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Avoiding the seven stages of ERP grief

(Image credit: Image Credit: Rimini Street)

It's true that ERP is a complex field but it's become clear that an enterprise cannot lag on Enterprise Resource Planning systems. And, if set up correctly, it has a myriad of benefits that can power organisations now and into the future:

  • Automation increases efficiency across an organisation;
  • Improved productivity;
  • Enhanced customer service; and
  • Decisions can be made more intelligently based on objective data.

It's no surprise then, that close to 50 per cent of companies are looking at either upgrading their ERP or implementing it as a greenfield project.

The success of an ERP implementation is directly proportional to the fit of the enterprise and its vendor. There is no one-size-fits-all. Your solution will be different to that of a peer in the same industry, which is important when choosing your vendor.

Partnering with the right vendor who is able to step into your business shoes and grasp the subtleties of the operation is key. This is harder than it sounds.

At the outset, it needs to be said that choosing and implementing an ERP solution is not a walk in the park. Bringing an ERP system into your business is an organisation-wide shift, and you’ll need buy-in from your whole team. (Don’t be disheartened though; a great ERP vendor, who approaches your project as a partner, can do much to reduce the challenges and create a rewarding ERP implementation journey.)

Knowing which stage of the ERP implementation journey that you’re on can help you understand what your next steps should be. We take a look at the different stages below.

The seven stages of ERP grief

  • 1. Shock

Let's start with some questions:

Do you have access to accurate, real-time enterprise-wide data?
Are you working with a single, cohesive system?
Is staff able to automate time-consuming manual processes?
As you grow, will your business management software expand and grow too?
Is the answer to all of these, 'yes'?

If not, you're in for a shock: your ERP system is lagging on the innovation front. This might surprise you if you've been using a system for many years, but rest assured, your competitors are busy investigating new technology.

  • 2. Denial

ERP projects are often complex, large, and daunting. Between finding the right vendor and the right customisable ERP solution for all parts of your business, you then have to cough up the big bucks. You ignore the problem, patch up with tape, make-do. But you know in your heart that these are temporary measures that will eventually bite back. You end up with a situation where staff is taking shortcuts, processes are inefficient, inconsistencies creep in and ultimately you lose productivity, and your view of the entire picture. And this, obviously, costs money.

  • 3. Desolation

It's easy to feel despair and be despondent. Don't. New technology or an upgrade of old technology is an opportunity to make a new start and tidy up. Gather a strong project team, do your research and understand best practices. And then write a solid RFP. The best way to do this is to think deeply about what outcomes you want to see from an ERP system in your organisation.

Remember, 96 per cent of growing businesses excelling in their industry rely on ERP and 95 per cent of organisations experienced improvement in their processes after implementing ERP technology.

  • 4. Bargaining

Vendors and ERP solutions abound. How are you ever going to find your way through this maze for your perfect set-up? And then convince stakeholders who are justly sceptical and cautious... You need patience and planning for this stage and keep your goal in sight. This is a 10-15 year purchase - it will take time to get the right buy-in. Every team will have their own list of requirements from a software solution of this scale. And that’s exactly as it should be.

  • 5. Reflection

ERP implementations have a high first-time failure rate. By choosing wrong, you run the risk of disappointed staff and wasted money. You won't get a second chance. However, if you get it right, you will be behind the best version of your business. You'll create a flexible, scalable and agile platform, with an efficient and innovative culture. No pressure!

  • 6. Working through

This is where you need to do the leg-work and find out exactly what you want from your ERP solution. Employees are your biggest source of information - ask them what would make their lives easier and what their issues are. They'll probably even be able to tell you what clients' issues are relating to the how the processes are run in your business.

You'll start to have a clearer picture of what your ERP system must offer, what's a nice-to-have and what's just garnish. Keep separate lists for all three of these requirements.

Here are some points to consider when looking at requirements. Do you need:

Rapid, future-proof scalability at every level?
Integrated e-commerce management tools for third party applications?
Intelligent order processing and stock management tools?
Smart customer, supplier, leads and prospect management?
Real-time, 360-degree business visibility and intelligence?
Anytime, anywhere mobile access for key staff?
Configurable workflows, alerts, properties and reports?
A clear map towards digital transformation?

  • 7. Acceptance

You've made a match with an ERP provider, now the real work begins. You need to:

  • Appoint a system administrator
  • Clean your data before migrating to the new system
  • Decide on a training schedule with your vendor for the new modules
  • Work on a strategy for the future to maximise ERP value

And the final - and crucial - step is to nurture your relationship with your vendor to keep these seven stages of ERP grief away and reap the benefits. The frustrations will all be worth it when you experience just how transformative a perfect-fit ERP solution can be for your business.

Claire Mason, Content Strategist, Intact Software