Steps to success! It’s a concept we all know and love. In fact, a quick Google search revealed a cornucopia of 9-step processes to help folks accomplish all sorts of positive things such as: achieve flow and happiness at work, end chronic worrying, grow a lush lawn, be an effective parent, and begin hot composting.
But for our purposes, let’s take a look at the nine steps to ERP implementation success. Perhaps if you nail this one, you’ll be happier at work, worry less, and have more time to pamper your lawn, invest in your kids, and finally start hot composting. I know it’s aggressive, but let’s aim high!
Note: In this article, we’re focused on ways that you can work toward ERP implementation success. Assumed in each step is that you’re working with a capable and trusted consultant, who is working closely with you to help you achieve your goals.
Needs Assessment – The first step is to thoroughly evaluate and document your business challenges, workflows, departmental needs, and overall reporting requirements. Once the documentation is complete, spend the time to prioritize or rank your findings. While any good consultant will do their own detailed needs assessment as a part of the sales process, your efforts up front will enable their efforts to be more focused, efficient, and helpful for all involved.
Evaluation and Selection – When you’re ready to begin evaluating your options, I think it’s wise to first ask industry colleagues or a trusted business advisor for their experience and recommendations. The honest feedback you’ll receive will be invaluable. The Internet is also a valuable tool, but don’t get overwhelmed with the 3.4 million hits Google returns on “ERP software.” Select a manageable list of consulting firms with whom to meet and walk through the sales process. Before making a final selection, check multiple client references that can speak to measurable project success.
Project Management – Once an application is selected, it’s imperative (i.e. a necessity, requirement, obligation, must, etc.!) for you to select and equip an internal project manager. This individual will be the “owner” of the project plan, the primary point of contact for the consulting group, and the watchdog to help ensure project scope, budget, and timeframe remain aligned with overall goals. For all the wonderful things a consultant project manager will do (and they are equally as critical to project success), an internal project manager is an absolute requirement. Plan accordingly.
Implementation – Once you’ve completed steps 1 – 3, you have a solid foundation and plan to install, configure, and optimize the system for your working environment. While project plans can change, keep in mind that scope, timeframe, and budget all must be considered before making any major changes.
Business Process Re-Engineering – One of the tremendous benefits of an ERP implementation project is that it represents an opportunity to make necessary process or workflow changes. While change is usually hard, keep the big picture in mind and embrace changes that can help you achieve breakthrough improvements.
Systems Integration and Custom Development – One of the ways that laborious and money-wasting processes get re-engineered is with system integration or custom development. Integration with another application or data source or customizing the software to meet your unique needs can often dramatically increase efficiency and automation. As in all parts of the implementation, the cost to do so must be weighed with the benefit you’ll receive. You’ll also need to consider what type of impact any custom development will have on your ability to upgrade the application in the future.
Training and Education – Once the system is configured and new processes designed, donot skimp on training. Invest in one-on-one or group training to enable your employees to use the system to its full potential. And don’t stop training once the system is live. Schedule regular training to make sure that all employees are using the software in the most beneficial and efficient manner.
Ongoing Support – After the system is up and running, remember that the effort to complete success is not done. Let the proverbial dust settle as end-users adjust, but maintain a list of additional projects to complete. Retain close communication with your consultant to make sure you’re getting optimum value from the system and operating at peak efficiency.
System Enhancement – Recognize that your system will only be as good as the investment you continue to make in it. I recommend a system review (sort of like a physical at the doctor’s office) at least once a year to identify areas for potential improvement through a version upgrade, new modules, more efficient processes, or additional user training. A commitment to this process will enable you to maximize your existing investment while extending your capabilities to help you achieve even greater success.
Concluding ThoughtsERP implementation success is not a pipe-dream. It can and does happen. What’s most important is a mindset and commitment to maximize your ERP software investment. This type of thinking begins well before you purchase the software and extends throughout the life of the application.