Once you’ve selected the best Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system for your business functions, the next step is to ensure an effective review of what processes you want to maintain, a ‘closing down’ of your previous ERP systems and a rolling out of the new system, deciding which training method you’ll deliver to your team and more.
If you haven’t chosen your ERP solution yet, you may find this guide on the selection process useful.
What Is ERP Implementation?
ERP implementations refer to the plan of action to transition from old, outdated or hard-to-use software to a new system. This transition requires careful planning and communication.
Not to worry though, we’ve covered everything you need to know for a successful ERP system implementation, including common pitfalls and more.
If you have any other questions not included in this guide, please don’t hesitate to get in touch for additional help and advice.
What Is a Typical ERP Implementation Timeline?
The accurate answer to this depends on the size of your company, the approach you take to ERP implementation, and how complex your new software will be.
It generally takes a minimum of six months but could go on for up to two years. We recommend asking your software provider this question as they will be able to provide the most accurate answer.
What Is an ERP Implementation Plan?
A typical ERP implementation plan can be based on four broad approaches, these include.
The single-step approach
The single-step approach to an ERP implementation process is where you roll out a new system for the entirety of your operation in one go.
This means you deploy the new software as a replacement for your existing system, with everyone switching to the new software at the same time.
One advantage of using this method is that you will start to see returns on your investment much more quickly, immediately benefitting from all the improvements your new system brings, such as productivity advantages and better insights.
The phased rollout approach
With a phased rollout, you may work on several of the implementation steps we’ll discuss later simultaneously, while the transition is underway for different business units or divisions of your company.
So, for example, you could be fully ready and about to start training departmental managers in your accounts team on using the core finance modules, yet still be in the development stages for the marketing team that wants to use the system primarily for CRM purposes.
Or you may choose to deploy the basics of your new software and upgrade later by adding extra modules as and when you’re ready to.
This approach delays the realisation of the benefits but might suit more risk-averse companies or businesses spread across several locations, where an ERP implementation schedule can be undertaken in stages.
The parallel adoption approach
With a parallel adoption strategy, the selected ERP system integrates with legacy systems in tandem with the new software.
This allows a more measured approach to the transition and ensures that end-user training is comprehensive.
The drawback is that your business will be paying for two software systems simultaneously, though, and will likely require multiple entries of the same data into multiple systems until the new system is fully adopted.
If taking this approach, it’s vital to ensure data integrity across all systems to prevent confusion or inaccurate, dirty data down the line.
The hybrid approach
A hybrid approach combines aspects of one or more of the other approaches in this list.
So, a company may fully adopt a new system at one location, install just the basic software for another location, and employ a gradual rollout as time or resources allow.
When opting for an ERP implementation process like this, planning, training and communication are vital for a successful project.
Below, we will discuss some considerations that may assist you in choosing the best approach to implementing a new ERP solution.
What to Consider When Implementing an ERP System
Deciding which implementation strategy is right for your business will depend on a balance of different factors, here’s what may impact your project:
Your company size and geographical spread will dictate which approach will be easiest to manage for all involved.
Larger companies, for example, may suit a phased rollout better than a single-step approach. Alternatively, this could present too much risk for a large business, with multiple locations and thousands of employees.
Another deliberation to be made is how quickly you want to achieve a return on your investment.
If you are happy to wait, then a phased or parallel adoption approach can work. You could deploy in the locations or departments where you believe you’ll see the best and fastest returns while waiting to implement for other parts of your business later on.
Scheduling tactical ERP implementation delays like this can help a project feel more manageable.
Additionally, having success stories from other departments can help with the uptake of other teams such as human resources, for example.
But if immediate improvements are desired, then deploying all at once may work best.
Finally, your overall budget will dictate which approach to take. The cost implications of keeping your old systems running while you transition to the new one might be too much.
Equally, if you are risk-averse and can afford to pay licensing for two systems at the same time, then this may be the best option for you.
It’s worth discussing a few different approaches with your solution providers to ensure effective cash management and the right decision for your business needs, goals and budget.
What Are the Challenges in the ERP Implementation Process?
Whatever the size of your company, implementing new ERP software can be daunting. However, if you are aware of the main challenges, you can prepare and plan for them.
