Bring Your ERP Into the 21st Century

SVP of HR Roxanne Klein provides a look into the quest to implement a new ERP system company-wide at Knoll

When furniture and textile company Knoll saw the need to revitalize its enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform, everyone from IT to human resources took part in the search for a new system that would not only be scalable but also easily implemented across Knoll’s many businesses.

Roxanne Klein Knoll
Roxanne Klein, KnollPhoto: Jeremy Saladyga

Knoll began the long, arduous search for the ideal replacement for its ERP system. Eventually, the search led them to Oracle, a cloud-based system that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to anticipate the needs of its users. Roxanne Klein, senior vice president for human resources at Knoll, takes Profile behind the curtain of the Oracle implementation.

The Search

Knoll’s existing system was implemented many years ago and had been so specifically customized to the business that it eventually became ineligible for upgrades. The company had to create its own team of experts. “It had become more urgent for the business to make the system change,” Klein says.

While Klein wasn’t directly involved in the search process, she recalls a number of stakeholders taking part in a years-long search to find the right ERP software to update the existing platform. Companies like SAP and many others were considered, with the executive team sponsoring the search and getting heavily involved in the process. IT and business leaders received demos and talked through the capabilities and functionality of each process.

Eventually, their eyes turned to Oracle. “There are a lot of great systems out there,” Klein says, “and Oracle seemed to be the right platform for us.” While the system had a lot to offer, Klein notes one of its greatest strengths is its scalability. “We have brought together many businesses over the years,” she notes, “but we haven’t leveraged the back-end integration of these business processes the way we could have.”

Because Oracle is so easily applied to enterprises of all sizes with little loss in compatibility, Knoll saw it as an ideal platform to implement.

The Implementation

Despite Oracle’s scalability and ease of use, the early days of its implementation into Knoll’s ERP carried no shortage of challenges. Their first test into one of Knoll’s smaller businesses “faced tremendous challenges,” according to Klein. “We didn’t address the change management [aspect],” she says. The team overcustomized Oracle to that specific business instead of using more of its out-of-the-box functionality. “We didn’t make it better; we just took our current business processes and dropped them into our new system.”

Klein joined the finance and procurement team during the next implementation, with hopes of putting a fresh pair of eyes on the problem. A twelve-year veteran of the company with decades of HR experience in a variety of different industries, Klein immediately saw the need for HR to take a more direct role in the implementation process. “The team was really struggling; the role of change management was not well understood,” she notes. She also saw the challenging dynamics at play in the project’s team meetings.

Of the implementation’s newfound success, Klein credits Knoll CEO Andrew B. Cogan for recognizing when problems arose and asking for help moving the process forward. “Oracle’s a great system,” she asserts, “but at the end of the day, it’s not simply the tool; it’s the talented people and their commitment to making it work that makes all the difference.”

To that end, Klein and her team identified gaps in process and communication and came up with activities to bring people into a more streamlined, cooperative process. Eventually, she landed on “a team that started working really well together,” Klein says. She also helped select and hire a new chief information and technology officer, Usman Waheed, who brings a wealth of ERP experience to Knoll. Waheed demonstrates the same level of commitment to supporting the team and understands how critical change management is in a business transformation like this.

The Results

Since these changes, the momentum for Knoll’s ERP implementation process has continued to build, and the team is thrilled with the results. One particular coup was seeing the smooth implementation of Oracle into Knoll’s order management system—a scary phase of the project because it’s so customer facing. “It could not have gone better,” Klein notes, the change going through without “any complaints from customers and partners.”

Currently, Knoll is preparing to implement Oracle into its manufacturing systems, which Klein hopes will go as smoothly as order management. Throughout the process, Deloitte has partnered with Knoll and to ensure the implementation of Oracle goes as smoothly as possible.  It’s something Klein is particularly grateful for. “Picking the right external partner and committing your top talent to a project is the key to successful initiatives like this,” she says.

As Knoll continues to integrate with Oracle, Klein is thrilled by the possibilities for growth, modernization, and business transformation this upgrade presents the company. “This should give our team the right tools to continue to improve the business.”