Implementing ERP is challenging, requiring significant resource, technical expertise and a strategic mindset to see it through to successful completion. But with the right approach, the right team and the right attitude, it’s a feasible next step for businesses big and small.
To help you make the best possible go of implementing a successful and efficient ERP system, this in-depth guide will walk you through the typical stages of the process – from building a team to testing your software.
The 7 Stages of ERP Implementation
While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to implementing ERP software, the adoption cycle does follow a similar pattern for most organisations. Therefore, if you want to bolster your chances of success, adhering to a tried-and-tested implementation framework is the way to go.
Here, we’ll be exploring a 7-stage ERP implementation cycle, offering practical guidance on initial planning to project evaluation.
Stage 1: Build an ERP Implementation Team
An invested, intelligent and think-outside-the-box team is an essential requirement of any ERP project. Like you, they buy into the big picture, demonstrating a clear understanding of the long-term benefits of the software, as well as the challenges that lay ahead in its implementation.
Recruiting specialists to cover the technical aspects of ERP implementation, either in house or externally, is a must. As a minimum, you’ll need a project manager, responsible for overseeing the project from planning to completion, and a team of IT specialists, there to fine-tune, develop and analyse the software as it integrates with existing legacy systems.
Technical implementation is only one juncture of ERP rollout, however. At every stage of the process, the expertise and buy-in of representatives from across the business must be sought, including senior-level stakeholders and team leaders. This will ensure a smooth integration with all business functions, and guarantee that the ERP software will deliver quantifiable benefits across the organisation.
Stage 2: Calculating ERP Implementation Budget
One of the biggest challenges of implementing a successful ERP project is doing so within the confines of a limited budget. Overspending on the rollout of ERP software is all too easy, but underspending risks diminishing the long-term value of the project.
Arriving at a sensible, enumerated ERP budget requires a collaborative and considered approach. Here, IT personnel will need to work closely with software vendors and consultants to gauge the overall cost of the project, both in the short and long term.
To ensure an accurate and feasible ERP implementation budget, consider the following costs, fees and potential revenue issues:
- Vendor consultancy and implementation fees
- Development work and IT resource
- Personnel overtime costs, for the length of the project
- External consultancy fees
- Warehouse/logistics inefficiencies and associated costs
- Potential slowdown in revenue during go-live period
As well as accounting for prospective costs at the project planning stage, the success of any ERP budget relies on the ability to recognise ‘needs’ vs ‘wants’, and manage expectations accordingly. It may not be possible to say ‘yes’ to every request from every department, so be prepared to prioritise and compromise in line with budget limitations.
Stage 3: Choosing an ERP Consultant
Depending on your project scope, budget and in-house knowhow, the next step in implementing ERP software may be sourcing trusted external consultancy. An ERP implementation consultant is there to bridge the gap between your organisation and software vendors, offering expertise and a means of liaison to ensure your needs are met.
Selecting an ERP consultant can be daunting, with lots of options available and a significant amount of your total implementation budget at stake. That’s why it’s important to consider the following when sourcing third-party ERP consultant:
- Does the consultant have a track record in effective project management? – case studies and testimonials can help give an idea of a consultant’s competencies.
- What level of collaboration can you expect from the consultant? – are you looking for a reliable partner to help guide the logistics of the process? Ensure that they can meet your collaboration requirements.
- Can the consultancy back up their technical know-how with the appropriate accreditations? – what technical experience can the ERP consultant offer? Review case studies carefully to assess their technical expertise and solutions.
- Do they have experience working with businesses in a similar industry? – Not all ERP consultancies are created equal; many specialise in specific industries and sectors. Consider this carefully when partnering with the appropriate service.
Stage 4: Develop a Change Management Strategy
An ERP system will bring many changes for your operations and workflows, and these will affect personnel and business functions both directly and indirectly. Therefore, managing such change is important to mitigate any operational risk and uncertainty moving forward.
Effective change management relies on a strategic approach whereby all changes, both certain and potential, are considered and risk assessed. From here, you can develop a strategy which maximises transparency while ensuring that normal business functions can operate as normal.
Like ERP implementation itself, change management requires a step-by-step approach, including:
- Start by identifying certain and potential changes, and determining who and what will be affected by them.
- Communicate and prepare personnel for changes by offering practical guidance and support, as well as additional training where necessary.
- Be transparent about why the business is implementing ERP software when communicating with personnel and stakeholders. Why is the system necessary and what benefits will it bring to the business?
- Set guidelines for new operational structures, workflows and processes. The more comprehensive you can be at this stage, the smoother the transition and onboarding will be when the system goes live.
- Ensure total transparency by providing regular project updates to all personnel affected by the rollout.
Stage 5: Data Migration
Migrating legacy data to new ERP software is one of the most critical steps in the implementation process; it’s also among the most complex and time-consuming. Having dedicated IT resource is crucial to the success of effective data migration, ensuring complete accuracy and data safety.
While data migration and cleansing are often billed as the most difficult step in the ERP implementation cycle, there are steps you can take to make the process as simple and efficient as possible. Try the following when determining your data migration strategy:
- Schedule regular meetings with IT personnel and stakeholders to keep the migration process on track.
- Make progress as you go; small cleansing and clean-up tasks can be done in down-time periods, freeing up vital resource when it’s really needed.
- Be aggressive with your migration schedule, investing the right personnel and resources into the task to complete it in the timeliest way possible.
- Assign data management to the right personnel; pragmatic, detail-orientated people are your best bet for carrying this stage of the implementation process.
- Test your master data at regular intervals to identify problem areas which may hinder the system go-live.
Stage 6: Testing
You may think much of the legwork is done when data migration is complete, but introducing an ERP system isn’t as simple as hitting the ‘on’ button. To ensure successful onboarding and integration, a period of intensive testing is needed to put the software through its paces before its ready for use across the business.
The nature of modular ERP software means that every process, interface and function require rigorous testing to ensure it provides genuine benefit to the end-user. Problems will undoubtedly emerge in the preliminary rounds of testing, petering out as you move towards executing testing in a real-world setting with individuals from across the business.
Testing is a crucial part of the ERP implementation process, but one that is easy to rush as the project nears completion. Remain patient, trust in the process and advice of your consultants, and the time will come when you can look forward to a successful go-live with confidence that everything has been accounted for.
Stage 7: Offer Training for Adapted Business Processes
All the resources, technical knowhow and third-party expertise you’ve invested in will account for nought if you fail to provide adequate training for end-users – particularly on business processes which have changed as a result of the ERP adoption. A suite of training for user groups across the business will ensure that everyone is on the same page by the go-live date.
When readying your workforce for new ERP-led processes and workflows, training can take several forms, including:
- E-learning modules
- Face-to-face training
- On-the-job training and problem-solving tasks
Your ERP consultancy partners should be able to help deliver training and support to individuals and teams, ensuring that everything is in place by the go-live date. Groups who will require comprehensive training in new ERP systems and processes generally include:
- Senior staff and managers
- IT personnel
- HR personnel
- Supply chain personnel
- Sales and marketing teams
- Accounting and finance personnel
We hope this guide to successful ERP implementation offers some insight into the process and what’s involved. At JS3 Global, we’re experts in helping businesses Implement the very latest ERP software and solutions, with an experienced global team and hundreds of Implementations delivered all over the world, our team are on hand to provide project management, functional, business and technical support, guidance and expertise at every stage of the journey, and beyond. For more information, visit the homepage or call us on +44(0)161 503 0866.