There’s a lot more to acquiring an ERP solution than simply choosing the software and phoning up a consulting team to install it. In the world of business technology ERP deployments are amongst the most risk-prone investments. There are several reasons why ERP implementations are susceptible to failure, however a fair proportion of them have to do with planning. Or more specifically, failure to plan properly.
So what do you need to know before you embark on your ERP journey? Here are some tips for avoiding the pitfalls that can easily beset an organisation as it sets about implementing an ERP solution.
1. Not securing top-level buy-in
First it’s important to secure buy-in for the ERP deployment at the executive level. This includes not only ensuring the allocation of funds, but also securing the endorsement of the ERP project from the top down. If the relevant top-level leaders are not committed to the project, the task ahead will be short on focus and lack the drive required to make it succeed.
2. Not diving deep enough with your project scope
Next it’s important to scope out your ERP project. Define what it is that you want your ERP solution to achieve, both from a business and a technical perspective. Identify the day‑to‑day operational disruptions that are likely to occur and decide how they should be addressed. Here it is good to have a sound change management strategy in place. People are creatures of habit and the changeover to a new ERP solution is likely be resisted by a proportion of the system’s end users. Develop a strategy to make the change as smooth and as stress‑free as possible for those who will be affected by the change.
3. Choosing an ERP vendor that doesn’t suit your needs
When it comes to choosing an ERP solution, there are no shortcuts. Do your research and create a shortlist of vendors. Pay particular attention to the likely total cost of ownership, the cost and frequency of upgrades and other factors that will influence the buying decision.
4. Not choosing the right IT implementation partner
A crucial component of the ERP process is choosing the right consulting partner for project planning, system installation and ongoing support and maintenance. One approach is to ask your chosen vendor for suggestions. Although the company is unlikely to recommend one consulting partner over another, it should be able to provide a list of options for you to follow up.
Your ideal partner will be a firm that not only understands your functional requirements but also your business, its people, its culture and processes. Put another way, your consulting partner needs to have a ‘big picture’ understanding of what you’re seeking to accomplish.
As far as project delivery is concerned, enquire about your prospective implementation partner’s approach and methodology. Are they compatible with yours? Do their procedures for ongoing support suit your business requirements? Be realistic about the timeline to deliver the project.
When you’re down to two or three prospective partners, organise a ‘show and tell’ session and come armed with a prepared list of questions.
5. Skipping the customer references
As part of your implementation partner selection process you should ask for customer references – people you can contact who have had work carried out for them that is similar to your proposed ERP project. Ideally you will speak to both long-term and short-term customers, as each will have a different perspective to offer. Where appropriate look for relevant industry experience.
Also ask for customer case studies as these are published proof points regarding capability and reference ability. Before finally deciding on your implementation partner, determine appropriate areas of responsibility and accountability. In many ERP deployments there can be scope-creep, budget blowouts and other nasty surprises as the project moves along. A clearly defined scope and the identification of areas of responsibility for both parties can avoid fingers been pointed if issues arise.
6. Not seeing your implementation partner as a true partner
Effective communication is key. You can expect to be working closely with your implementation partner for a considerable period of time so it’s important that you and your colleagues be able to communicate effectively with your implementation team. As the project evolves problems and issues are bound to crop up. Those affected by the deployment will need to feel comfortable approaching your implementation partner for advice, guidance and problem-solving. Choose a team with whom you feel you have a good rapport.
You’re on your way!
If you take the above tips on board you will be well on your way to a successful ERP implementation. Once the solution is live, you will enjoy the benefits of improved productivity, enhanced efficiency, streamlined business processes and a boost to the bottom line. The ERP journey is well worth taking. All the best with yours!
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