It’s time for your ERP implementation to begin. All the flashy presentations have been done. The PowerPoint slides are archived, analysis workshops are scheduled, and life is about to get real. For the next 6 to 18 months, you are going to be part of a very challenging process. I have heard people comparing such implementations to going through a divorce or other similar traumatic experiences. Let us not sugarcoat this.
An ERP implementation is challenging and punctured with obstacles.
But does it have to be like this?
Let me unpack a few of the factors, that you can use as a checklist, for making your process less difficult.
1 – Change Management
It is known that ERP is amongst the most high-risk projects for businesses. Highlighted, is often the technical nature of ERP, which can be complex and pose several challenges.
Probably the most common factor to a challenging implementation is the lack of proper change management. Paradoxically, it is also one of the activities most often left completely out of the formal implementation plan.
Just knowing that the ERP implementation will simplify operations across multiple divisions, is not sufficient. Business objectives for each organization are varied, and so should the outcome and goal of the implementation. To build effectiveness, the outcome should be tailored and address the unique challenges faced by each organization. This leads us to the next challenge below.
2 – A Lack of Vision
You need to know your ‘why’. The business case behind an ERP implementation is often very high level and very generic with statements like “Digital Transformation”, “Increased business efficiency” etc.
Without very specific and tangible goals, it becomes quite difficult to keep the implementation project aligned with the goals. The vision must also be aligned to business strategy, to support real tangible and measurable goals. This will also help with general, company-wide acceptance of the vision.
3 – Approach for Requirements Gathering
Gathering the requirements for a new system and documenting these, is core to the success of the implementation. Given the nature of an ERP solution that will support most of the company’s business processes, this is a major activity that must not be underestimated.
Gathering requirements is all about “what, why who and when” but not “how”.
The “how” is often why specific functionality is replicated in the new system.
A new ERP implementation is not about giving the users the same functionality they had, but rather, enables them to achieve their work objectives in a better, more efficient way.
4 – Consultants’ Skills Set
Most suppliers of ERP solutions are focusing on products from one distributor. It can be Microsoft, SAP, Oracle etc. Very few suppliers have more than one product line in their offering.
This also means that their consultants are aligned with the specific functionality of the chosen solution. In short, they are product people rather than process people, and this will likely cause problems in your implementation process.
ERP professionals typically fall into varied categories – functional consultants, technical consultants, and a mix of both, known as techno-functional consultants. Consultants need to understand both business processes and the technical requirements for a particular area of ERP.
5 – Project Methodology
Much has been said and written about project methodology. Over the years, many different project methodologies have emerged, often in line with how technology has evolved. A methodology is used to structure, plan, and control the process of implementing the ERP system. The methodology may include tools, templates, specific deliverables, and artifacts, created and completed by the ERP project team. A methodology can be thought of as the roadmap and is where the implementation process progresses.
There is no such thing as one correct approach. However, it is extremely important that all participants in the chosen approach, understand and agree with the selected approach.
Time should be given to aligning proven methodologies, to the specific project needs.
6 – Scope
Most projects today are based on a more or less fixed price basis. This means that the scope of the project must be agreed upon up-front. The scope is often agreed upon very early in the project before detailed analysis has taken place. It is, therefore, very important to make sure that very clear guidelines are indicated.
An effective ERP scope will serve as a clear vision and expectation for your project team and business stakeholders. If clearly defined, it will empower business stakeholders, internal IT groups, and the implementation partner, to align focus for mutual success.
Preparing the success for an upcoming ERP implementation is one of the first important steps you can take, to be effective throughout the process. While the perfect implementation may not exist, it does help for you to have thorough planning and a clear comprehension of what’s needed, to increase the chances of a successful process. This is stressful, but a checklist can help you to avoid inefficiencies.