Successful ERP implementation: a best practice checklist
An ERP solution can invigorate your business. It can drive change that allows you to work more efficiently and productively, improves customer satisfaction, reduces operating costs, gives you the flexibility to grow, and helps you stay competitive.
But it also costs a lot of time, money and energy to implement. Which makes it crucial to get it done properly, in order to get the return you deserve for this level of investment.
As a massive project with a lot of moving parts—each needing careful attention—there are certain best practice guidelines to follow before you have a hope of getting all the benefits described above. So here is a quick guide to the eight simple steps we think are most important.
1. Identify your key requirements from ERP implementation—what’s your vision?
You need to know what you want from investing in an ERP solution. Without understanding what it needs to do, and what you hope to achieve from it, your chances of maximising its potential are limited.
This means conducting a thorough audit of the processes in your company. How do they currently function (by themselves and with each other)? What impacts do they each have on the overall business? Which areas are failing? What could be made more efficient?
Understanding how your business works now will allow you to identify where an ERP solution can fix and improve issues in future. It will also give you an idea of what you might be able to achieve with this new strategy, enabling you to build a company-wide vision that will make it easier to stay on track during the implementation process.
2. Audit the infrastructure required to implement the ERP system
One of the biggest oversights by businesses we’ve seen is how they will implement the ERP system. This is almost always due to a lack of understanding about what exactly is involved.
A successful ERP implementation is not just about installing software on your current computers. It involves making sure you have the hardware and storage available to host the system and data, the network capabilities to ensure appropriate access, the security required to protect the information (especially in this GDPR era) and have it securely backed up, and the skilled people on hand to keep everything running smoothly on an ongoing basis.
So, as you audit your processes (in #1), be sure to audit your technological capabilities too. Do you have the necessary infrastructure to run your ERP solution properly? Do you have the people and roles to maintain it? If not, it’s time to consider a cloud approach which could give you everything you need.
3. Bring everybody on board and keep them informed
This is important both for the initial implementation and in the longer-term too, because an ERP implementation will impact the entire company. It simply can’t be set up or managed in silos, otherwise you risk limiting its effectiveness and the potential value it could offer the business.
Communication is key. There will always be people resistant to change, especially when it comes to the introduction of new technology. But they still need to be brought into the educational process, where it is explained what ERP is (keep it general—they don’t need to know all the technical details) and how it will help the company improve its productivity and efficiency. Give them the vision and they will soon understand that the ERP will be a key part of the business meeting its goals—which benefits everyone.
4. Set a realistic timeframe for delivery
We’ve previously looked at timeframes for ERP implementation, especially in terms of how long a SAP Business One implementation should take. But it is worth repeating, because unrealistic deadlines and expectations can derail a successful implementation before it’s begun—and waste a lot of time, money and employee goodwill.
While it’s been stated by SAP itself that it can be ‘set up’ in as little as four weeks, in our experience you need to be prepared for a longer process. A month is simply not enough time to properly deliver an ERP solution that works for your business. Four to six months is a much better timeframe to work with, and even then it will require significant collaboration between the client and the provider in order to undertake all the required tasks. Because it’s not just about installing software, but will involve many other elements including stakeholder engagement, process mapping, requirements capture, and staff training.
Give everyone a realistic expectation of how long the initial setup is likely to take and you’re far more likely to find success, as people will be prepared to do it properly, rather than rushing to hit impossible deadlines.
5. Get data migration done early
Data is the cornerstone of the work that you do. It’s one of your biggest assets, so you need to make sure you deal with it in a careful and timely manner—not as an afterthought.
This process will require a big transfer of data from your old system to the newly implemented ERP system. However, we often find businesses leaving this part until late in the game, which can result in problems like data loss.
Migrating the data as early as possible will give you the extra time to be extra careful during the transfer process, as well as allowing you the time to test it for issues. It also gives you the opportunity to analyse and prioritise the data that you do migrate, making sure that you’re not carrying across anything you no longer need. Given that a lot of companies can underestimate the amount of data to be transferred, it’s better to get it done early to make sure you have the time to do it properly.
6. Set measurable goals and KPIs to help you stay on track
What makes for a successful ERP implementation? Unfortunately we can’t answer this for every business, because it really depends on what your initial requirements are and what vision you are hoping to fulfil.
But we can tell you how to answer this question yourselves: by setting achievable and measurable goals related to your business.
Things like deadlines and key performance indicators (KPIs) allow you to better measure how your implementation is going. You will be able to tick off when the various phases are completed, when milestone targets are achieved, and especially where you might have missed objectives—which, if identified early enough, could help you rectify issues before they become problematic.
7. Remember it’s an ongoing process, so keep evolving your ERP solution and enhancing your staff training
One of the biggest misconceptions about ERP implementation is that it’s a one-time thing. Yet, in order to be successful, it should be considered an ongoing process full of opportunities to analyse and refine the system, and maximise its efficiency.
This means keeping up to speed with the latest technological innovations, software advances, and security upgrades, to make sure that your ERP solution is operating at its best.
However, you should also apply this regular analysis to your staff. Are they still using the system to its full capabilities? Are there any areas where training could improve efficiency? Employees will need your full support, not only during the initial setup, but on an ongoing basis to make sure they are delivering what the ERP implementation has promised.
8. Find a professional ERP implementation partner with experience in your field
For many businesses, finding a partner to help should really be the first step.
If you’re reading this, chances are you are thinking about taking control of the implementation process for yourself. However, the process of implementing an ERP solution is huge and complex, and few companies have the internal resources—let alone the experience—to manage it properly. Which is why so many implementations fail.
Finding a partner is easy, but selecting the right partner for your business is a little more tricky. Because if this is new territory for you, how do you know who to trust?
First and foremost, we advise making sure you pick someone with experience in your industry. This will demonstrate they have the experience to ensure your particular needs are met—although it is also a good idea to confirm with their previous customers to see how well they did in practice.
Otherwise it’s useful to take advantages of any free consultations they might offer, which will give you the chance to ask them other questions which will identify them as a good fit for your ERP implementation.
Want help preparing for an ERP implementation to give you the best chance of success? Contact us today to arrange a free consultation where we’ll discuss what’s possible and how it could transform.