Four Steps to Successfully Renovate Publishing ERP Systems

In a recent blog, we reported on a 2021 update to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant analysis, where they stated among other things that ”by 2023, organizations that have successfully renovated their ERP platforms will achieve at least a 40% improvement in IT agility to deliver business outcomes.”

That is a significant observation, but for a publishing industry that is increasingly dependent on technology, it is more than just a noteworthy goal. It could be a lifeline. So if you accept their statement at face value, how can publishers go about meeting that goal?

There are obviously many ways to execute this kind of project, and it’s worth identifying a few simple rules to executing it well. We have summarized them in four basic steps that we outline below, and will briefly discuss the “do’s” and “don’ts” of each one. The four steps involve careful identification and choice of :

  • Your current and future requirements
  • A software solution that fits those needs
  • A competent implementation partner
  • A strong operational partner

These steps may at first seem perfectly obvious, but they conceal many opportunities to fail. Let’s review each one in a little more detail:

Your Current and Future Requirements

The identification of your information and workflow requirements is the critical first step, and the companies that do this well have a much better chance of finding a future-proof solution that meets Gartner’s target.  It involves creating a definition document and from that, a Request for Proposal (RFP).

  • The creation of an RFP should not be handed off to just one person. You need a good mix of “old-hands” and newcomers with unconventional ideas. It is a mix of management and staff from all affected areas as this group will form the basis of your implementation team.
  • Make sure to set a separate schedule and budget for this part of the process.
  • Define the goals and the scope, be clear about what is OUT of scope, and understand just as clearly, why the project is being undertaken at all.
  • Describe each affected business workflow, as-is and to-be, and prioritize them according to effort and importance to the goal. Note: this is NOT a list of software features.
  • Take careful note of roles and responsibilities and access rights of the individuals and departments involved, and what internal and external interfaces are required. For marketing and audience building purposes, externally-sourced data is just as important as data collected from internal systems.
  • Define where the solution should be available on different devices, mobile or otherwise.
  • Create a glossary of terms, to facilitate the task of talking to prospective partners and to avoid misunderstandings later.

A Software Solution that fits those needs

Having carefully defined your current and future needs, you are ready to talk to potential software partners that can help you fulfill them. Our recent Whitepaper on How to Conduct an RFP can help you find potential suppliers. Obviously, the best solutions to any particular company’s needs will depend on the unique requirements defined in the RFP, but there are several factors that apply in every case:

  • It’s important to remember the issue of future viability and what is the risk that potential solutions may be near end-of-life, or where connection to newly emerging solutions may entail significant modifications or customization to the base software.
  • For instance, Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Business Central system has been continuously developed with seamless integration to external systems as a core concept, and so a wide variety of automation and AI tools can be easily integrated, as well as necessary tools such as MS Office, or collaboration tools such as MS Teams can be easily added.
  • The ability to upgrade to new releases without excessive costs and disruption is a critical requirement that is important to all ERP users. It’s necessary to maintain the ability to install new software versions that often provide access to important new business models and opportunities. This capability comes as a result of the multi-billion dollar commitment to product research and development that Microsoft and other global providers make, resulting in a worldwide user base of hundreds of thousands of companies.

knkPublishing software, which is focused solely on the publishing industry, is based on Microsoft Dynamics, and is built using Microsoft standards, taking advantage of the facilities that Microsoft provides for continuous improvement and easy upgrades. We believe that customers want to be able to deploy innovations quickly and easily and to be confident that their investment in our software is future-proofed, because the ability to keep up with new technology is unquestionably a key success factor in the media and publishing industry.

A Competent Implementation Partner

The introduction of a new enterprise software solution in a publishing house is an extremely demanding task, but also one that can be accomplished given the right preparation and execution. Common problems include poor methodologies in scheduling and budgeting, in resource planning and in failing to give the project team insufficient authority. General solutions include:

  • Getting experienced and qualified employees on board as early as possible.
  • Drawing on experiences and lessons learned from projects that have already been completed. Analyzing what went particularly well – or particularly poorly.
  • Too much optimism in project planning can be fatal. Plan buffers for schedules and budgets.
  • Setting up a dedicated change and risk management system from the beginning. Record every change in the project scope and address potential risks during the planning phase.
  • Defining clear roles and responsibilities within the project. Make allowances for staff absences. Realistically estimate personnel workloads outside the project.
  • Avoiding overly large work teams or over-staffing to keep the complexity of the project down so that the budget is not unnecessarily inflated.
  • Giving project management clear decision-making authority. Create an environment in which project management can openly discuss obstacles, possible delays or additional costs with all project participants at any time.

The software vendor should be the first place to look for experienced project implementations staff. Make sure to evaluate their capabilities. It’s common to encounter the terms “authorized reseller” or “certified provider” but make sure these accolades are meaningful.  knkPublishing, for example is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, the highest of three levels of certification of Microsoft partners, and is the only Microsoft-certified software for the publishing industry globally. It means that such partners are always up to date (and recertified annually) and in the case of knk, it stands for professional and consulting expertise from many years of experience in project and change management. Our Whitepaper on the subject of “Successfully Designing IT Projects and Minimizing Risk” can help clarify the issues to embrace – and some to avoid.

A Strong Operational Partner

Most ERP solutions today are implemented in the cloud, although it is still possible to operate in an on-premise mode when desired. knkPublishing offers both alternatives. The cloud offers significant advantages over on-premise operation, not least of which are the abilities to access state-of-the-art applications and expertise that would not otherwise be available, to scale usage up and down as required, to provide better security and disaster recovery, and obviously, to avoid all the costs of infrastructure that are necessary with an on-premise implementation. For a more complete analysis of the benefits of moving to cloud computing, see our blog on the subject here.

Microsoft’s Azure is, in addition to being one of the largest global providers of cloud services, is also the leading proponent of Sustainable cloud services. Cloud Services consume enormous quantities of power and emit heat on a grand scale. Microsoft Azure is building all new data centers in cold climates, is using only renewable sources of energy and has aggressive quantified targets for all sustainability metrics.  For more details on the subject of Sustainability in cloud computing and Azure’s leading role, follow this link.

Trusted Gold-Certified Microsoft Partners, such as knk, are helping publishers deploy secure, scalable and modern applications by taking full advantage of Microsoft’s stack of integrated applications, their long-term investment in product research and development, and the many advantages provided by the Azure platform, in order to provide more future-proofed support for publishing business systems.