The Implementation Of Erp At Tektronix Information Technology Essay

The Tektronix Inc: Global case study is a classic example of a case where an iconic leader with his team of motivated leaders and sponsors manages change by empowering and guiding people. Even though the ERP project was not an easy task, clear focus, planning and the executive push from the top meant the project was executed on a priority and various challenges tackled at the right time. In addition, the accomplishment of an ERP normally considered as a biggest information system project ever completed by a corporation (Whitten et al., 2000, Ehie and Madsen, 2005, Vlachopoulou and Manthou, 2006, Hitt et al., 2002). This case study also highlights the crucial role that business processes and business process reengineering play in the success of a global organisation. Additionally what is remarkable is the successful international implementation and rollout across divisions and geographies. Lets look at the various aspects of the ERP rollout at Tektronix one by one.

The biggest challenge for any such initiative or a project is the management of change and the associated people management for such a large transformation project. This is in line with Grabski and Leech (2007) view that implementation of an ERP and associated BPR is not unchallenging. However, Carl Neun seems to manage this change as a true leader who is experienced and aware of challenges of change management (Westerman et al., 1999). Change management is a planned approach to causing people to accept transitions to develop operations (Joyce, 2000). Lets look at the change aspect of the project first and how the transformation from a legacy system to new generation ERP was successfully run. I am using the framework based of Harvard Business Review on ‘Leading through Change’. In John P Kotter’s (1995) article on ‘Why Transformations fail’, he highlights the eight steps to successful transformation of a organization as:

Establishing a sense of Urgency

Neun being an experienced CFO and an able leader knew that in order for the project to succeed and to link up the organization with an ERP system and create an ecosystem where information was available needed a sense of urgency to be created. He understood that for Tektronix to move forward and to invest and divest in various businesses, it needed to be connected via an information system else the company was headed for disaster. As Grabski and Leech (2007) stated that one approach to overcome this issue is investing in advanced information system, such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, to improve the business competitiveness. Moreover, the dwindling financial performance was a factor to create the sense of urgency required. The impetus from Roy Barker’s goal to double the printer business and also the realisation that the printer business would be volume game created the urgency for Tektronix to be ready with an IT system that would support growth.

Forming a powerful guiding coalition

Neun and his senior management team were the powerful guiding coalition that was assembled by the CEO. In the case study it is mentioned that the CEO had given Neun the unlimited authority on implementation and the buck stopped with Neun with regards to the ERP implementation. Neun then selected his long time associate Bob Vance as the CIO. Along with the business justification from Roy Barker, the team become a powerful guiding coalition and the individuals worked together as a great a team.

Creating a vision

Carl Neun knew his end goal was to create an organisation where information was readily available and could be shared easily. He wanted to simplify the complexity and address change by removing archaic processes and systems. Neun’s ‘Frankfurt is Orlando’ analogy was the vision of the project. It highlighted that the business all over the world was similar barring language and certain local legal requirements. To support this, Bingi et al. (2002) believed that Integration through ERP systems allows organizations to share information in a standard format across its various divisions both in the headquarter and in its global offices, with no modifications for language and currency differences needed. Carl very clearly expanded his vision toward the implementation as with three components of a) separability of businesses b) leveraging shared services c) staying plain vanilla as possible, as alterations could lead to budget and time overruns, defective functionality (Sumner, 2000). Standardising the business processes was a key component of Carl’s vision and he was focussed to ensure that complex processes were simplified to the maximum possible extent.

Communicating the vision

The vision was communicated first by getting the business heads such as Barker to back the plan. Once he had raised the concerns other managers and senior managers joined in the cause. Carl and Vance took the lead to communicate the vision by first explaining their ideas of the simplified architecture of the transformed information system. They also took pain to simplify and push for standardisation. The idea of starting with implementation at CPID and then moving onto other divisions also gave the opportunity for the learning’s at one place to be applied to the next one, as noted by Rogers (1995) that the adoption of a new system will follow an S curve by having innovator or early adopter organisations taking the lead, followed by early majority, late majority adopters, then at last laggards.

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This approach helped to teach the new behaviours as the guiding coalition was at the forefront of the change and were leading by example.

Empowering others to act on the vision

The key component for empowering others to change include a) ‘Getting rid of obstacles to change b) Changing systems and structures that seriously undermine change c) Encouraging risk taking and non-traditional ideas, activities and actions’.

As identified by Ahadi (2006) as the change management effectiveness in the organisation. He asserts that the ability of the organisation to authorize employees, appraise performance, apply reward systems, conduct training and education and facilitate communication during the process of change is crucial. Carl Neun was empowered by the CEO to take the project through and the empowerment trickled down to the level of execution. This allowed the CIO and his team to put extra people, fire people who were acting as hindrance to the implementation. In addition the team structure put in place and the roles ensured that the projects in various geographies rolled up together very well in a coherent way. The key hindrance to success was lack of financial information and Carl Neun took the right steps to simplify the business processes and reduce disparities across the world and then put in the ERP system, which would enable the change. He shuffled the European organisation structure and changed it to commission basis as it would allow for the changes to be made swiftly and removal of the country managers helped the cause further.