Although the process may be long and challenges may crop up, it’s more than worth upgrading to a system that works for the whole company, brings greater efficiency and productivity, and provides powerful analytics for better decision-making.
Here are the primary challenges that you might encounter during the transition to a new ERP system, some best practices for making sure they don’t arise in the first place, and how you can overcome those that do.
1) Challenges during the planning stage of ERP implementation
Challenges can arise if your ERP implementation planning is not detailed enough or you don’t allocate sufficient time and resources to it. The well-known adage here is absolutely true: if you fail to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
A particular problem to keep an eye out for is ‘scope creep’ This is when the scope of the project changes as the project progresses.
This scope creep can come about when you add to the functionality requirements after the scope has already been agreed upon – adding to the time and cost of the project and preventing implementation partners from adhering closely to the schedule.
The best way to avoid any planning issues is to be realistic about how long each stage will take and build in plenty of contingency time.
It may be tempting to create a plan that has your new ERP implemented in lightning-fast time, but it will be easier to stay on track if your plan is reasonable and attainable from the start. Your chosen vendor should be able to help here.
2) Challenges regarding interpretation or ERP system requirements
Even with the most detailed documents, there are always gaps or information that haven’t been translated effectively.
This could lead to your chosen vendor not truly understanding what is being asked of them.
To avoid this, we recommend inviting your vendor to see your business in action prior to a contractual agreement being made. They can then highlight additional information or request clarifications that ensure you’re all on the same page.
3) Challenges during project management
Once your project is underway, it’s important that key milestones are achieved on time. Delays and diversions from the plan will eventually cost you time and money.
To stay on schedule, you need a strong project management team. They need to ensure the cooperation and participation of all stakeholders and have oversight as the project progresses.
Communication is key here. All interested and involved parties should know the status and details of a project to help manage expectations and encourage dialogue so that any issues can be raised and resolved sooner rather than later.
4) Challenges during migration and quality-checking
Integrating your data from your old systems is a critical step in the ERP implementation process. ERP data migration is complex, with many stages.
You might have data from various sources, with different formatting. This all needs to be audited, cleaned and reformatted with a consistent approach so that it can be uploaded into the new system without issues.
The challenge often begins in locating and reformatting all the data. Each department will likely hold different types of data, with different fields and subsets of information.
On top of that, some may still be recording things on paper, others in spreadsheets, or held in all manner of software applications.
Rather than see this as a challenge, though, see it as an opportunity to not only streamline your data, but also to de-duplicate and clean it, and delete or archive any obsolete information.
It will likely be challenging to map different pieces of data to a single customer or supplier, for example. The data your sales team and your marketing department hold – even for the same customer or prospect – can be vastly different.
So, all data must be assessed and validated, and all stakeholders should agree on a common approach for the formatting.
While data needs differ from team to team, an ERP is a single database of information, so this cleaning and formatting is a crucial stage in ensuring that everything is as accurate and relevant as possible.
5) Challenges when updating business processes alongside ERP implementation
When you upgrade to a new ERP system, it’s a perfect time to assess and change your business processes, too.
You may be following certain procedures because of the constraints of your current system, or you may still be working with manual processes.
Another challenge when changing business processes and requiring staff to get used to a new system is that it could lead to resistance among some staff.
Change is not universally accepted by all, so managing these changes is paramount to ensuring a happy workforce who feel listened to and valued.
If you can smooth the onboarding of any transformations, then attitudes and behaviours will shift accordingly and you will likely see better adaptation and acceptance.
There are some best practices and approaches to achieving this, including:
- Gaining buy-in at senior-level across the company,
- Ensuring frequent, honest and timely communications, and
- Delivering early and comprehensive training for all users.
6) Budget challenges
If your project overruns, or if the scope is expanded during the course of the ERP implementation, then your costs will increase, too.
Accurate planning and adherence to the project plan will mitigate this. But it is often the case that unforeseen circumstances or needs will require some extra time or human resources.
Data migration can cost 10% or 15% more than expected, and you may have forgotten to account for aspects such as training or additional customisations that come up once the project is underway.
Including some extra budget as a contingency is preferable to going over budget and having to find a way of reallocating the necessary funds.
