The benefits of a new ERP system are multi-fold – simplified processes, greater visibility, improved traceability and accountability, increased efficiency and reduced costs to name but a few – but implementing ERP is a huge undertaking for any business. Whether it’s an upgrade or a completely new system, there will be challenges to overcome at each stage of the process. However, that’s not to say that a smooth implementation is impossible. I want to demonstrate how, with the right planning, the right ERP partner and the right approach, businesses can ensure they are ideally placed for a smooth and successful implementation.
Here are my first 5 tips to streamline the process:
- Identify your Business Objectives
Implementing ERP is all about adding value to your business and, as such, an ERP project needs to be driven by your business strategy. Before embarking on an ERP implementation you need to clearly define your post implementation objectives. Not only will this lead to better decision making during implementation, it will also help to get key decision makers on your side. Knowing what you want to achieve also minimizes the risk of crossed wires between you and the vendor, making the whole implementation process smoother and more efficient.
- Manage Existing Data
An ERP system is only as good as the data you put into it, and collecting the required data from your previous system or systems is arguably the most time consuming stage of an implementation. When upgrading or moving from one ERP to another, the relevant data should be easily found within the current system. However, if the data is being extracted from several disparate sources such as Microsoft Excel, accounting software and CRM software, it needs to be found before it can be extracted and inputted into the new system. These disparate systems will most likely create files in different formats which will need to be converted for the ERP system, or entered manually. Although this process can be time consuming, it is essential to a successful ERP implementation.
ERP implementation requires detailed planning. We’ve all read the stories of failed ERP deployment projects. More often than not, these failures can be attributed to businesses overlooking the planning stage. The ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ all need to be considered for minimal disruption to your business. Including the vendor in your process mapping can be very helpful as it will assist your project managers in defining roles and responsibilities.
- Learn to Manage Resistance
Resistance is to be expected when any changes take place in a business, but when embarking on a project on the scale of ERP implementation, you should prepare for even greater resistance. Staff will be unsure of the impact an ERP system will have on their day-to-day duties, so it’s vital to proactively promote the benefits of the ERP implementation at an early stage. Explain the rationale behind the implementation, how it will save money and, most of all, how the new system will improve the working lives of your staff. Assure them that adequate training will be provided and that they aren’t expected to adapt to the new system overnight.
- Establish Clear Roles
Every ERP implementation needs a dedicated implementation team. The difference between a strong team and weak team can be a successful ERP implementation project or one that struggles to get off the ground. Each team member needs to have the right attitude and personality, as well as the appropriate level of technical skills and knowledge to ensure the system works for the business. Choose people based on their competencies, not on their job title. It’s a common mistake for companies to just select the management team, but often they are too busy and don’t actually know how all the grassroots processes work. Ensure that every member of your implementation team is clear about their role and responsibilities.