Implementing a new ERP system can be an exciting time for a business. Often the business has been experiencing the symptoms of an ill-fitting system for some time by the time there’s agreement that something needs to be done about it. When it comes to the crunch, things don’t always go according to plan. Analyst firm Gartner estimates that 55% to 75% of all ERP projects fail to meet their objectives. Given the fact that deploying a new ERP system is a complex picture, how can you give yourself the best possible chance of success? How can you make sure your project delivers success and aligns with the initial excitement that people feel when they realise they’re getting a new system. Here are our 6 top tips for a successful ERP project.
Customise processes, not your system
Being able to customise an ERP system to meet the specific needs of a business is a common request from businesses embarking on a new system implementation. Hold on right there! It’s worth bearing mind a couple of things:
- Customisations can greatly increase the complexity of deploying an ERP system and updating it into the future. The more you have, the more your project will cost in total – both today and tomorrow.
- It’s not always the best approach. To spend hard-earned resources on flexing a system to match an outdated or inefficient business process doesn’t make sense.
To give your project the best chance of success, start with a review of your business processes first and foremost. This can result in some neat ‘quick wins’ before you ever start implementing your new system, and the amount you’ll save in system customisation work will more than pay for the time spent up front getting into the way your business works.
The degree to which an ERP project can be defined as successful is really a measure of its perceived success against the expectations set by the project team. If a project goes over budget, or takes longer than anticipated, it often leaves a feeling within a business that the project hasn’t been successful, which is not necessarily the case.
You need to be fully transparent about how long it’s anticipated to take and cost. Don’t fall into the temptation of lowballing costs and generously exaggerating when work can be completed by just to get some momentum on the project. It will come back to haunt you months down the line and it’s these kinds of factors that would make getting a successful ERP project away practically impossible.
Take your highballed costs (the top end of estimates of your delivery partner), then add 20% contingency. Obviously, any quoted timescales should also follow suit. Make sure you also accommodate for the project management cost too. Regardless of whether that resource is internal or external, there’s a cost to the business associated with that.
Define what ‘good’ looks like
If you want a successful ERP project, you have to know what success looks like. The critical success factors have to be specified, the entire project team and senior sponsors have to sign up to them and they have to be clearly communicated upfront and consistently reported on. This way, if it’s not been successful, you’ll know how to address the shortcomings. If it has been successful, you’ll be able to capitalise on the project strengths and help to flesh out a neat organic roadmap for future business improvement projects.
Chunk things up
If you approach your ERP project in stages, you can concentrate on getting quick wins away. This can be a great hack to build momentum for your project and achieve early phase perceived success from the project’s stakeholders. If it takes you 18-24 months to deliver a project with 80% of the expected benefit but 6 months to deliver 40%, which makes more sense? Delivering 40% of the anticipated overall benefit in a shorter space of time will give you a whole financial year operating at 40% greater efficiency. Depending on your project objectives, that will mean operational efficiency, cost reduction, levels of customer insight – there would undoubtedly be a noticeable and quantifiable impact on your business’ bottom line.
Get the right people on the bus
Having the right ERP team from the outset is critical. Who should be part of your implementation dream team? Here are the key roles to consider for any ERP deployment:
This is the person who is ultimately responsible for bringing it all together. They should be a leader with the necessary gravitas and standing to give your project a premium profile. They need to be someone who has the passion and drive to make things happen, someone who is able to inspire and influence colleagues to meet the ERP objectives.
ERP project manager
The nitty-gritty co-ordinator. The PM holds the project, and the people involved, to account. They make sure that targets are met, timings are rigid and the project stays on track. This needs to be a detail-oriented person who is a proven ERP project manager and obsessed about seeing things through to a positive conclusion.
Support needs to come from the very top of the organisation. This needs to be someone of C Suite standing: settle for less at your peril! Ideally, go for the Finance Director or the CEO – you really need to make sure there’s adequate air cover from the generals of the organisation.
It’s not all about the top brass though, you have to involve these folks too…
Be user focused
The success of an ERP system lives and dies by the value delivered to the business. It should go without saying that if a system doesn’t deliver value to individual users in the daily grind of their respective roles, then it will never deliver against its truest potential.
It’s imperative to ensure that you work with your user groups throughout the whole ERP journey, from planning to evaluation and everything in between. There are a variety of different ways to do that, commonly representatives from each functional area will be consulted. Getting the right minds around the table is important to consider.
Make sure that you really get into detail on the actual plan once your system is live and operational. End-user adoption will rely heavily on getting people comfortable using the system – so make sure you’ve accommodated for the right resources to train your people. And that means more than a one-off half an hour webinar. There needs to be an appropriate training plan for each individual that is reflective of the differing needs of departments and indeed individuals.
Bringing it all together
Any one of those 6 points in isolation is difficult to master. Bringing it all together in the context of a living and breathing organisation is a real challenge. As always, help is at hand. We have decades of experience delivering successful ERP projects. We can bring our learnings from this period of time to fruition on your project and significantly reduce the risk associated with deploying ERP. Contact us now to get our sights on your success.