An effective enterprise resource planning system is essential for any company hoping to be successful in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive environment. Certain challenges are common in ERP implementations. By anticipating these, organizations can look forward to successful implementations.
Carefully assess the solution fit for your organization and evaluate infrastructure readiness
There are hundreds of ERP systems, each with its unique strengths and weaknesses. Some work well on premises; some work only in the cloud. Some provide deep functionality for a few industries while others provide a broad footprint but little specialization. Some offer the best of all worlds, with broad functionality augmented by extensions built by knowledgeable partners that also provide implementation services.
Whatever ERP system an organization decides on, it should have a flexible architecture that allows it to change as the organization changes. Organizations don’t want to repeat the search and implementation process again in a few years because the chosen solution can’t grow and change with business and industry requirements.
Set realistic expectations and have a migration strategy in place
Since almost every company has an ERP system, the assumption is that ERP is easy. Businesses also frequently assume that replicating their existing procedures in new ERP solutions will somehow make them more efficient, more accurate and more profitable. It is important to set realistic expectations.
An ERP system is the backbone of the organization, and its capabilities affect every aspect of the business. Successfully implementing a system with such far‑reaching consequences is not without risk or effort. Be prepared to commit to the ERP project with challenging work and high levels of change management.
Companies should also assume that if they are purchasing an out-of-the-box ERP solution, the built-in workflows are already used in thousands of organizations. They work. They reflect best practices. By adopting standard procedures rather than attempting to replicate existing processes, the ERP implementation will be faster and more successful.
Garner commitment of top management to the program
Management must make the implementation a priority for the company and provide the time and resources to accomplish the project.
It is imperative that management recognizes that the ERP implementation will be a companywide priority for the life of the implementation project. However, ERP implementation should serve as an enabler for a change management initiative across the organization.
It can be tempting to tweak the new ERP system to match existing procedures more closely or to streamline an existing process, but this temptation should be avoided. The new system consists of proven processes, and every effort should be made to use them out-of-the-box and choose customizations only if the current process is a true business differentiator that adds real value.
Customizations can be expensive to maintain, and they may limit flexibility to upgrade in the future. This alone is a valid reason to limit the number and scale of customizations.
Establish the project’s scope and ensure blueprint and KPI signoff
Be very clear about ERP project scope from the start and make sure everyone has signed off on the implementation plan. Understand what is included in the project and what is out of scope. Adding new functionality, additional modules and business processes midway through the implementation can cause project delays and will increase costs.
Make sure both the company and the implementation partner are clear from the outset what is to be delivered, and stick to the original plan as much as possible.
Provide adequate training
You can’t have a successful implementation without adequate key user training, user acceptance testing and implementation go-live support.
Don’t assume that training just a few people will be enough. The train-the-trainer concept is valid, but this should not be the only training. There is no such thing as too much training, so budget more than you think you’ll need, and be sure training is a line item in the budget for future years. Ensure that new hires and the core team receive training and that the core team keeps up to date on new additions to the software.
Allocate dedicated resources
The core team should be dedicated to the ERP project. It is an excellent idea to bring in project-specific resources. Key project decisions should be made through collaboration with the in-house team to ensure accuracy, acceptance and understanding.
Secure resources with related project management skills
Organizations should bring in experienced project resources with expertise in the chosen system to augment the in-house team.
Even if there is in-house talent with project management skills, remember that not all projects are alike. Remember, ERP will be in every area of the business, and the project will require broad business and technical expertise.
Keeping these eight tips in mind can help ensure ERP implementation success. Most importantly, before choosing a new ERP solution, an organization should make sure the implementation partner can match the organization’s business processes and business requirements to the chosen ERP solution. Understanding the business and systems “fit” will be key to determining the size and scale of the ERP project.
Choosing an experienced, qualified implementation partner is also key — one that can provide quality references from existing customers in the industry. These customers have been through the challenges of ERP implementation and are satisfied, so organizations can learn from their experience.