Planning for a creating Short Term wins

The key to success of the Tektronix ERP implementation was the implementation of the project in waves. The concept of allowing the project to be implemented in waves did in turn create short-term wins where people and teams could see things were working. Not only did implementing the project in waves allowed for it to be implemented well but also allowed the learning from previous waves to be carried out into further projects. That is allowing what is known as ‘windows of opportunity’ (Tyre and Orlikowski, 1994) to develop where the users would discover novel and better ways to carry out their daily work after implementation which could be fed back to the global group in other divisions.

Consolidating improvements and producing still more change

Once the first wave was successful the leadership team kept moving in to implement the changes across the organisation and across geographies. The credibility that came from implementing the first wave was used to push forward the further waves as the momentum picked up as things started to work. One very interesting aspect was the Neun and Vance decision to use consulting support for the implementation of the project. I think it was a great idea that saved the internal teams and people coordinating the project valuable time that would have been spent learning the nuances of Oracle ERP, as argued by Olsen and Saetre (2007) that the users of an ERP system may not fully be familiar with system and thus utilise it. It took the right call by allowing the firm that developed an interface between it’s manufacturing system and oracle to give it the rights to sell/license the interface.

All these successful implementations of the one wave after another gave the momentum to keep pushing the change further and ensuring that the change agents were constantly at work on the key vision of Frankfurt is Orlando. The learning from every wave was useful and the managers were quick on their feet. They consolidated improvement to produce change and whatever was not working in a wave was changed and the successful behaviour then became a part of the next wave. For instance when the consulting firm called into help CPID was not helping, they quickly moved onto a combination of Aris, Oracle and other consultants to speed up the lost time. The project management team teamed up consultants with Tektronix staff who took the charge of business change while the consultants were given the responsibility to deal with system deals.

The case clearly illustrates how the first wave was used to consolidate improvements and produce further change. ‘While the implementation at CPID took a little longer than expected, it was considered successful. With this first domestic implementation, Tektronix was able to learn powerful lessons, build internal skills, and establish practices that helped with all of future implementation waves.

Institutionalising new approaches

The new business processes were thoroughly discussed before being implemented in different decisions and catered to the individual needs of each business unit. The senior team at each business unit understood the needs of the business unit and institutionalised the new approaches to doing business.

Large scale project implementation and strategic alignment

Tektronix managed a large-scale project very well despite lots of previous difficulties with regards to implementing other IT projects. However this one was a success because of the understanding and the vision of Neun and Vance to ensure that the business processes were simplified, as Hammer (1990) stated that the projects’ success involving companies investing in IT to develop their business, was usually not attained as the IT was only used to expedite existing processes. This process of alignment of the IT strategy and Business strategy is key to successful performance for any organisation as highlighted in the MIT90S (Scott Morton, 1991) and Strategic Alignment Models (SAM) (Henderson and Venkatraman, 1992). SAM suggests that for firms to be competitive, business and information strategies need to aligned (Avison et al., 2004).

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Henderson and Venkatraman (1992) have clearly demarcated the various domains in their strategic alignment model as shown below in the figure. They have highlighted the importance of internal and external perspectives and how the strategic fit between these aspects influences the competitiveness of firms. The key perspective that comes of the SAM is the straightforward relation between Business strategy and Business Infrastructure and IT strategy and IT infrastructure and processes. Also the cross dimensional alignment between Business Strategy and IT Infrastructure, IT strategy and Business Infrastructure and Processes is key to competitiveness.

Fig 1: Strategic Alignment Model (Source: Henderson and Venkatraman, 1992)

Looking at the case study it becomes apparent that Carl Neun understood the principle of a successful global organisation and his vision clearly brought together the functional integration as well as cross dimensional alignments. He knew that business processes needed to be reengineered first. As Skok and Legge (2002) acknowledged that the success of an ERP implementation is attained with preceding implementation of BPR. Accordingly, the business processes needed to be simplified and then the appropriate IT infrastructure and IT systems and processes to be put in place to get the benefits that Tektronix was seeking from the IT alignment.

The strategy of implementing the project in waves was crucial to the success of the project and also the project team structure was the right structure for successful implementation of such a large project. Looking at the project management strategy, I feel that the team structure of Neun being the Project sponsor and Vance spending considerable time on the project in detail was very important. The local implementation was the guiding factor on how to move ahead with the implementation even though the global implementation had its own challenges as argued by Ross (1999), that overabundance of distinct and independent systems in different parts of the organisation impeding globalization.

Program management and giving team members the authority and power to decide on the critical aspects that affected their business the most was a smart project management decision. I am particularly impressed by the structure at the local implementation where for each wave there were functional experts, change control team, Functional sub team and most importantly the test team. Each wave at the different business units had its peculiarity and different business processes depending on the structure and the need of the individual business units.

