ERP software is proven to offer a huge range of benefits to businesses in every industry and sector. But before you can start enjoying the technology’s attributes, there’s the small matter of ERP implementation to contend with.
Implementing an ERP system can be demanding. But with the right preparation, strategy and pre-planning, it needn’t be the arduous undertaking it can seem.
In this guide, we want to help prepare your business for ERP implementation. Our seven-step approach covers all the bases, so you can develop a strategy that guarantees project success.
Step 1: Identify Problems and Issues
Business leaders seeking to implement ERP software should begin by identifying pain points and issues within existing systems, processes and workflows. This will not only help secure buy-in from key stakeholders but will lay the groundwork for the project – steering it in the right direction from an early stage.
A period of inter-departmental consultancy is the ideal way to ascertain the problems you hope to solve with the new ERP software. Discuss the requirements and issues noted by each function within the business; it helps to log these in a centralised database, so they can be prioritised and assessed at a later date.
It’s at this point when you can begin earmarking senior personnel and stakeholders to join the implementation team. Who is responsible for decision-making within their function? And who is best placed to deliver on the objectives of the project whilst minimising the resources required?
Step 2: Set Goals and Objectives
Next, businesses should ask themselves why they need ERP software and what they hope the technology will deliver for the business. The more detailed and precise your goals, the smoother the implementation process and the greater the impact the software will have from the outset.
Drawing up a document which outlines the why, what and how of the new ERP system is the perfect way to ensure buy-in from key stakeholders. Defining existing challenges and pain points, while highlighting how they can be resolved; this document is a primer for the entire implementation strategy, helping to shepherd the project in the right direction.
When defining the goals and objectives of the project, lean on quantitative data and measurable KPIs where possible. Senior stakeholders may want to see the ‘X’, ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ of the project in monetary percentage terms, so be sure to outline projected outcomes to highlight the prospective benefits of the new system.
Step 3: Define the Implementation Roadmap
Roadmapping is a crucial step in preparing for ERP implementation. Set out the timescale and milestones of the project, and look at different project management collaboration platforms you can be used to oversee work and keep progress on track.
It’s important to work closely with your vendor in setting out these timescales and milestones – and they need to be realistic. It’s easy to underestimate the time, cost and resources needed for a successful, on-time and on-budget ERP project, so a transparent, credible estimation is needed to manage expectations within the business.
Given there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to ERP implementation, ballparking the timescale of individual projects is impossible. A range of factors affect the speed at which an implementation team can propel the project towards the go-live date, from the complexity of the business and its functions, to the rate at which legacy data can be extracted, cleansed and imported on to the new system.
Step 4: Build a Delivery Team
Step four is among the most important steps in planning ahead for ERP implementation: building a team to see the roll-out through to completion. Look to assemble a specialist taskforce with the time, expertise and character required for the job.
When selecting key internal personnel to carry the implementation project forward, we can’t emphasise more strongly the need for experience, autonomy and initiative. A diverse mix of colleagues from different departments is also a prerequisite – facilitating a broad and balanced strategy.
One of the key things to ensure when building your ERP implementation team is that all functions within the business are represented. As touched on earlier, an across-the-board implementation strategy relies on input from all departments – ensuring that the needs, requirements and pain points of every area of the business are accounted for.
Typically, businesses implementing ERP software may seek to recruit team members from departments like:
- Accounting and HR
- Sales and marketing
- Logistics and warehousing
- Shop or trade counter floor
What’s more, most implementation teams feature a client project manager and an exec project sponsor. These lead roles take the reins in steering the project, taking full ownership along the rollout cycle. They will be supported by the ERP vendor who will deploy a project manager, implementation and data consultant supported with training resources, and pending the project, development, integration or other specialist resources.
Step 5: Training and Personnel Considerations
Given that a modern ERP system will enable you to improve how people work day-to-day, it’s crucial that adequate time is spent preparing personnel for the changes the new system will bring. During the ERP implementation planning stage, consider the training, user acceptance testing, documentation and privacy requirements the new system may introduce; this will ensure 100% readiness ahead of the go-live date.
ERP software training can take several forms, including active and real-time learning sessions on a demo system; distance learning for remote members of staff; and one-to-one sessions to get individuals up to speed on the new technology.
At this, the planning stage, it’s important to include details of how employees will be trained in the new system. Lay out the strategy in detail and consider how the impact of the training can be measured and assessed to ensure everyone is adequately prepared ahead of the go-live date. Your ERP vendor will guide you here but do not ignore this vital phase or fail to dedicate adequate time and resources to it.
Step 6: Liaise with Your ERP Vendor
ERP vendors partner closely with firms during the implementation process and beyond. This close working relationship should be open and transparent from the initial sale onwards, supporting the business through its ERP software lifecycle. Think of it more as a partnership than a supplier relationship.
If this is your first experience of ERP implementation, choosing a hands-on, experienced and reliable vendor should be your number one priority. There to guide you through the process, they can offer help and support at every stage of the project – ensuring your chosen system delivers for the needs of your business.
It’s critical that you liaise regularly with your ERP vendor, nurturing a close working relationship to the point that they feel like an extension of your business. Involve them from the initial planning stage and open clear lines of communication, with a view to keeping the project on track, avoid any sticking points and ensure complete transparency.
Step 7: Assess and Sure-Up for Post-Implementation
Drawing up a risk assessment which accounts for late-in-the-day issues will ensure minimal downtime and issue discovery, and prevent internal teams from becoming frustrated with the technology before it’s even got off the ground.
While issues are rare when an ERP implementation has been carefully planned, it’s still important to plan ahead should things go wrong. Even minor issues, like a small piece of development being overlooked through no fault of either party, has the potential to have a sizeable impact.
At Intact, our customers are given time to work on a test system prior to going live. This ensures every eventuality is covered and any issues are solved before the go-live date.