental ERP conflicts are ubiquitous. Fortunately, they can be resolved easily if executive leadership remains takes a hands-on approach during implementation.
Many executives in pharmaceutical corporations will initially sign off on upgrading or implementing a new ERP system but remain at a distance while the actual project is underway. When the various departments begin to experience a conflict—for example, logistical operations requires that shipping and receiving change the way they account for receiving new supplies, but shipping and receiving refuse to change because doing so would increase their costs—then the only way to solve the conflict is through executive management, because middle management lacks the authority to provide an effective solution.
Practice Long-Term Thinking
In today’s competitive landscape, pharmaceutical company executives are often focused on the short-term requirements of revenue generation, not on the long-term needs of how the future may require the internal operations of the company to change. Short-term thinking, however, can and will create problems when departmental conflicts occur, and these conflicts have nothing to do with the immediate future. Conflicts can lead to executive abandonment during ERP implementation and are usually a catalyst to the beginning of passive resistance in the workforce. Although the immediate needs of the company are important, the long-term needs of running the company must also be considered, because such consideration will prevent minor conflicts between departments from becoming major problems down the road.
Hire Experienced IT Professionals for ERP Implementation
ERP implementation often requires a different technical skill set from IT professionals from what’s required to operate any legacy systems being replaced. Because ERP systems are generally provided by a single vendor, it’s critical that the IT professionals in charge of the system have the necessary skills to work with a system that takes a companywide view. Those professionals must understand more about how the company operates on a larger scale than simply how a particular department functions. In addition, skilled ERP IT staff can assist in solving departmental conflicts because the solution may be to change the ERP system itself, which will require programming skills specific to that vendor’s software. If the various departments find themselves in conflict over how the new ERP system will change a fundamental business process but a simple fix at the programming level could eliminate the problem altogether, then not having the right IT staff who have the necessary skills could cost more than the company would have spent hiring the right IT people.
Eric Scott Johnston