Getting ERP Implementation Right

ZEST I/O ERP Implementation People and process oriented engagement workshop

An ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system would allow companies to integrate their business processes and functions. It would provide a central software system, which acts as a platform for connected and streamlined business processes. As a result, SMEs would be able to increase their efficiency and productivity, remove unnecessary touches and duplication and reduce unnecessary costs.

Due to its central database and interconnected modules, ERP systems affect both the internal and external operations of an organisation. This makes successful implementation critical to organisational performance and long-term growth.

Both academic research and best practice confirm that ERP implementation brings with it organisational change. This means that strategic, organisational and technical considerations need to be given prior to and during ERP implementation.

In most cases, the implementation involves a hybrid approach whereby business processes might need to change and software configuration might be needed to align the software and the business processes.

Making a start

So you’ve spent months, maybe years, deciding on the right ERP software for your business and the great news is that you’ve finally found it! Now comes the most challenging part – implementing an ERP system so your company can streamline its processes and really start to grow.

But it doesn’t need to be difficult – with careful forethought and planning, implementing an ERP system can be a relatively straight forward process.

Here are our recommended steps to making implementing your new ERP system as pain free as possible.

Strategic Alignment & Planning

  • Senior management buy-in and commitment.

  • Clear project charter with well-defined objectives for the project.

  • Clear communication – who, when, etc.

  • Make sure you have the correct project team involved from your departments and ERP system provider. It’s vital that you have correct people driving the project and required changes from within.

  • Identify, scope and agree core and custom requirements before the project proceeds.

  • Discuss and define implementation approach and methodology i.e. incremental, parallel or big bang.

  • Determine all critical stages and terminology so there is a good understanding of expectations from both sides, ie ‘Go Live’ – do you want to continue using the test system for an agreed period of time and double input some key jobs before setting a Go Live date at the end of this period OR would you prefer to set a Go Live date with all new transactions after this agreed date going straight into the Live database?

  • Create and agree a Project Plan. Fail to plan, plan to fail! Measure twice, cut once!

Review Current Processes and Procedures

  • Start looking at how you operate and your current business processes and procedures interact. This is the right time to question pains, problems and productivity improvements.

  • Ensure that your project team fully understands the capabilities and best practices within the ERP system to ensure they have a clear understanding of how the software will work for them.

  • Review, adapt and change your internal processes and procedures and document any changes brought about by using the software.

  • Work with your ERP provider to develop a tailored user training for users based on feedback from the team and updated or new processes.

  • Finally, constantly review your plan and progress, update project documents and adjust your plans if necessary. You also have a business to manage and operate!

Review Business Data

  • Working closely with your software vendor, you need to identify what data should be imported into the ERP system, namely ABCD – All Business Critical Data. This is a good opportunity to remove unnecessary or historic data no longer required. Whilst ERP systems are built to process vast amounts of information, importing lots of obsolete data can reduce the efficiency of a new ERP system. Now is also a good time to consider what, if any, new data it would be beneficial to collect and implement the process for collecting this.

  • Once the above is agreed, the data should be extracted from the existing system(s) and cleansed and validated by the project team. This can be done by the customer or aided by the ERP provider. Once the data has been imported, it is imperative you carefully review this before any further activity is carried out to confirm the data is fit for purpose.

Customisation & Bespoke Development

  • Although many companies look for a best fit ERP system to avoid the issues significant customisation and bespoke development can bring, sometimes it is inevitable and necessary to cope with specific process requirements. Any customisation or bespoke development need to be agreed during scoping (or at point of sale) in order to avoid delays and disagreements.

  • Development to be tested, documented and approved by the project team.

  • Users need to be trained on new functionality.

Testing & User Training

  • Your project team should run through several types of scenarios and process flows using as much data as possible in the test environment until they are confident in the process and satisfied with the information flow. The more testing that can be done increases the chance of any issues being identified and therefore resolved prior to implantation.

  • Any feedback or issues will then be reviewed by your system provider’s development team to resolve before wider training commences.

  • Knowledge transfer. A key element in successfully implementing an ERP system is the transfer of knowledge to users. Confident users, equipped with quality training support materials, create a positive atmosphere and excitement around the implementation as opposed to a feeling of dread!

Go Live and Post-Implementation Evaluation

  • Go Live (as defined at the start of the project).

  • Allow a settling in period of approx. 3 months, after which you need to evaluate improvements to business processes. For best results, these should be linked back to the clearly defined objectives and aims at the start of the project.

  • The ERP provider should also evaluate the project immediately after user training and then again, every 3 months for a year post implementation. Metrics such as number and type of support calls from the customer are a useful way of identifying how effective training and implementation has been.

  • Evaluation is an ongoing process and should be part and parcel of the continuous improvement culture within the company. Progress and results should be monitored by both the customer and ERP vendor to ensure that the customer’s investment is maximised.

  • Annual reviews should be conducted on an ongoing basis.

In addition to the above points, we believe the real key to effectively implementing an ERP system is through a clear and constant flow of communication between all project stakeholders. As long as they all know and understand what to achieve from the project, almost every obstacle can be overcome.

If you want to discuss how ZEST I/O can help your business on its ERP implementation journey, please get in touch with our team.