Article

Bridge builders with an analytical mindset: meet the ERP team

27 March 2024

ERPs have gained significant importance in recent years. But who are the individuals responsible for implementing these systems? What skills do they possess? We inquire about these aspects with a selection of our TriFinance experts. BCB Leader Management Information & Systems (MI&S) Serge Vigoureux, Managers Bert Delaere and Cosie Goudesone, along with ERP Project Managers Tim De Ryck and Lies Van der Goten, discuss the challenges that companies may encounter.

The team members have diverse educational backgrounds, predominantly in economics. Their professional trajectories are also diverse. What unites them is the desire to engage more functionally with ERP systems, rather than focusing on finance-centric tasks. BCB Leader Serge Vigoureux sums it up appropriately: "At Management Information & Systems, we aren't seeking IT professionals, but rather individuals with a functional background. They possess the talent to translate a client's reporting needs into a system and thereby achieve effective process optimization."

Developing a technically perfect system is relatively straightforward but it is crucial that management can derive insights from that system. It involves reporting but it also concerns the setup of the system itself.

Cosie Goudesone, Manager, MI&S TriFinance

Focus on ERP with an Integrated Approach

"We assist clients in optimizing their ERP systems," Cosie Goudesone says. "Developing a technically perfect system is relatively straightforward but it is crucial that management can derive insights from that system. They need to understand where the profit or loss originates and which segments are most promising. It involves reporting but it also concerns the setup of the system itself. It begins with the selection of software: making the right choice ensures seamless reporting thereafter."

TriFinance's approach focuses on getting companies to merge both facets into a single project. In addition to the ERP team, Management Information & Systems also has a team dedicated to data and analytics. "This enables us to guide the client, and shape the information pyramid," explains Goudesone. The Data & Analytics pyramid provides an overview of concepts for turning data into actionable insights: Data acquisition, engineering, management, analytics, and, at the top of the pyramid, data science. Depending on a data organization's maturity level, one or more of these concepts will apply. “TriFinance guiding the customer from A to Z provides peace of mind, as it's an integrated narrative where one party resolves everything.”

A culture of knowledge sharing

Characteristic of the ERP team is its flat organizational structure and a culture of knowledge sharing. "TriFinance is known for providing its people with many opportunities, and it's no different here," says Vigoureux. "We are very conscious of the steps team members want to take and try to align them with projects. This approach ensures that everyone works from intrinsic motivation, allowing them to utilize their strengths to the fullest extent.

The ERP team functions as an expert practice team. Through their focus, members accumulate knowledge and experience, which they then share with each other through various training sessions and meetings. "There's no knowledge protectionism here," notes Goudesone. This aligns with a pronounced open communication structure, where asking questions and maintaining a proactive attitude are encouraged.

Bert Delaere provides initiation training in SAP to Transition & Support colleagues, but he also serves as a manager. "I get a lot of energy from motivating and engaging people. Someone once asked me if I'm afraid others will soon know more about SAP than I do. The answer is ‘No!’, quite the opposite. It's actually enjoyable to see colleagues evolve."

Many organizations find that after implementing the software, the system technically functions but fails to generate the desired data and insights. That is really a common issue

Bert Delaere, Manager, MI&S TriFinance

Opportunities for Advancement

The team culture and TriFinance’s cultural in general foster opportunities for growth and advancement. "We can choose how we want to progress," explains Tim De Ryck. "Whether it's becoming an expert in a specific module or ERP package, or transitioning vertically towards more responsibilities in project management. There isn't a fixed growth trajectory; we're empowered to shape our own careers. Additionally, having a hunger for continuous learning is a key characteristic for excelling in this role."

"However, the 'get up or get out' method doesn't apply here," adds Goudesone. "If you're happy in your current position and not actively seeking a new role, that's perfectly fine."

