Secrets (or not so secret) of ERP success
Planning a new ERP implementation? Good for you. You’re deploying software that can deliver a huge range of tangible benefits for your business, from greater visibility into your processes (and bottlenecks) to a centralised information source for all your financials, supply chain and stock management. ERP solutions are non-negotiable for growing and ambitious businesses.
But then we would say that, wouldn’t we?
The fact remains that implementing an ERP system can be a major undertaking even for small organisations and getting it wrong can be extremely costly. At worst, you could end up spending money and time on a solution that doesn’t work, and actually makes your business processes more complex and cumbersome.
The good news is that the secrets to a successful ERP implementation are remarkably simple and straightforward. Follow a few key principles and you can dramatically improve your chances of harnessing the benefits of ERP from day one.
Set out goals before choosing your solution
Any business project you undertake should have clear goals before starting – otherwise how can you plan your project and measure its success? With an ERP implementation, it is crucial to set out those goals before you even begin looking at software.
This is because your procurement decision should be based only on what your business actually needs and wants to achieve. Just because an ERP system has a great reputation in the market doesn’t mean it will be great for your organisation.
Set out a plan before starting your project
Choosing your technology is, however, just the first in a long list of implementation tasks. You also need to install and configure that technology according to your business needs, test, test and test again, import data, train your staff on how to use the new system – and the list goes on.
Scheduling these tasks requires a watertight approach to project management. Sure, you’re unlikely to cover absolutely everything from the outset, and some factors will always change, but the more precisely you can set out your plan and timeframe at the beginning, the smoother the entire project will be.
Installation vs. implementation
A common mistake is to think that ERP deployment is simply a case of installing some software and job done. But there is a huge difference between installation and implementation; the latter involves your entire business, not just your IT department.
Remember that an ERP solution is designed to touch multiple different aspects of your business, and so implementing one depends on getting buy-in and understanding from multiple different stakeholders, as well as, potentially, the overhaul of numerous different business processes. You might need to train your sales team in a new approach to pipeline management, or your support team in how to access and draw on whole new sources of information. ERP implementation, as opposed to installation, is a major business project, and will likely require specialist change management skills.
Get outside help when you need it
What all these steps should have made clear is that ERP implementations are complex and time-consuming projects, which touch multiple different aspects of your business and require extensive expertise in joining up business goals with technological capabilities.
For many smaller organisations, there simply isn’t the capacity and experience in-house to manage all this. This is where ERP implementation partners like APH come in. Our role is to help you get these elements correct right from the beginning – from setting out your business goals and considering how an ERP solution can best support them, to assessing the success of the implementation and helping you to harness your ERP system effectively moving forward.