ERP implementation is a critical business endeavor that requires careful planning and foresight. It involves not just the installation of the ERP software itself, but also the preparation and migration of data, mapping out various business processes, and training employees on how to use the system successfully, and take advantage of all of its many benefits. More important, ERP implementation requires careful monitoring, measuring, and tracking of key performance indicators (KPIs).
As ERP is a complex software that involves every level of a company’s operations, it’s necessary to have a good understanding – a good, strong grasp of your organization’s structure and its plusses and minuses. But before you take the plunge, what you need first, is to build a step-by-step ERP implementation calendar to help you stay on track, from start to finish.
After tens of thousands of successful ERP implementation projects of varying sizes and scopes, we’d like to share the most important steps of ERP implementation:
- Identify business workflow and conduct a needs assessment. A workflow design helps you to document your organizational processes, and identify key bottlenecks that might be stopping you from achieving efficient automation. A prerequisite for conducting a needs assessment, a workflow design will help establish the need for ERP deployment. Once you identify the need for ERP implementation, you can start building your implementation calendar in conjunction with your change management team.
- Assemble a change management team. Build a technical team consisting of employees who understand your organization’s technical and operational strengths and weaknesses. This team usually consists of a project manager, an applications analyst, and a QA tester. The change management team’s objective is to help your organization make a smooth transition to using a new ERP within the planned timeframe. Most businesses may not have qualified staff to fill these roles and may need the assistance of a professional ERP consultant, the services of which are also provided by your ERP software vendor.
- Identify, measure, and track KPIs. ERP implementation brings dramatic changes to an organization’s workflow. As a result, there might be changes in productivity, and it’s necessary to have a reliable tracking mechanism in place. This involves identifying key performance indicators and establishing methods to measure and track these KPIs. Important KPIs help measure budget and performance-related metrics, production targets, return on investment (ROI), customer satisfaction, employee productivity, and sales figures.
- Identify suitable vendors and ERP products. Vendors usually offer ERP on three different delivery models: on-premise, hybrid, and cloud based. Carefully assess and identify the vendor that you would like to work with, and choose an ERP solution based on your needs assessment. Vendor selection must depend on the cost, product features and functionality, and the subsequent consultancy process. It’s important to choose a vendor who is accommodating, one who can meet your unique business needs, with an open, flexible and scalable ERP system – that can grow as your business grows.
- Cleanse your data and prepare for migration. Organizations often use multiple standalone software programs to run multiple business operations. These software tools generate data in different formats, resulting in repetitions, duplications, and redundancy. Data migration involves cleaning, restructuring, and preparing these disparate databases, readying them for the new ERP.
- Focus on staff training and establishing communication with vendor support. Compulsory staff training should be conducted in coordination with your ERP vendor. This is also an opportunity to learn user roles and access management of the various ERP modules. Staff training is also imperative to identify possible drawbacks of the system, and of the workflow. Role-based training, feedback mechanisms, and clear communication channels with ERP tech support must be established.
- Go live. The final step in your ERP implementation is to go live. However, going live, meaning, when your ERP system is up and running, doesn’t bring ERP implementation to a halt. On the contrary, it’s a crucial phase during which businesses can identify the weaknesses of the ERP system within the context of their organizational workflow. It’s also an important opportunity to identify critical areas which need further customization and tech support.
Patience IS a virtue during ERP implementation
ERP implementation cannot (and does not) take place overnight, and it requires careful planning and deliberation. It’s imperative that you have a step-by-step implementation strategy in place so that key performance indicators can be tracked and measured along the way. It’s also important to seek the right advice, and engage in a well thought out, well-structured consultation process with all parties involved, and onboard.
Last but not the least, companies should ensure that they track ERP performance, and revert back to their vendor whenever necessary, for further customizations and assistance. Simply put, a structured and planned ERP implementation reduces the risk of failures and bottlenecks, and in turn, enhances the success of deployment across your organization.