Innovate Business Technology Forum

Like any other project, an ERP implementation project consists of various steps and phases. While no two ERP projects are the same, there are some general ground rules and steps to follow to help guide your project to a successful end. The 10 steps below will help you stick to budgets, streamline the process, and successfully adopt ERP into your business strategy. These tactics have helped numerous companies have a successful ERP implementation.

Phase 1: Choose the ERP Selection Team

An ERP implementation impacts the entire organization. To provide enough representation without bogging down the selection process, choose key employees to represent major functional areas. Choose people that are good communicators. They will need to get input from others in their area.

Key Representation Areas

  • Production
  • Maintenance
  • Quality
  • Scheduling / Planning
  • Customer service
  • IT
  • Finance
  • Sales / Marketing

In addition to representation from each area, make sure there is executive buy in. Many successful ERP implementations have an executive sponsor that supports and facilitates the project. Try to find an executive that has been through a previous ERP implementation. Every ERP implementation should have a project manager, often referred to as a PM. Companies that have an extensive IT department may have someone that can fill the role. If not, you may need to find a consultant. Make sure that the project manager is well versed in your industry and has extensive experience with ERP implementation.

Once your team has been selected, you can begin working through the phases of your ERP implementation project. Remember that some of these steps may overlap or be completed simultaneously as you work your way through the project.

Phase 2: Determine ERP Goals

Once you have decided to implement ERP, the search begins for the right package. There are currently over 165 different options available for ERP. That’s a lot of choices! ERP software is generally grouped into categories by core features. Some of the most common are Accounting Management, Enterprise Asset Management, Purchasing, and Supply Chain Management.

Defining goals is one of the first steps of successful ERP implementation. What are your goals for ERP? For instance, better tracking of work order status or inventory management. Get feedback from everyone on the ERP selection team. Once all of the goals are collected and documented, prioritize. Many companies rank goals by practicality.

The next step is determining budget and time frame. Budget can be difficult to determine because ERP software isn’t one large purchase. Upfront costs are split between development, implementation, customization, and additions. Annual cost may include user access, support, training, or mobile access. The easiest path is to determine a budget for the upfront purchase and a regular annual expenditure. Time frame should include planning, trial, training, and implementation. Don’t forget to consider any down time that may result from the ERP implementation process.

Phase 3: Selecting the Best ERP System for Your Organization

You can begin the search individually, use an ERP sales consultant, or a combination. If you have members on the selection team that are experienced with ERP systems and have time to research options, you may be able to go it alone. If you are short on time or experience, an ERP sales consultant can be the best bet. You can also gather some research and then contact a salesperson once you have narrowed down your options.

When conducting research, resist the urge to immediately go to software websites. Try an independent website like g2crowd or Capterra for unbiased reviews. Many of these sources provide side by side and product matrix comparisons. Pay special attention to how long the reviewer has used the software. People that have used the software for 9 months or less tend to offer specific details about the implementation process. Don’t forget to look at any videos or screen shots of the software.

An ERP sales consultant is often well versed in multiple types of software. An experienced consultant will have in depth product knowledge that you may be unable to find through your own research. They can be a great resource for matching the right ERP product to your business. Ask about how well implementations with the product go, if people are happy after they have been using the product for a year or more, and what kind of support is offered through the publisher. The ERP sales consultant will be a great resource for software integration information.

At the end of the research period, options should be narrowed down to a maximum of four. Identify key differences between each option. Try to determine which products appear to best fit core needs. Now is the time to explore these options in depth. The easiest way to do this is with a live demonstration.

ERP demonstrations are the best way to get inside the software and see what you’d be working with. Software demos are a waste of time though if you are not going about them the right way. Communicate what features you absolutely must see. Ask if you can include examples of an integration to any current systems you will retain after ERP implementation.

Phase 4: Planning the ERP Implementation

Once you have selected an ERP system, you will need to decide how and when you want to implement. The process you choose will have a big impact on if you have a successful ERP implementation. There is no “best” method. You should choose the implementation option that best fits with your processes and personnel. There are three core implementation options:

Big Bang Implementation

Big bang refers to everything happening at once. In this scenario, the ERP system goes live in all areas on a set date. This is the fastest approach possible. The big bang approach is often cheaper because of the condensed timeframe and ability to work from one system only. This is also the highest risk approach. During a big bang implementation, issues can cause problems in other parts of the system. Maintenance is much more disruptive to operations and details can be easily overlooked. Efficiency will take a noticeable decrease as the system gets up and running.