If we look at the role of Functional experts who were allocated to each wave to ensure that all the essential knowledge and remained with the implementation teams till the final wave. As it has been highlighted that this led to postponement of some initiatives because other initiatives also depended on the availability of the most knowledgeable resources. I believe that this was the right strategy even though that led to delay of initiatives that were to be started; the waves that were on were implemented successfully. The project and program management of Neun and Vance must be commended, as they understood that they could not afford delays in projects. All project management is a delicate balance of the resources, time and cost as sides of a triangle. Affecting one has impact on the others. So when the projects were facing delays the management did not shy in putting in more consultants on the project. The team structure of leaving the system aspects to external consultants was a good decision as it freed up the business people and Tektronix experts to focus on the business processes and the knowledge aspect rather than having to understand the deep technical aspects or the architectural nuances of the ERP system.

Software selection and extending the software functionality

Tektronix has already seen the worse effects of the ‘not invented here’ with regards to the software and infrastructure solutions. Neun made the right call with going for the Oracle ERP solution. Neun understood the outsourcing advantage and also the core competency of Tektronix was not at developing software solution. He left the development of the software and implementation to the right experts. Vance took the right decision with regards to the manufacturing ERP and leaving it in place. Had the manufacturing system been taken off and Oracle ERP components used, then it would have been a challenge as the people in manufacturing who had recently undergone a systems change would be swamped by the next change wave and would feel unsettled. I think this was the best decision taken to get an external company to do the interface between manufacturing ERP and the Oracle ERP.

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Vance and Neun also did not waste eons of time on deciding the alternatives and which ERP package to select. Such evaluation programs usually cost organisations lots of money and they highlight trivial differences between the best of the breed packages. The decision taken to go ahead with the oracle implementation, as the team was Neun and Vance had experience of working with Oracle and knew that the oracle solution would cater to the needs. The idea of using a small dedicated team that focussed on the capabilities of what Oracle could do and the time they spent upfront on ensuring that Oracle could do what was required for Tektronix shows the discipline and focus from top to bottom to get a solution working for the organisation.

Another laudable aspect of the software implementation was the plain vanilla approach adopted by the Neun. His understanding that software adaptation and customisation not only costs money and time but also introduces other behaviours that need to regression tested showed a mature thinking with regards to software customisation and development . Instead he focussed on simplifying and adapting the business processes such that they could be realised in the plain vanilla implementation of the software. Only in special and rare cases was customisation allowed and then also where customisation was done, the teams were dedicated to rigorous testing and testing with full load scenarios to ensure that the customisation did not introduce any unintended errors and behaviours. Nevertheless, Markus et al’s (2000) studies of businesses implementing ERP observed that some adjustments to the system were unnecessary after the users began using it more effectively.

The implementation move to using Aris and Oracle consultants once the Tektronix team were sure on what sort of consultants were useful showed the ability of the business and implementation leaders to take the best decisions for the business. They cut out the slack and unnecessary admin overheads related to evaluating consultants, interviewing and employing them. The idea to use consultants on a time and material basis was a smart idea on keeping the project on time. Use of low cost resources and contractors kept the project costs in rein and the putting of extra consultants on waves where a delay could occur, shows dedication and commitment to ensure roll outs happen in time and are successful for the projects.

Replicating this success to the international level and using the waves methodology is commendable. The project team and execution structure for the international project was exemplary. The idea to do away with the country managers and keep a simple structure as the global structure was exemplary for the global project management. In fact selection of individuals who had long term ties and understanding of the global regions was the right approach taken by the program management team.

Also the idea to create a central processing centre in Marlow was an excellent idea towards consolidation. Keeping English as the language of communication for the company was a sensible decision that fast tracked the implementation. Personally I feel that the brilliant job done at customisation for the printing of bills and local communication was hitting the nail on the head in terms of implementation. At the time when the project was implemented localisation was still picking up as a technology domain and would have taken much longer than expected.

The consolidation of the infrastructure was another bold move which was taken by Vance; outsourcing the data centres completely freed the valuable resources and the company could focus on the core work of making the implementation a success. It was exemplary how they managed to pull off the whole thing together as a success. The results were satisfactory and when the people quoted that they spent 90% of their time just collecting data and only 10% analysing it. The whole situation changed after then implementation as people spent 90% of their time analysing information which was the core purpose of the implementation was to make information readily available and convert data into information. The Tektronix team did an excellent job.


I believe that the job was successful and what Tektronix needs to do for further implementations and such large programs is to keep the spirit and the learning’s from the Oracle ERP implementation. One area that they need to pay a lot of attention would be the evolving business process framework and pay special attention to the management of Business processes. Going further in time with complex business needs and changing customer requirements and global environments would require Tektronix to adapt the business processes and if Tektronix paid special attention to keeping the business process framework up to date and then use it to drive the software changes it will keep things in control. The best way to do so would be to have process owners and process sponsors who are in charge of maintaining and consulting the stakeholders on process changes and then keep the process architecture of the organisation updated. This will ensure all further projects could experience similar success if the right team structure and leaders are engaged.

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