Successful ERP implementation can be better assured by having a meticulously planned strategy for the project. This includes agreeing on the time frame for each stage of the implementation process and also choosing the rollout strategy that is right for your business.
8 Steps to Take before Embarking on the Implementation Process
Proper planning is vital for any large-scale project, particularly one that is going to have a considerably positive impact on the whole organisation.
Implementing ERP software is likely to be one of the biggest in-house projects you will undertake as a business.
Therefore, you need to choose the right people for your project team and understand precisely what current procedures need to be improved so that you can select the right system, and the right vendor to ensure business growth.
Here’s an eight-step approach:
1) Assemble your team
Before making any key decisions regarding your ERP project, you must ensure that you have the right people on board.
Here’s a top-level list of what your ERP project team could look like.
- You need to have executive buy-in, so ensure someone at senior-level, preferably one of the key stakeholders, is involved from the very beginning.
- Selecting a great project manager is extremely important as they will act as a champion for the new system, keep the project moving and help to ensure that deadlines are met.
- It’s also important to involve business process owners – the people who are going to be using the ERP system the most and have an understanding of how each part of the business works.
- Other members of the team should include key employees that will provide you with the help you need, whilst acting as advocates of the system.
2) Identify & document business processes that require improvement
The whole purpose of upgrading to new ERP software for your business is to make key processes more efficient.
So it’s important to take the time to look at how your company operates in depth to measure how effective your current processes are.
It’s worth speaking to different staff members to identify what works, what doesn’t, and how things can be improved.
Our advice would be to map processes as they actually happen, not how you think they happen and make sure you think about how they affect the entire organisation.
Next, define the beginning and end of all the processes to identify any overlap, documenting these as you go.
For a successful implementation that truly improves the working lives and efficiencies of your team, it’s important not to replicate or force processes just because you have been doing them that way for a long time. This is your chance to update and improve historic processes to make things more streamlined and effective.
Your implementation partner can help here, by taking an objective look at your business procedures. They may be able to spot areas you can improve that may not have occurred to you or other individuals within your company who are too close to the day-to-day operations.
Your partner will also be able to advise on the best practice procedures and how the ERP software can assist.
Finally, you’ll need an understanding of how processes will work after the implementation so that you have more time to manage the change and prepare employees. This is also something your vendor should assist you with.
3) Identify existing costs
You should look at what your existing systems are costing the business in areas such as security, support, downtime, upgrades, security, insurance and inefficiencies.
Having an in-depth understanding of what your current system is costing you will help you to identify a budget for your ERP project. The vendor of your current ERP systems should be able to help with this step.
4) Choose the right vendor
Deciding on the right ERP vendor (the people who supply your new ERP software) for your business is vital to success.
We recommend researching numerous vendors and discussing your specific needs, time frames and budgets with them. We’ve covered this in detail here, but here’s some additional advice:
Invite five vendors to interview initially. Be prepared with a list of questions to ask them. Potential questions you may want to ask could include:
- How long have they been in business?
- Does their technology enable you to achieve everything you need from the software?
- How do they deal with disaster recovery and security?
- Do they have experience in your industry?
- What are their performance statistics?
Asking these questions will enable you to narrow down your list. Once you have two or three vendors that you’re interested in, you should then ask to see a live demonstration of their software, showcasing processes and scenarios relevant to your business.
To make your final decision, you should find out exactly what you’ll be paying over the next five years and get your legal team to go through the contract.
Data due diligence is essential – you need to understand exactly what you are responsible for and what you need to be aware of.
5) Choose the right implementation team
Unless you have a skilled IT team in-house, then you will need to use an implementation partner who can help to reduce disruption as much as possible, ensuring a high-quality training process and a smooth transition. The process for this is similar to what we’ve advised above:
Source two or three potential partners – perhaps a local partner so they can easily visit you on-site? And ascertain what experience they have in your sector.
Don’t forget to discuss your current business processes with your chosen partner – it may be that they can spot needs you have missed, or perhaps they could suggest a better way of doing something.
6) Plan ahead
ERP implementations can be large and disruptive projects that require a considerable amount of time from your implementation team.
