5 Keys to a Successful ERP Implementation

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What happens when your office manager orders the wrong coffee or carbonated water? Not much, probably – though it’s a pain until the right flavors come in. Now, imagine what would happen if your entire company invested in the wrong ERP…

ERP selection affects your company for years to come, from maintaining business growth to impacting your ability to best serve customers and partners. This makes kickstarting a successful ERP selection and implementation process a high-risk assignment. But high-risk doesn’t mean impossible. Here are five keys to success to get your business on board with the right enterprise planning software:

1.      Conduct a cost-benefit analysis.

Even the best ERP partner may be unable to shield you from two common truths: implementation can be both expensive and disruptive. However, that doesn’t mean that you should never take the leap, especially if the benefits of a new enterprise system greatly outweigh the potential costs.

Start by justifying the project based on its return on investment (ROI) – this will bring the confidence and clarity you need to present next steps to other decision-makers and ensure that the project is worthwhile. Numbers and features are important, but so are the intangible benefits a new ERP solution would bring to your team. Here are some important questions to ask yourself during this preliminary process:

  • Is my current system supporting my business needs? Will it support our evolving needs five years from now?
  • Are users complaining about system limitations and the time it’s taking to get their jobs done using the software (versus without)?
  • Can I respond quickly and accurately to customer requests?
  • Are competitors on higher ranked ERP systems outperforming our company?
  • How vulnerable, unreliable, and costly is our aging system?

Once you’ve crunched the numbers and pondered on these questions, connect with your team, and see if there are any additional factors you may not have considered. Many times, people don’t know what they don’t know, and identifying pain points takes a little digging and reflection. Once you’ve shed light on a better way of doing business, the rest of the process comes easily.

2.      Align with all necessary stakeholders.

Getting feedback is not the same as getting buy-in. Why? Someone may agree that your rebate management process is a bit convoluted, while also not seeing now as a good time to move forward with an alternative. For this reason, you need to set clear goals for getting everyone on the same page.

Begin this part of the process with a minimum requirement for moving forward. For most companies, this means that a majority vote from high-value decision-makers rules. Organize your discussion into a priority-based quadrant and thoughtfully outline your company’s must-have functions and capabilities:

  • What is an absolute requirement?
  • Which capabilities are highly desirable?
  • What’s not needed now, but may be important in the foreseeable future?
  • Which features are nice to have but not essential?

Gaining better understanding of what’s necessary not only helps you to move forward with the process faster – it also helps you to stay on track and within budget.

3.      Choose a trustworthy solution provider and implementation partner.

There are countless ERP solutions on the market to choose from – ranging in price, variety of features, and industry editions. One finally catches your eye! Now, all you have to do is find a partner to implement it…

This step alone can seem daunting. We’ll admit, there’s a lot of research that goes into choosing the right team (which could make or break your experience). How do you find the best solution and the right people to help grow your business in a sea of similar or same value propositions? The key is to focus on three main qualities: functionality, ease of use, and support.

Revisit the list of requirements you made in step 2. What are your must-haves versus your nice to haves? What industry does your business operate in? Does the ERP solution you’re considering offer a customized suite that’s easily applicable to your unique needs? This is the perfect opportunity for you to be demanding and decisive. The real day-to-day of your business will push your enterprise system to its limits, so choosing the right one is non-negotiable.

After selecting your desired system, gather references for reputable and trustworthy partners with experience in your industry. Now all that’s left to do is negotiate the contract and schedule your implementation.

4.      Implement.

The day is finally here. Better processes are no longer just wishful thinking or water cooler banter. It’s time to implement!

The implementation process doesn’t have to be overwhelming or frustrating. Like any huge commitment in life (college, weddings, babies), the key is preparation. But it’s not just you that needs to be ready – it’s your entire team. Holding everyone accountable for such a big lift can be nerve-wracking, but there are three things you can do to ensure smooth sailing:

  • Develop a thorough project plan.
  • Use an intuitive, transparent project management tool to track your efforts.
  • Actively participate in regular check-ins to monitor progress and address any issues.

Even during a new ERP implementation, your business must go on, so it’s important to stay organized and not lose sight of the bigger picture.

5.      Reflect, measure, and adapt.

You’re live! Now what?

First things first, make sure everyone’s trained on the new software. Nothing keeps you from getting the best out of your investment like user error and resistance. Your ERP solution or implementation partner (or both) may provide access to training materials to turn your entire team into product experts.

In the meantime, reflect on what went well during your implementation process, along with what could’ve gone better (as they say, there’s always something). Begin measuring use and productivity associated with the new ERP – everyone’s going to want to know if it was all worth it. Finally, don’t be afraid to fully commit. Certain actions and processes may be different with the new system and – although it may be tough at first – that’s exactly what you signed up for. New beginnings and better workdays.

You probably already have an idea of whether you need a new ERP if you’re reading this. Now, you know exactly where to start with the process. Remember that there’s still work to do even after you’re up and running, so stay open to new ideas and eager to educate yourself on tips and tricks you’ll need in your daily workflow. Launching a successful ERP implementation that doesn’t take months can happen and, once it’s done, the possibilities are endless.