STERLING, VA--(Marketwired - October 30, 2015) - One of the most common mistakes businesses make when preparing for an ERP system implementation is assuming it's just another project for the IT department. This couldn't be further from the truth. An ERP system implementation is a major period of change for any business, and the key to a successful deployment is the preparation.
Before any software gets installed or any training takes place, there are several critical things you must do to prepare your business for the systemic overhaul of key operational processes. By preemptively accounting for common pitfalls, a business can avoid obvious mistakes and make the implementation process more seamless. These four steps can help ensure ERP implementation success:
1. Take the Time to Plan
Abraham Lincoln once said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe."
This is the approach a business should take when planning for an ERP system implementation. Most organizations try to move through the planning process as fast as possible out of fear that they will do more talking than doing. The truth is that an extra week or two of planning could be the difference between a smooth process and one that is hampered by avoidable mistakes. A good rule of thumb is to allocate one week of planning for every month of estimated deployment time.
2. Establish Internal Project Ownership
The ERP system will affect every functional area of the business, and that means everyone from senior leadership to middle management and staff-level employees must be involved throughout the implementation. That's why the very first thing a business can do in preparation is establish an internal team that will have the influence and authority to get the rest of the company to buy in.
Ideally, the business will designate a project team consisting of the following members:
- The executive sponsor. As a member of senior management, the executive sponsor is the internal "champion" of the project. The sponsor should provide high-level guidance to the rest of the team to ensure the ERP system is achieving business goals once it is live.
- Project manager. The project manager's primary duties are to manage, plan, control and coordinate the project from the business' perspective, and his or her sole objective is to ensure the project is completed on time and on budget. He or she should be a senior or middle manager who has experience with several different functional areas. Some other tasks involved in this role are scheduling and planning meetings, develop the project team staff, conduct meetings, identify problems and track the project's progress.
- IT manager. The internal IT manager is responsible for coordinating all IT-related activities between the business and the ERP vendor, as well as any third-party staff. The day-to-day tasks of the IT manager involve developing plans, supporting team activities, and acquiring resources.
- The user team. The user team fills out the rest of the staff in charge of the implementation, and will feature users with a mix of authority, company knowledge and temperament. The team should also include people from every functional area to be affected by the ERP system, such as manufacturing, sales, finance, engineering, etc. The user team will work with the vendor to find the best way to use the software to support business objectives, and will be asked to provide task-level documentation for business process flows in the new system.
A business should know exactly how it will measure success when implementing an ERP system.A business should know exactly how it will measure success when implementing an ERP system.
3. Establish Metrics to Measure Success
Businesses deploy ERP solutions to enhance key processes and improve critical KPIs, such as greater efficiency, lower costs, etc. But if these aren't defined at the beginning of the project, it will be impossible to tell if the implementation actually achieved the desired goals.
All stakeholders should know exactly what the expectations are for the project and use those as a guide during the process to ensure everything is proceeding with the optimal end state in mind. At the project's completion, business leaders will be able to use those metrics to gauge ROI and determine whether or not the new system was a success.
4. Make ERP Implementation a Focus for the Business
The implementation of an ERP system is a collaboration between the business and the vendor, but just because there's a trusted partner doesn't mean the company can completely take its hands off the wheel. Deploying an ERP system isn't just about installing new software, it's a complete revamp of every functional area's core operational processes.
Sufficient human resources should be directed solely toward the day-to-day implementation of the new system. If employees cannot engage with the new system because they're tied up with other duties, the project may end up taking much longer than planned for. In addition, workers who are doing too many things at once are more prone to mistakes that have to be fixed later. Thus, businesses should avoid taking on other major projects until the new system is completely operational. If a large project is already in process, it's best to wait until it has been delivered to start deploying an ERP system.
Planning for an ERP system deployment isn't just about picking a vendor and letting it do all the work. With a thorough planning process, businesses can minimize their risk, avoid common pitfalls and reap the full range of financial and operational benefits the system can bring.