AcctVantage’s Definitive Recipe for Successful ERP Implementation
Over the past several weeks, we’ve written a lot about ERP implementation. We’ve seen many businesses successfully through their first implementation, so we have a lot of opinions about it.
We wanted to give you a convenient place to access the entire collection of those articles, so you’ll find a complete list of them at the bottom of this post.
We’ll update this page as we continue to post more content, so check back here if you’re ever worried that you missed an ERP implementation article.
A Brief History of Your ERP Implementation’s Present and Future
Alright, vocab first: it’s an “ERP implementation,” not an “ERP installation.” And that’s not just semantics; it’s an important distinction.
An ERP implementation is a substantial process that needs your attention and input at every stage.
Remember that every ERP system is custom-tooled for the business that’s going to use it. If you don’t put in the time, your ERP provider won’t know what you need out of your ERP solution. The likely result of that approach is a less than useful pile of databases and UI screens.
That said, here’s a timeline of the roughly 60-90 days that a skillful and reliable mid-market ERP implementation is likely to take:
- Step 0: Sales process. Before the implementation can really get started, you should have had a lot of meetings with your ERP provider’s sales team. During this time, you would have gone down a list of requirements and seen those requirements demonstrated to make sure the software can do the job. You should have also achieved a comfort level with the vendor’s ability to support your operations. Once the purchase has been agreed to, your implementation can begin in earnest.
- Step 1: Business process evaluation and review. In this phase of the implementation you will work through your day-to-day operations with your vendor’s implementation team, one area at a time. Much of this will seem like a repeat of the sales process, but the emphasis this time will be on the critical details of your needs.
- Step 2: Sandbox training. In order to get your staff up to speed with their new software, a ‘sandbox’ will be provided using your existing data and a preliminary version of your configuration decisions. Your team can train on this sandbox using real life scenarios and familiar data. This training period will involve changes to the configuration decisions and re-testing.
- Step 3: Rollout. Hold your breath and count to 3, because the day is here. Okay, not the “day.” The process of importing your existing data and finalizing the transition typically takes one or two weeks. Don’t fret too much about picking the perfect time to give the “go” signal. There is no perfect time, you can trust us on that. Just make sure all your business’ decision makers are involved and invested in seeing your ERP solution succeed, and you will succeed. And you’ll be glad you did!
It all seems so simple when we lay it out like that, huh?
Well, yeah. It is simple, if your ERP provider knows what they’re doing and you know more or less what to expect.
Despite the “horror stories” you may have heard about ERP implementations gone wrong, you can pretty much guarantee yourself a success as long as you know what’s needed on your end.
How To Get Your ERP Implementation Right, Before You Begin and While You Work
Like with any big project, the success of an ERP implementation depends on both preparation and execution.
That is, there are steps you should take both before and during your implementation.
Some of our clients have shared with us their experiences with other ERP providers, so we’ve learned the do’s and don’ts pretty well. We’d like to share them with you now.
The Pre-ERP Checklist: 3 Steps to Take Before Your Implementation Begins
An ERP implementation is normally a rather stepwise process. Each phase has to be done in order, or things get screwy.
The lead-up to an implementation, on the other hand, is pretty shapeless. You can do the tasks below in whatever order suits your team. As long as you get them done successfully, you’re on the path to a successful implementation.
- Get everybody on the same page.
- This should be near the top of your list of priorities. When you start talking about broad process changes like implementing an ERP system, it’s inevitable that part of your team is going to get nervous. Totally understandable.
- Some staff members are simply going to be cautious about any change on this scale, while others might be afraid that the ERP system will make their job more difficult or less important.
- Hear out everyone’s concerns (yes, everyone’s) and work with them to develop an action plan that your entire team is satisfied with. Remember, the first and most important step of a successful implementation is commitment. Make sure that absolutely everyone feels secure committing to this.
- Know your requirements.
- When you’re coming up with a list of business requirements to ask potential ERP vendors about, it’s easy to go kind of overboard. You can probably think of dozens of relevant requirements, and most ERP providers will happily tell you that they can handle those needs.
- And that’s mostly true: most ERP systems can handle just about every common business requirement. Which is why you shouldn’t spend too much time on the common requirements.
- Come up with a list of unique or unusual requirements. Find needs specific to your industry or processes that your business does in an unorthodox way. Make sure that your provider thoroughly demonstrates that their software can handle your unique needs.
- Find your points of integration.
- No ERP system is an island.
- Well, no good ERP system, anyway.
- In order to get the most out of your ERP system, you may need it to integrate with other software that your business processes rely on. 3rd party eCommerce services, for example.
- Get detailed notes from your IT folks about every program, app, and service that you will want or need your ERP software to integrate with, and check that against promises from ERP providers.
The 5 Keys: What To Look Out for During Your ERP Implementation
This next bit is in chronological order.
Theoretically, the qualities listed below should be present throughout an ERP implementation. But they’ll become relevant in the order we used here.
As your implementation progresses, you may want to check off each of these 5 key qualities to make sure you’re on the right path.
- Commitment: Make sure that all of the decision makers are on board with the project before beginning. If people are not able to see the benefits of the move, the tasks will drag out and will not get the attention they require.
- Scope: Early on (before a sale has been agreed to), communicate your requirements to the ERP vendor, and have them demonstrate that the product meets those requirements.
- Detail: Each department of your business should have time with your vendor’s implementation team to communicate the nitty-gritty details of their processes and their unique needs. This phase should take somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-4 weeks for a small-to-medium business when done properly.
- Training: Your staff needs a chance to practice what they have learned in training. For bonus points, this should take the form of a ‘sandbox’: a rough-and-ready import of your existing data loaded into a test installation of the ERP software, so that your team can practice on the system they’ll be using with familiar data. This step is used both to get your staff up to speed and to revise your configuration decisions.
- Conviction: Keep in mind that there is no perfect time to go live. Remember that an ERP rollout will always be disruptive to some degree, and try to be willing to do it anyway. The payoffs will be worth it.
So, in short, how do you make sure that your ERP implementation stays on schedule and gives you the benefits you need?
If you want to make your ERP implementation fast and efficient, the first thing to do is to make sure that all the decision makers in your business are on board with the idea. An ERP implementation requires extensive cooperation with all stake-holders, and that’s going to slip if the team doesn’t think an ERP system is worth the trouble.
From that point onward, the most important thing is communication between you and your vendor, from setting the scope of the project, through the process review, to training.
The Masterlist: Everything We’ve Ever Said About ERP Implementation
- ERP Implementation: How to Make It Easy and Painless: Our step-by-step guide to getting your implementation right
- 5 Keys to Successfully Implementing an ERP System: From our decades of experience, the 5 defining qualities of an ERP implementation headed for success
- Why Do ERP Implementations Take So Long?: 4 Steps to Make Your Implementation Go Faster and Smoother
- 3 Steps to Take Before Your ERP System Implementation: Your Pre-ERP To-Do List
- National Grid’s Failure in ERP Implementation Methodology: And what you can learn from their mistakes