Please don’t underestimate this, and make sure your team has the time to perform all necessary tasks required of them, as well as enough time to carry out their own jobs to avoid ERP implementation delays.
Right at the beginning, make sure you and the project team understand exactly what work needs to be completed, by when and by whom.
For example, who will be navigating historic data cleansing to ensure migration into the new system is smooth and accurate?
By planning everything in advance you can avoid having to make knee-jerk decisions midway through the project, causing disruption and confusion for those involved.
That being said, you must also be prepared to be flexible. There may be unavoidable hiccups along the way, so if something needs to change from your original plan, try to remain flexible and adjust it accordingly.
7) Involve end users early and often
Getting all of your employees involved with the project is vital to achieving employee buy-in.
It’s important to ensure they understand how the new system will not only benefit the company as a whole but also how it will benefit them as individuals.
Getting your end users involved early means they are more likely to understand the reasons behind the change and how it all works.
Again, your implementation partner should be able to help here. They can show your end users how the system works as soon as each stage of the implementation is complete, depending on which approach you choose.
8) Begin data preparation early
Mapping out and properly preparing your data for migration is important.
Firstly, you should decide which data you actually want to take into the new system, disposing of unhelpful legacy data properly.
Next, you’ll need to know how much of your existing data needs to be inputted into the new system and what costs are associated with this.
Similarly, we recommend that you take time to decide if you have a wishlist for data that you would like to be present in the new ERP system that you don’t currently store.
One of the biggest issues companies encounter when attempting to migrate data to their new system is when this information is poor quality or not ‘clean’.
For migration to work, data accuracy is key. So, checking all your information is a must before attempting any migration to a new system.
This may feel like a lot of work, but it’s a key part of a successful migration.
What Are the Stages of ERP Implementation?
Once you’ve decided to implement a new ERP system and selected a vendor, there are some logical stages to the project.
Here’s what the ERP implementation process could look like:
With NetSuite ERP, the build and configurations are done within the system. The system settings are optimised to your requirements, dashboards are set up, reports are configured and your data is migrated. This process may sometimes include additional software development if enhancements, changes or added functionality is needed.
Before your system can go live, it’s important to test its performance in a range of typical scenarios. We recommend testing all business scenarios and functioning possible.
Before your new ERP solution is fully deployed, it’s necessary to train your staff so that they are ready with the necessary skills to perform system testing initially and then change over to the new system with confidence and ease.
At NoBlue, we offer full system training to employees.
Once everything has been tested, data migration is complete and your employees trained, you can schedule a launch date (or dates) for your ERP system.
What to Do After You Implement an ERP System
When your ERP implementation plan is complete, there are a few further things to keep on top of, including:
Maintenance and support
Once you’re up and running, the final (ongoing) stage is to ensure that your system has the maintenance and support it needs.
If your ERP system is on-premise, you will likely need to deploy upgrades and fixes and maintain hardware.
Alternatively, cloud ERP software will upgrade seamlessly in the background, so you’ll have less to organise or worry about.
You’ll also need to make sure that the system is regularly reviewed and performing well. You may want to speak to employees using the system to ascertain how they are finding it, what’s working, and what they are finding difficult.
You may be able to schedule additional training to help everybody feel confident in using the new ERP software.
Read more about our NetSuite Healthcheck service.
Your new ERP system should grow with the business so that you don’t need to carry out such an extensive overhaul in future.
This is where your chosen implementation partner can come in handy again. They should be able to provide you with a system health check which includes a review of your use of the new software and further ideas for optimisation.
Why Choose NoBlue as Your ERP Software Provider?
As 5-Star NetSuite partners, we’ve been supporting businesses for over 10 years, helping them to streamline processes, better connect departments and more.
We operate in numerous countries working with a whole host of sectors including:
- Fashion and apparel
- Software and IT
- Wholesale distribution
- Media and publishing
- Food and beverage
We don’t believe in a one-size fits all approach and take the time to understand precisely what you’re looking for and what solutions will align with your needs and goals.
Our approach to supporting businesses with their Enterprise Resource Planning has led to us winning numerous awards over the years.
If you’d like to discuss upgrading your software and ERP implementation, we’d be more than happy to help. You can get in touch via live chat, calling us, dropping us an email, or completing this form. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.