As mentioned in earlier blogs in this series, companies have a tendency to underestimate the scope of an ERP implementation and the amount of time and resources they will have to commit to the project. This misconception has only grown as more software providers offer programs for client self-directed implementations. Consider that an ERP system that will help you solve your business challenges, will interact with every functional area in your company and will have to be configured in such a way as to collaborate across those functional areas within the parameters of all your business processes. When looking at things from that perspective, it is probably apparent that an ERP implementation is a complex undertaking.
A good implementation partner, with industry and software specific experience, will have a proven strategy to ensure your implementation is successful. However, even the best implementation expert needs your input and support, because you are the expert when it comes to your company’s unique processes. The amount of your involvement in the ERP implementation is determined in part by your budgetary and resource constraints, but even when those constraints are irrelevant, it is generally a good practice to stay heavily involved so that you can take ownership of your system for the long term. The more involved you are during the process, and the better trained your company employees are, the more likely it is that the new system will become fully adopted and utilized. As a general rule, implementations tend to be successful when the implementation partner and client equally share in the time and effort involved.
At a high level, and in no particular order, some of the things to keep in mind for a successful implementation are:
Listen to your implementation partner: You are the expert in your business. Your implementation partner should be the expert in implementing the ERP system you chose. It makes sense to listen to the expert.
Choose your project team wisely: Yes, you should have a project team. This team should be headed by a project manager and management level employees of the various functional areas of your business. Additionally, there should be an executive sponsor with the authority to allow team members the time necessary to accomplish implementation tasks. It is also highly recommended to keep this team in place after go-live to push for adoption and ongoing improvement.
Stay on task and on schedule: The cause of many implementations that go over time and budget can be linked back to missed client tasks and cancelled meetings. While it is exceedingly difficult to have key employees focusing on an ERP implementation as opposed to daily core business activities, adhering to the established project plan is key to a timely and on-budget implementation.
Review your existing business processes: Implementing a new ERP system has the additional benefit of giving you the opportunity to review your current processes and make adjustments. Reviewing those processes early in the ERP implementation can save you time and headaches by avoiding last minute changes in the late implementation phases.
Allow yourself the time to get implementation done correctly: Be realistic about the time your internal team will be able to devote to the project. Realize that this is a complex undertaking that can have significant positive impact on your business and it is worthwhile to spend the time to get things done right. As a guideline, a simple implementation of core ERP functionality will likely take around six months, but very complex implementation projects can take a year or more to complete.
Pay special attention to procedures and documentation: In a well-designed implementation each functional area will go through a piloting phase in which the business processes and needs are detailed, and specific procedures are put in place to optimize use of the system. All too frequently the documentation of these procedures is neglected. When this happens, end-users are often not prepared for the changes they need to assimilate, not to mention the difficulties that arise in training new employees.
Unfortunately, ERP systems sometimes don’t deliver the expected results, or the implementation may fail entirely. This can be due to the software, the provider, the implementer, the client or some combination of those factors. If you’ve been following along with this blog series and choose the right software and partner while also putting together the right internal team and setting the right expectations, you increase the probability of optimizing your ERP utilization. However, making it to “go-live” isn’t the end of the road. In my next blog, I’ll be discussing what you should be doing once you’re up and running on your new ERP.