Parallel Implementation

Parallel implementation refers to running previous systems in conjunction with the new ERP system. This method has the least amount of risk because personnel continue regular processes until the new ERP is ready. This provides the greatest amount of time for employee training. Parallel ERP implementation is the most expensive option because both systems are supported. Personnel will need to enter all data into both systems, which is time consuming and may be hard for people to remember.

Phased Rollout

During the phased rollout method, the new ERP system is implemented in steps or sections. Personnel have time to focus on one part of the new system while maintaining previous procedures. Temporary connections are made between the old and new system, which increases costs. Problems can also occur transferring data between systems. The phased rollout method tends to take the most time to complete.

The decision is predominately affected by time frame and budget. Another consideration should be personnel. The type of ERP implementation selected will affect everyone in the company. Be realistic with training time and process changes for a successful ERP implementation.

Phase 5: Preparing for Successful ERP Implementation

Preparation is a multiple step process that will involve key personnel from all over the organization. An ERP system helps you better use and understand your data. Make sure that the data scheduled to go in to your new ERP system is accurate. Work with your ERP consultant to ensure you know how to clean up data for ERP import. Don’t forget to remove data that you no longer need.

Keep in communication with all personnel. Share information about any process changes, ERP implementation time lines, and relevant training. Making everyone feel included throughout the process makes a big difference down the line. One of the largest complaints voiced by employees is that they felt like they were kept in the dark during ERP implementation. Open communication can also help with identifying possible issues or concerns before it is too late in the process. You will identify what is changing in terms of business processes and responsibilities, who it will impact, and how to help them make the necessary adjustments.

Manage process changes by creating new Standard Work Instructions or Operating Procedures. Create an outline of each process. It may seem time consuming up front, but it helps personnel get used to new processes. Make instructions as detailed as they need to be, include photos or screen shots when applicable. Designate easily accessible locations for training documents.

Phase 6: Training

There are a few different ways to go about ERP training. If the organization has an IT department, personnel will go through hands-on practice and troubleshooting. IT training will take the longest amount of time. Most companies will select a handful of people to become trainers. These people will work directly with the ERP consulting firm or internal IT personnel, receiving in depth product knowledge. They will in turn train the rest of the staff.

The majority of people will receive an abbreviated form of training. Some companies elect to go over basic training during regular staff meetings. In this format, a projector or large screen is used to go over key points. Department specific training can be performed individually or in small groups.

Be patient during training to ensure a successful ERP implementation experience. Some people will catch on faster than others. Designate enough time to get the majority familiar with processes. Make sure there is at least one person in each department that has a thorough understanding of the new ERP system and updated processes. They can become a resource for others that may be struggling.

Phase 7: Testing the ERP System

Thorough system testing is part of every successful ERP implementation. As much as you may want to rush this step, it requires time and due diligence. System synchronization is key. You want to make sure that data is transferred smoothly between all parts of the system.

Testing should include routine operations and infrequent scenarios. This is the time to get all of the bugs out, but first you must identify them. Routine operations include processes that are carried out daily, weekly, or monthly. Issues with these processes are often discovered first.

Infrequent scenarios should not be forgotten during testing. Run through examples of processes that are performed during shut down or inventory tallying periods. Perform processes that would occur during product inspection or recall. Test processes that may be common personnel errors, such as trying to change entry after the fact or shutting down the system improperly.

Phase 8: ERP Deployment – Going Live

Be realistic with expectations and goals. Regardless of the type of ERP implementation you choose, be prepared for decreased efficiency and interruptions to operations. Pay attention to any issues. Document any and all concerns.

Communication lines must stay open. Check in with each department to gauge reactions to the implementation. Ask which processes are going well. See if anyone requires additional training. Actively address any concerns.

Phase 9: Feedback & Evaluation

Gathering feedback is crucial for a successful ERP implementation. Wait until people have had enough time to use the new ERP system. In most cases, this takes one to three months. Oftentimes, people will express dissatisfaction at change or adopting new processes during the initial implementation. Take care that this is not confused with complaints about the actual system.

This process can be formal or informal. Start by talking with department leaders and trainers. Are there similar problems among departments or internal groups? What are the commonalities? Determine if issues arise from training or actual software problems. Document all comments.

Meet with the ERP selection team. Discuss if the system is meeting all of the goals and requirements identified early in the process. Note any gaps in processes. After you have a complete picture of the scenario, talk to your ERP consultant.

Phase 10: ERP Support

Even with a successful ERP implementation, you may experience issues from time to time. Document what types of issues you want to handle internally versus when you need to contact someone. Establish a relationship with your support team. Make sure that your support team understands your business and processes. This can help pinpoint issues faster and lead to better solutions.

We hope the overview for successful ERP implementation helps when you introduce a new system. For more ERP implementation insights visit our blog or contact us.

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