Choosing the right ERP software is likely to be one of the biggest decisions you will have to make as a business. But what happens when you’ve chosen your new software and it’s time to implement it – how do you make sure the process goes as smoothly as possible?
Here, we’ve provided you with ten tips to make sure your ERP implementation is a success.
1. Put together an organised and established project team
From the very beginning, make sure that you have the right people on board. Your team should include:
- Someone at senior level – you need to have executive buy-in; this needs to be consistent from day one and continue through to go-live.
- A good project manager – they will act as a champion for the new system, keep the project moving and help to ensure that deadlines are met.
- Business process owners – it’s important to involve 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.
- Key employees – they will provide you with the help you need, whilst acting as advocates of the system.
By putting together a cross-functional team like this, you not only improve the likelihood that all areas of the business are addressed, but you also help create buy-in that can drive the overall project’s success.
Tip: Decide at this point who will be administering the system going forward – i.e. your ERP administrator.
2. Map out your business processes
Having a sound understanding of how your business processes work is absolutely vital. Take the time to look at each business process and speak to the different staff members that handle these processes to see what works, what doesn’t work, and how things can be improved.
Map the processes as they actually happen, not how you think they happen. And make sure you think about how they affect the entire organisation. Define the beginning and the end of all the processes as it may be that they overlap. Be sure to document this process.
It’s important not to replicate or force processes just because you have been doing something one way for a long time. Your implementation partner / vendor can take an objective look at your business’ procedures. They may be able to spot areas in which 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. They will also be able to advise on the best practice procedures of the system.
You also need to understand how the processes will work after the implementation so that you have more time to manage the change and prepare your users. Your implementation partner / vendor can assist with this.
3. Prioritise your requirements
We recommend taking a planned, phased approach to your ERP implementation. Identify the key functionality that you need on day one immediately after the implementation and the “nice to have” functionalities that can wait till the second phase.
A phased approach like this allows the implementation team to focus on the company’s critical functionalities and to make those vital modules live as quickly as possible.
Try to remain focused on your key business requirements rather than on the look and feel of the system and where possible, adopt the best practices and workflows of the ERP, rather than trying to change it to accommodate your organisation’s current workflows because this could cause you to lose the efficiencies built in to the solution.
Tip: Don’t try to rush through or skip necessary steps of a phased implementation in order to speed it up. It’s important to allow plenty of time for it to be done properly.
4. Make sure you have clear scoping requirements
Fully understanding your business processes and prioritising your requirements allows you to carefully define the scope of your project. You need to determine the exact post-implementation functionality that you need early on. Sticking to this helps to ensure a timely and on-budget implementation.
Being strict with the original project scope is critical; where possible, avoid change requests midway through an implementation. As the project moves forward, there are bound to be a few justified changes to the original scope, but try to avoid asking for any new functionality at this stage. This can cause delays and may impact on the cost, particularly if re-works are required.
Tip: If you come across some new functionality that you are interested in, discuss it with your implementation team and suggest it as something you would like to add at a later phase of the project.
5. Plan ahead
With such a large and disruptive project, you’re going to require a lot of time from key employees. Don’t underestimate this. 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.
Right at the beginning, make sure you and the project team understand exactly what work needs to be done. For example, what are you going to have to do to your data to ensure migration into the new system goes smoothly?
By planning everything in advance you can avoid having to make knee-jerk decisions midway through the project.
That being said, you must also be prepared to be flexible in your own approach. There are bound to be a few hiccups along the way, so if something needs to change from your original plan, try to remain flexible and adjust it accordingly.
Tip: Allow your implementation partner / vendor the time to make sure that what you have requested from the system actually works in the way you expected it to.
6. Involve end users early and often
Getting the rest of your users involved with the project is also important, particularly when it comes to achieving employee buy-in. 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. They will therefore be more positive about it and less resistant to the change.
Your implementation partner can show your end users how the system works as soon as each stage of the implementation is complete. This approach can work well because users are trained in phases which can be easier than trying to teach them the whole system in one go.
7. Start data preparation early
Mapping out and properly preparing your data for migration is important. Decide which data you actually want to take into the new system – don’t waste time moving invaluable data. And identify how much historic data needs inputting into the new system, and understand the costs associated with this. If much of the data is going to be archived anyway, it is worth actually moving it over?
Similarly, take the 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 a migration to work, your data must be of a high quality, which means the right information must be in the correct fields. For example, entries such as ‘same as phone number’ written in the fax column are likely to cause issues during the data migration process.
Checking all your information is a must before attempting any migration – and these high standards need to be retained going forward, so that if you ever want to remove the data in the future, it will be as straightforward as possible.
It might seem like a lot of work for companies that have been less than diligent over the years, but it’s a key part of a successful migration.
Tip: Before doing a full data migration, test small amounts of data and work it through the new system – check all the screens and form layouts work the way you expect them to.
8. Provide training before the project starts
Don’t underestimate the time people need to learn the new system. This is a large, disruptive project and you can’t expect your staff to know how to use it properly without adequate training.
Project team members and end users alike need good quality training early on. This encourages staff to be fully engaged in the transition, making them more likely to embrace the change.
Make sure you have a variety of training options and accompanying training tools / resources available not only before the implementation, but also on an ongoing basis.
9. Good communication
Communication is key. It’s really important to keep everyone involved and up to date with project progress. This includes communication within your project team, communication with your end users, and communication with your implementation partner and / or vendor.
Ensure you have established the correct channels for communication. For example, consider utilising a shared collaboration tool so that everyone involved has access to exactly the same information.
It’s important to work closely with your implementation partner / vendor and be completely open and honest about how your business processes work and what you need the system to do for you.
10. Good documentation
Be sure to keep track of all important information regarding your project and the decisions you have made. Good documentation is vital in keeping everyone in the project team up to date, and it is particularly important if members of the team leave part way through the project, taking their knowledge with them.
Here are some examples of documentation you should keep:
- A scoping document containing a basic overview of the project and what you can expect from your implementation partner / vendor during the project
- Project timelines including milestones and key dates to achieve them
- How your business processes currently work and how they will work in the new system
- Processes / workflows that you have changed to fit the new system
- Your top priorities and your “nice to haves”
- An overview of all the modules being configured in the system
- A gap analysis comparing actual performance with potential or desired performance
- A risk log identifying any risks that could impact the project in terms of cost and timelines
- An issue log which includes any issues encountered during the project
- A communication and decisions log containing all communication between you and your implementation partner / vendor. This should include information about what decisions were made and why
- Which data you have chosen to migrate to the new system
I hope you find this useful when embarking on your own ERP project. Let me know in the comments below if you have any tips to add.