Businesses of all sizes and in nearly every industry are using enterprise resource planning (ERP) to streamline operations and deliver quality customer experiences. However, technology alone cannot achieve long-term, operational improvements. To ensure your solution meets your expectations and delivers a continuous return on investment, you must first build an ERP implementation strategy that is comprehensive and carefully planned.
Plan for Success, Prepare for Change
ERP can deliver impactful improvements across your business. The key is starting the implementation journey with proper planning and preparation. There are proven best practices you can apply to streamline the implementation process, and strengthen employee and customer experiences.
Three keys to ERP success are:
1. Define your vision
There are two primary reasons businesses take on an ERP implementation. They want to transform their enterprise, such as consolidating multiple business units or acquisitions, or they are looking to optimize operations by making incremental improvements to existing processes. Having a clear vision and measurable goals is necessary from the very start.
2. Identify the right team
In addition to a plan, you also need a dedicated project team. Your team(s) will determine which ERP solution to choose, the features it should have, and how to deploy it. Choosing representatives from across the organization supports engagement and ownership, which improves user optimization of their new tool.
3. Provide continuous ERP education and support
Show users the features and benefits of ERP throughout the implementation process, not just at the end. Taking time to show how ERP can streamline specific tasks will bolster user confidence and create advocates for the new system. Continued training after the project goes live empowers users to utilize the system more extensively and find new ways to drive business value by optimizing how the system is used to support continuously improved business processes.
A Successful ERP Implementation Starts with a Vision
Many ERP implementations get sidetracked, or ultimately fail, because there are no clear goals or measurable objectives documented early in the process. To keep this from happening to your business, start by defining the outcomes you envision not just for your technology but also for your organization as a whole.
ERP implementations typically have one of two objectives:
The objectives for an operational ERP implementation focus on making incremental improvements to current processes or refreshing technology.
A transformational project focuses on transforming operations, such as consolidating operations across multiple business entities or acquisitions, redesigning processes, or reorganizing business structure.
The next step in a successful ERP implementation is defining measurable objectives. It’s not enough to assume ERP will improve productivity or profitability. Document how ERP and the supporting business processes will make these improvements and how those improvements can be measured. For example, many businesses want greater control and visibility into inventory to cut costs and improve customer satisfaction. A measurable goal may be to reduce obsolete inventory by 50%. Defining your objectives clearly and early establishes the right metrics to prove you are realizing your vision.
A Successful ERP Implementation Takes Teamwork
Many companies make the mistake of putting the ERP implementation solely on the shoulders of the IT department. Teamwork is an important element of a successful ERP implementation. Your project team should represent all relevant areas of your organization. Choosing the right employees and providing them with a clear set of guidelines and goals will ensure the implementation stays on the right path and will lead to stronger utilization when the ERP system goes live.
1. Choose your project team members
Executive support sets the foundation for a successful ERP implementation; however, your team should also include a diverse group of subject matter experts across functional areas of your organization. The team should understand the business, be prepared to challenge ‘status quo’ attitudes, and be forward-thinking employees open to new ideas.
2. Establish ownership
Identify individual responsibilities and expectations. Choose an Executive Sponsor who will monitor the project and act as the liaison between the team and executive-level stakeholders. Defining specific roles, ownership and responsibilities will make it easier for the team to remain organized and focused on the right tasks to keep the project moving forward.
3. Set guidelines
Discuss how the team should work together to resolve conflicts and make decisions. Establish accountability and set expectations for meeting priorities and milestones. When the scope of work changes, which is common, determine how the team should manage those changes.
4. Backfill responsibilities
The people chosen for the ERP implementation team will likely have other important job responsibilities to take care of during the project. You might need to reassign certain tasks or backfill some of their responsibilities to keep them from getting overwhelmed.
A Successful ERP Implementation Takes Ongoing Training
Another common mistake companies make with an ERP implementation is waiting until the system is ready to go live before providing user training. If you make training a continuous part of your ERP strategy, you will:
1. Create ERP advocates
Involve key users early on as advocates for the new ERP system. Show them specific features relevant to their department and help them visualize the improvements and benefits they can expect. Answer questions and address concerns so they can build confidence with other employees.
2. Mitigate issues
When you commit to incremental training and testing, it presents opportunities to spot potential issues or gaps in functionality early and make changes before they become go live showstoppers or problems in production.
3. Increase user adoption
Ongoing, phased training makes go live less disruptive to your organization, accelerating your return on investment. Once the system is live, continue your training program and encourage ideas on how to improve the system or supporting processes. Well-trained users are more self-sufficient, saving you support costs and downtime.
To learn more on how to build a successful ERP implementation strategy, download our ebook, 10 Days to ERP Success. Let us know if we can answer any questions for you or help you get started on your ERP journey.