10 Tips to Ensure ERP Implementation Success
By Ashley Ellington
Most business owners are aware of the need to upgrade their legacy business systems, as well as the business benefits of cloud ERP. However, very often the fear of implementation failure and lack of confidence around which new software system to choose is stalling their decision to upgrade to modern or cloud-based ERP.
As a trusted ERP implementation partner, the responsibility falls upon us to not only inform and encourage you about the real value of cloud ERP, but also to highlight the potential implementation pitfalls to prepare for. Thankfully, these can easily be avoided if you know what to look out for, ensuring go-live is a success.
Here are ten top tips on what to look out for if you are considering pursuing ERP implementation as part of your digital transformation strategy.
1. Choose the right partner
It is with good reason that I put this right at the top of this list, as who you choose as your implementation partner can make or break an ERP implementation project.
Aside from possessing the requisite technical and business expertise, you want people who are honest and upfront with you on what is feasible and what is not; people who can deliver on every aspect of what they have committed to.
You also want an implementation partner who is pleasant to work with as they will be working in your offices with your employees for weeks or months at a time during the implementation phase.
How to fix it: Research is key. Without sufficient research it is difficult to know if you’ve chosen the right ERP solution or if your implementation partner is capable of delivering on their promises. Look around when deciding on the right partner. Find out what their reputation is on delivering on promises, what software vendors think of them, and if their customers are happy. Selecting the right partner may require you to pay a little more in order to get exactly what you want, but it will save you time and money in the end.
2. Choose the right ERP solution
There are more ERP systems on the market than ever, with options for on-premise to cloud-based software as a service, to industry-specific solutions. Compound that with scope-specific applications, such as cloud finance systems and HR and payroll packages, which can be integrated into your ERP solution additionally. With choice overload it can be difficult to make the right decision on your software.
How to fix it: First spend time defining exactly what you need. If you have a checklist of core requirements it is easier to find the best fit for you. You could opt for a postmodern ERP strategy and use ERP like Sage Intacct as the core ERP solution, and integrate best of breed solutions that address your specific business needs and Sage 300 People for smart, quick HR and Payroll autonomy. Or you might opt for a traditional SAAS all-in-one ERP strategy like Sage X3, where you rely on the solution to do all the heavy-lifting, with some configurations.
3. Think long-term
Investing in an ERP solution and implementation project can be a large financial commitment. In order to give your ERP solution a chance to give you a return on investment, you need to know your organisation’s 5 to 10 year growth strategy. Imagine you choose a product that doesn’t allow you to add more users but you have expansion plans for the future. Similarly, your implementation partner needs to know if you plan on creating subsidiaries, open warehouses overseas or any other similar activities that might have a knock-on effect on what software to use, and how it is set up, and if it will be able to handle multi-currency, multi-location, multi-language requirements.
How to fix it: Plan ahead. Create a roadmap and then share it with your ERP implementation partner. They can make provision for these things in advance to streamline growth in the future.
4. Think about the people
Your team is your best asset, and keeping them informed and included in your ERP project is critical for it to not be derailed by the very people who are meant to benefit from it. You are dealing with real fears as new tech and new procedures are introduced. Some may even be afraid that the faster, automated system will take over their admin-heavy tasks and make them obsolete. Addressing these fears upfront is necessary to mitigate potential risks and protect your team and your investment.
How to get over it: Do what you can to ensure buy-in from the top, down. When your organisation understands the Why behind these changes, and how it will ultimately benefit them and the organisation, they will be more willing to let go of their fears and embrace the new How.
5. Cut the red tape
It is amazing how quickly ERP deployment takes place when the executive decision-makers are on board. Over-complicated bureaucracy slows down projects, leads to bottlenecks, and delays effective implementation unnecessarily.
How to fix it: Ensure key decision-makers are included and on board from the get-go. This is a sure way to ensure your ERP go-live is executed on time.
6. Insist on sign-off (implementation methodology)
Your chosen implementation partner should have a predefined implementation methodology that they can walk you through, and that you can check progress against. This way you know what to expect from them and from yourself, with clear milestones and objectives set along the way. If they haven’t, you need to insist upon the use of one, or find an implementation partner who does use tried and tested methodology.
How to fix it: Ensure your implementation partner has a clear roadmap of what the project will be before you start the project. The right partner will request sign-off on milestones. Make sure your own internal project team has clearly defined, measurable deliverables and timelines that support the project’s needs.
7. Refresh your business processes
Many organisations hope that technology is all that is needed for effective digital transformation. In fact, technology plays a smaller role in digital transformation than they realise. An ERP solution on its own is not all that is required to effect change. The temptation is to request a replication of your existing business processes within the new ERP system. However, ERP solutions are more efficient when business processes are first relooked and revamped in order to not automate poor or redundant practices.
How to fix it: Take the opportunity that the ERP implementation process presents to review how your business operates. Be aware of stuck-thinking, typically preceded with ‘but this is how we’ve always done it’. Trust your implementation partner’s input in this regard, as they have likely worked with many organisations in your sector, and know current process best-practice. Also, the ERP system’s workflow is founded on how thousands of businesses operate which could serve as a guide when reviewing processes.
8. Remember the data
ERP solutions are as good as the data that is input. However, most business data is bloated with discontinued stock, dormant customers, duplicate entries or incomplete records.
How to fix it: Find out what data you need at the onset, and start working on it. You can avoid many delays and overruns by providing the partner with clean data.
9. Make provision for training
If your implementation partner is working within a structured implementation methodology, super-user training should be part of the process with additional training time scheduled along the way, so that your super-users are up and running at go-live. However, many organisations are unprepared for the amount of time needed to train teams.
How to fix it: Identify your super-users per department and function before the project starts, and make provision for training in their schedule so that they can cascade their knowledge down to the rest of the people in their department.
10. Find out about after-sales support
Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges in ERP deployments is not during the implementation phase, but once the business is left to their own devices after installation. Users find out how well- or untrained they actually are when they use the system on their own.
How to fix it: The best implementation partners offer ongoing support, training, and customisation so that you get the maximum out of your ERP solution for years to come.
More than software
As a final thought it is worth noting that software is only one aspect of this journey, so choose an implementation partner who is invested in building and keeping a good relationship with you for the long term. That is a true partnership, and worth your time and investment.
Chat to us about ensuring your ERP implementation is a success.