Outsourcing Risk in Modernisation Programmes: A Cautionary Tale

In the niche domain of Commodity Trading and Risk Management (CTRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, modernisation is more than a buzzword—it’s the cornerstone of operational agility and strategic advantage. Yet, as companies embark on the intricate journey of upgrading these critical systems, the temptation to outsource the accompanying risks can be a risky proposition in itself. Here’s a deep dive into why transferring the risks of a CTRM and ERP modernisation programme to external parties may not be the panacea it seems.

The Allure of Outsourcing in CTRM & ERP Projects 🧲

CTRM and ERP systems sit at the heart of organisational operations, integrating complex trading functions with financial reporting, supply chain management, and other core business processes. Implementing these systems is a monumental task, and the notion of outsourcing risk to seasoned vendors who promise a smooth transition is attractive. These vendors bring specialised expertise and resources, theoretically reducing the likelihood of disruption during the modernisation process.

Unpacking the Outsourcing Paradox 📦

However, the intricacies of CTRM and ERP systems mean that outsourcing can sometimes obscure rather than clarify the risk landscape. While the responsibility for delivery may be contracted out, the ultimate risk often remains within the organisation, transmuted into other forms that can be just as daunting.

Control and Customisation Concerns

CTRM and ERP systems are deeply customised to fit unique organisational needs. Outsourcing risks diluting the control needed to ensure that the modernisation aligns with specific business requirements and processes. External vendors may lack the granular understanding of the company’s unique trading environment, leading to a system that doesn’t fully resonate with the intricacies of the organisation’s operations.

The Communication Quagmire

The complexity of CTRM and ERP systems necessitates clear, consistent communication. Outsourcing introduces multiple layers between those who understand the business and those who are configuring the systems. Each layer can distort the message, leading to a modernisation outcome that veers off course.

Compliance and Quality Quandaries

Compliance is a critical component of CTRM and ERP systems, particularly in heavily regulated industries. External vendors may not have the same level of commitment or understanding of the compliance needs specific to the trading sector, potentially leading to non-compliance and associated penalties. Additionally, the quality of work is not guaranteed to meet the high standards required for such complex system integrations.

Dependency and Knowledge Erosion

Outsourcing can create an over-dependency on vendors, potentially eroding internal knowledge and capabilities. Once the modernisation is complete, organisations may find themselves without the in-house expertise to manage or evolve their new systems effectively.

Embracing In-House Expertise for CTRM & ERP Modernisation 🔍

While external expertise can complement the modernisation process, retaining a significant in-house element is often critical for success:

  • Knowledge Preservation: An in-house focus ensures that the detailed knowledge of the CTRM and ERP systems’ intricacies remains embedded within the company.
  • Strategic Congruence: Internal teams are better positioned to align the modernisation with the strategic vision, ensuring that the new system supports future growth and innovation.
  • Direct Oversight: Close management of the project allows for immediate adjustments, fostering a modernisation that truly reflects the organisation’s needs.

Striking the Right Balance ⚖️

Outsourcing aspects of a CTRM and ERP modernisation programme can offer value, but it should never equate to a wholesale transfer of risk. It is crucial to maintain a hands-on approach with rigorous governance, transparent communication, and stringent quality assurance measures in place. Cultivating a partnership model with vendors, where they are seen as an extension of the internal team, can help in sharing the risks more effectively.

The Takeaway

In the delicate realm of CTRM and ERP system modernisation, the outsourcing of risk is a nuanced affair. The path to a successful upgrade is paved with shared responsibilities, not transferred ones. Companies must navigate this journey with a clear strategy that embraces the complexity of their systems, manages the associated risks with wisdom, and retains a focus on the core competencies that drive their trading operations.

Modernising these systems is not just about keeping pace with technology—it’s about seizing control of the company’s digital destiny. In this endeavour, understanding and mastering risk, rather than outsourcing it, becomes the hallmark of a truly resilient and forward-thinking organisation.

A thorough review involves all stakeholders and covers all aspects of the project, from initial planning to final delivery. It’s an opportunity for honest reflection and learning, ensuring that the knowledge gained from the project’s challenges and triumphs is not lost.

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About the Author

Jason Novobranec is Implementary’s Chief Operating Officer.

With over 20 years of Consulting, Program Management & Senior Leadership experience, Jason has delivered initiatives for large multi-national / multi-regional organisations as well as SME’s and is an expert in shaping solutions to fit a customer’s project needs.