Implementing a new ERP system is a formidable endeavour for any company, no matter their industry. It involves a co-ordinated effort from many inside and outside the company, not least because an ERP is typically employed within many departments and functions of a business.
Successful implementation can be better assured by having a meticulously planned strategy and plan for the project. This includes planning the stages of the implementation process and also choosing the rollout strategy that is right for your business.
The 8 Stages of Project Implementation
Once you’ve decided to implement a new ERP system, there are some logical stages to the project. For larger companies, these may take place over several months, and they may overlap somewhat. But the course that companies follow is important in ensuring that the correct software and implementation partner is chosen.
- During this phase, the project team will speak with stakeholders, to gain an understanding of your business needs. Different business groups or departments will have varying requirements, so it’s important to explore and log those in detail. As with any project, the planning stage is critical in ensuring a successful outcome, so you need to ensure you spend sufficient time and attention on this part.
- In this stage, you need to match the requirements to features to define what you need and to design your system. In analysing your workflows and business processes, you can decide what ERP functionality you need and where you might need customisations or adaptations to your own procedures.
- If the definition stage is about the “what”, this stage is about the “how”. In the case of an ERP system, this will include the vendor and solution evaluation. Which suits your needs best: cloud or on-premise? You should look at the reputation of the software solutions that fit your requirements by checking case studies, testimonials and feedback websites. The vendor selection process might also include issuing an RFP (request for proposal) and ends with choosing a partner to work with to execute your project.
- Once your software and implementation partner are chosen, the configuration process starts. With NetSuite, the build and configurations are done within the system. The system settings are optimised, dashboards are set up, reports are configured and your data is migrated. This process may sometimes include development if additional enhancements, changes or added functionality is needed.
- Before your new ERP solution is fully deployed, it’s necessary to train your staff so that your users are ready with the necessary skills to perform testing and so that they will be experienced from day one of the go-live. Training should also be included as part of the change management strategy – to reduce staff resistance to change. System training might involve teaching some key users at first, so that you can implement quickly. And for some users, this stage can come after the project has been fully deployed.
- Before your system can go live, it’s important to test its performance in a range of typical scenarios. This user acceptance testing covers all business scenarios and functioning. A list of scripts that includes the scenarios and how to perform the test is provided, and you then check and validate each one to ensure it is working properly.
- With everything tested, data migrated and users trained, your system can finally go live. On the go-live date, users will start to use the new system.
- Once you’re up and running, the final – ongoing – stage is to ensure that your system is has the maintenance and support it needs. If your system is on-premise, you will likely need to deploy upgrades and fixes and to maintain hardware. But cloud software will upgrade seamlessly in the background, and without the same level of hardware required.
Different Implementation Strategies
When it comes to implementation, there are four broad approaches.
- The single step approach is where you implement a new system, for the whole of your operation, and roll it out in one go. This means you deploy the new software as a replacement for your old 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 investment more quickly as you will immediately benefit from all the improvements your system brings, such as productivity advantages and better insights.
- With a phased rollout, you may work on several of the implementation steps simultaneously while the project is underway for different parts or divisions of your company. So, you could be fully ready and about to start training 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 a system, and only upgrade by adding extra modules later on. This approach delays the realisation of the benefits but might suit more risk averse companies or companies that are spread across several locations, where deployment can be undertaken in stages.
- With a parallel adoption strategy, a company will continue to use its legacy software in tandem with the new system. This allows a more measured approach to the transition and ensures that training is comprehensive. The drawback is that the company will be paying for two systems at the same time, though, and it will likely require that data is entered into each system for a time, until the new system is fully adopted.
- A hybrid approach combines aspects of one or more of the others. So, a company may fully adopt a new system at one location, install just the basic software for another department or location, and employ a gradual rollout as time or resources allow.
Choosing the Right Implementation Method for Your Business
Deciding which implementation strategy is right for your business will depend on a balance of a different factors.
Your company size and its geographical spread will dictate how easy it might be to implement all in one go. Larger companies might suit a phased rollout better than a single step approach. But this might present too much risk for a large business, with multiple locations and thousands of employees.
How risk averse you are is a consideration. Making the switch from one system to another may prove too much for companies that require better risk tolerance. Companies that want to limit the impact of a new system might want to take a more measured approach.
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 approach can work. You could deploy in the places or for the functions where you will see the best and fastest returns, waiting to implement for other parts of your business later on. But if immediate improvements are desired, then deploying all at once would prove best.
Finally, your overall budget will dictate which approach to take. The cost implications of keeping your old system 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 factor doesn’t bear such weight.
If you are considering a new ERP system, let us help you with a free quotation in response to your RFP. We’re also on hand for free business consultations or general advice about ERP systems. Book an appointment now or contact us to talk about it further.