7 Steps to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems Implementation Success

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  1. Understand your incumbent system
    The decision to purchase a new ERP system has been made, but why? There are many reasons a new ERP system will be sourced, but it is important to understand that the implementation of a new ERP system will not simply create a return on investment or solve the issues of the business. These come from the process improvements; the ERP system is a tool and improving the way a business uses the tool can reap benefits.
  2. Homework & Collaboration

There may be industry verticals supplying specific software to meet the needs of your business, or a tailorable ERP system may meet the needs of the business, but the key is to investigate, find out what your competitors, vendors and customers are using. Many businesses send out invitation to tenders listing hundreds of questions filled in by potential vendors based upon an assumed set of answers to open questions. Whilst these may assist in narrowing the choice down, the choice of software alone cannot be based upon these.

Does the vendor have the ability to transform the business to help achieve the set goals? If they cannot the likelihood is they are not the correct vendor. However there are other methods that can be employed to judge the suitability of the vendor. References must be taken, preferably with site visits and face to face contact.

This endorsement will show how the vendor and customer act in a relationship, and this is a key concept to understand if you wish to purchase from the vendor, because if you do you will soon be in the same position as the reference extolling the virtues of the supplier. Ask about the implementation methodologies; what standards are used and are these industry recognised, proven and successful in the field delivering tangible results.

  1. Budget Control
    To be able to control a budget you need as a business to identify the real costs of ERP. These costs can include hardware, training, organisational change management, developments, staff cover for project members and the software. The identification of a clearly defined budget scope is critical and difficult. The ERP supplier can provide a scope of services and a software and hardware budget, but this is not the entire budget. The first question to clarify is what is “not” included in the budget. This can traditionally be data migration, modification work and attendance contingency. These elements will be unknown at the start of the project, but should be estimated because they are critical to avoid significant budget creep.
  2. Resources and Team
    Implementing an ERP project requires an internal project manager and team. Whilst the majority of businesses try to achieve this by assigning these roles to key members of the business and making them continue to do the day-to-day work that has made them key, it is ultimately a struggle and causes issues with the project and the business.

The most successful implementation projects have at least a 100% dedicated internal project manager to ensure the project is kept on track, on budget and moving in the right direction.

  1. Training and Understanding – User Acceptance
    There are many philosophies on how best to train staff, but the simple rule to follow is to actually train the staff.

The training itself can take many forms, but generally the most productive form is hands on sessions where the users have individual access to a test system and are given scenarios to create or follow.

  1. Data Migration

Where the new system requires different settings and categorisations that do not exist in the current system the first issue is the transformation. The best method of this is to create these settings during the export routine of the legacy data if possible. The last option is to key these into the exported data ready for import – human errors will cause issues. This project can run parallel to the ERP implementation project, and if possible the user acceptance training can be undertaken on the initial passes of migrated data.

The methods and processes for extracting, transforming and importing the data vary between systems, but one common factor is that the internal IT staff will be part of the process. It should be remembered that the IT staff are focused generally on the migration of data, that is to say the focus is on getting data from one field into another, and not that the end result meets processing requirements.

  1. Go Live perpetually

Going live is simply the start of the next phase of the project. There will have been requirements, issues, modifications and suggestions that were not on the business critical path, or were even purposely moved off the business critical path, and now these must be addressed. The original goals set out during the purchasing process should be reviewed for relevancy and achievement. The system needs to be constantly reviewed, processes and applications should be assessed for suitability and purpose, and where gain can be extracted from a change it should be made.