The pitfalls of an ERP implementation

The team assists mid-market companies with decision-making centers in Belgium across various sectors. The need for support is real, as the business world faces numerous obstacles in ERP. "Many organizations find that after implementing the software, the system technically functions but fails to generate the desired data and insights. That is really a common issue," Bert Delaere says. "Or they continue to cling to their old ways of working, resulting in the new system underperforming," adds Project Manager Lies Van der Goten.

Goudesone also identifies some pitfalls. "Due to organic growth or acquisition, processes can become outdated. If you don't update them before implementing them in a new environment, you'll run into trouble. The same can happen during package selection. If you previously worked with, say, SAP and just continue with it, you may miss out on some advantages of Microsoft Dynamics 365 FnO, Infor M3, or Oracle. Companies that only partner with a technical provider often underestimate the time needed to test the software. Then you're pressed for time at go-live and may ultimately have spent a lot of money on an inferior system."

The systems don't have any secrets for us. The packages are roughly 80 percent similar, but it's that last 20 percent where you can make a difference. This allows us to always find the right match and challenge an implementer where necessary

Cosie Goudesone, Manager, MI&S TriFinance

System-Agnostic Translator-Interpreter

By enlisting the ERP team at TriFinance as an intermediary, companies can effectively overcome obstacles. Lies Van der Goten elaborates, "A software implementer may sometimes struggle to fully grasp an organization's needs. Conversely, employees within a company may not always understand the direction the technical partner intends to take. We comprehend both perspectives and ensure that the requirements are appropriately translated." However, the team never adopts an adversarial stance towards an implementer. Instead, it prioritizes collaboration and aspires to serve as a translator-interpreter.

"We ensure that our clients are well-prepared for every phase of the process, for every workshop," says De Ryck. "This way, they avoid delays, which occur in many cases." "Moreover, the systems don't have any secrets for us," adds Goudesone. "The packages are roughly 80 percent similar, but it's that last 20 percent where you can make a difference. This allows us to always find the right match and challenge an implementer where necessary."

An important point, according to Vigoureux. "We are system-agnostic and provide objective advice, backed by our experience and focused on the long term." Throughout the entire process, the Expert Practice team provides clients with a much-needed knowledge boost. "It's only logical that clients may not always have the resources to perform certain tasks or make crucial decisions," De Ryck asserts. Vigoureux agrees. "Employees at a client company may experience ERP implementation twice in their careers. We do it continuously. That's the difference."

Employees at a client company may experience ERP implementation twice in their careers. We do it continuously.

Serge Vigoureux, BCB Leader MI&S TriFinance

Bridge over troubled water

That the ERP team plays a role as bridge builders is beyond doubt. This is also the case within a company and its various departments. "Often, numerous departments are involved, and it's not uncommon for friction to arise," says Van der Goten. "In such cases, you become the bridge – and sometimes the conduit – between these individuals. Fortunately, as an external party, it's often easier to address and resolve any internal issues."

It is crucial for the team to not only consider what is best for Finance but also to assess the impact on and needs of other departments. Goudesone adds, "When you can bring people together and develop a solution through mutual agreement that works for everyone, you truly create added value."

Often, numerous departments are involved, and it's not uncommon for friction to arise. In such cases, you become the bridge – and sometimes the conduit – between these individuals

Lies Van der Goten, ERP Project Manager, MI&S TriFinance

People Skills

Considering their role as bridge builder, a successful ERP team member has a healthy dose of people and communication skills in addition to functional knowledge, an analytical mind, and a critical perspective. "We encounter various clients in different settings," Bert Delaere explains. "You need to be able to handle that, so you can consistently motivate everyone to fully participate in such a project."

"Also, you shouldn't be too easily shaken during a project," adds Goudesone, emphasizing another important personality trait. "I have yet to come across the first implementation that runs flawlessly. There's always some problem that arises. In such cases, it's essential to approach the situation with an open mind in search of a solution. If you combine that mindset with an understanding of economics and systems, and if you're not solely focused on numbers but truly want to be deeply involved in the business, then you're in the right place with us."