ERP implementation on the surface of it seems like a simple enough process – pick some ERP software, make sure it is the right fit for your business, license, implement and roll out. In reality, there are number of incredibly important steps that many businesses either do not spend enough time on, or just skip altogether.
The following is how we usually approach an ERP implementation project, and includes all the steps you need to ensure the smoothest route to success possible.
Step 1 – process review
I think we say it in almost all of the blog posts we write about ERP implementation, but it bears repeating – every ERP project should begin with this vital step – and that is reviewing your business’ core processes. Starting with process ensures that you get exactly what your business needs to get from your ERP implementation, as well as taking every available opportunity to streamline and automate potentially admin-heavy tasks, all adding up to greater efficiency and profitability. This step should involve firstly taking a critical look at your current processes and how they are mapped to ERP usage, and identifying any potential areas for improvement or automation. From here you will be able to move neatly onto the next part of the project.
Step 2 – statement of requirements and software selection
A common mistake we see is people treating this as the first step. They sit down and type out what they think they need from a new ERP system, perhaps copying and pasting sections from the last statement of requirements they did, and go from there. Getting the process part right first is key as it allows you to ensure you are getting exactly what you need from your ERP software, rather than what you think you need. A decent statement of requirements document can be the difference between hitting the ground running and – well – crawling. Being clear and concise allows you go out to vendors and resellers through your chosen channel and get relevant and helpful responses, ensuring you can select the right software and partner with minimal hassle.
Step 3 – meticulously plan and assign ownership
The next step is to carefully plan out the implementation project and assign roles to the relevant people. Giving tasks owners is almost as important as giving them timescales – otherwise you end up with a group of people looking at each other for answers when it comes to reviewing what has been done so far. You also need a strong leader to oversee the entire project; someone who can keep everyone on task and make sure task owners are doing just that – owning it. We talked more about getting the right people in place on an ERP project in this post.
Another thing to consider at this stage is the overall approach – are you going for a “big bang” style deployment, or more of a phased roll-out? A staged approach can you give the opportunity to effectively deploy the software with minimal impact, give you more control over budget and enable you to demonstrate return on investment more quickly. Again, it is really about what is best for your business.
Step 4 – implement
In all likelihood this will be the meatiest part of the project – the actual “doing”. How long this stage lasts and who and what it entails will vary depending on the nature of the project and the size of the business. Typically, we have seen an end-to-end ERP implementation take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. In your business, it may take more or less time depending on a number of factors. Keeping it on track and knowing your timescales is where step 3 comes in, and if you have done steps 1 and 2 right, you should have an even clearer idea of how this stage should play out.
Step 5 – test
You have done the doing – now it is time to test, test, test! Typically, the software will have been implemented into a test environment or test server within your business, giving you ample opportunity and plenty of space to try and break it. During testing, you should really put your new deployment through the mill – and not just run the “sunny day” scenario. This is a trap that many businesses fall into when it comes to both software implementation and business process design – they only consider what will happen on a day where everything goes to plan. What if it doesn’t? How does the software stand up against user error, equipment failure, etc? While it is not possible to account for every single scenario, it is worth running through some common ones. Test and refine as necessary.
Step 6 roll-out and training
It’s time to press the button! Before you do, make sure you have carefully considered how the software will be rolled out in the wider business, and have invested some time in thinking about change management. When people have been using the same software everyday for years, they need to be taken on the journey when it comes to new systems and processes. Staying connected with your end users is key – make sure they are fully informed in advance of the deployment, make them aware of the training plan, and create a suitable process where they can give feedback and share concerns or queries about any new processes. Without successful end user adoption, you will unfortunately never be able to demonstrate significant return on investment.
As always, we feel the need to stress that this project outline is not cookie-cutter for every business. You might need more process review and implementation steps, more testing, more training. It is important to find a flow that fits your business, but also to find that balance between being thorough and prolonging a project unnecessarily.
If you would like help and advice on building out the right ERP implementation project for your business, we have decades of experiencing carrying out projects of varying depth and breadth in businesses of all sizes. Get in touch to discuss your next project.