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Three key ways to ensure your ERP project is a success

(Image credit: Image Credit: Technology Evaluation Centers )

An enterprise resource planning (ERP) project represents a significant investment in terms of costs, resources, and time for any company. Furthermore, deployment of the ERP system you purchase and implement presents a significant time-consuming issue. An ERP system offers myriad ways of increasing overall profit and efficiency. But it’s essential that you maximise the chances of ERP project success while streamlining the overall process. There are three main keys to ensuring ERP project success.

Key 1: Plan for the project

Put Together an Initial Plan

This step makes common sense. But there’s quite a bit more to it. ERP deployment is a complex process. Implementation involves both hardware and software engineering. And any engineering implementation requires strict planning.

As such, you’ll want to put together a solid plan with strictly defined milestones. This plan also needs to have a realistic timeline that errs on the side of caution. This is an area where people tend to weigh things in the wrong direction. It’s easy to assume that everything will run optimally. But there are often unforeseen circumstances. Even a single employee calling in sick might derail overly strict timelines. Thus, it’s best to factor in some room for unexpected events.

This goes to show why timelines can prove rather difficult. But there are easier methods than trying to carry the brunt of the ERP implementation yourself. One of the main points of leadership is knowing when to delegate responsibility for parts of larger projects. Project planning itself is no different.

To plan the ERP project, you will need to map out your ERP implementation project’s journey. For this, you’ll need to include day-to-day actions that will need to be completed for each phase, and the data and business processes that will support those actions, among other factors.

Selection consultants are often an invaluable resource during this phase. And even online request-for-proposal (RFP) templates might offer a path to optimal planning.

Always Test

One point in particular should never be skipped. When making plans, always put in extra time for testing phases. Nobody would send a car out onto the road if it hadn’t been tested. And the engineering of an ERP system carries the same needs. As such, you should always put in some leeway for trial runs and the fine-tuning that follows.

Focus on Post-Implementation

People often structure timelines around strict definitions. This is usually a smart decision. But it’s important to remember that the real world is often fuzzier. ERP installation isn’t just about starting and finishing installation of integration. You’ll also need to plan for support and maintenance.

Consider Change Management Planning

When you’re putting together a plan, it’s for one main end goal. You want to avoid chaos. Everything needs to function according to a general set flow if the various pieces are going to come together. You need to ensure that the process of implementing change doesn’t end up causing confusion. This point needs careful consideration within the overall ERP implementation process.

Key 2: Nail the functional requirements

Interview Stakeholders to Leverage Expert Opinions

Having expert opinions is important in the success of your ERP system implementation project. This really can’t be overemphasised. This is also why it’s so important to specifically interview the people who will be affected by these ERP processes.

It’s important to make sure that all the major stakeholders in all affected departments have some voice in the change that will take place across your company. The specifics of this interview process will differ according to the size of the company and its various departments. But it’s important to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard so that you consider all the factors that will affect the implementation of the ERP system.

Plan the Conversations

There are a variety of ways in which you can plan the conversations. But the stress needs to be on the word ‘plan’. There does have to be some measure of planning involved in this process. As noted earlier, online templates can offer up a large amount of help. ERP RFP templates often provide the perfect structure to plan the conversations and interviews.

Consider Delegating

Again, delegating authority is a powerful managerial tool. In this case, a selection consultant offers up some important advantages when creating bridges between the departments. This individual is able to cut down overall time of discussion, emphasise productivity in discussion, and lower overall confusion among departments.

Take a Moment to Consider Overall Importance

At the implementation phase, you should take a moment of contemplation. You should step back to consider how important this last phase is to the overall plan. People often want to rush the implementation process in order to begin taking advantage of the ERP system’s functionality. But the system isn’t ready until the people who will use it are – that they have been trained properly and are willing to start using the new system to perform the necessary tasks. This won’t simply take days – it can take weeks or even months.

Leverage RFPs

A request-for-proposal (RFP) represents another powerful tool when implementing an ERP system. There are a few points to remember when working on this step. One is that you need to use a complete RFP so that you can consider all the possible functionality requirements of an ERP system. It’s important to realistic however and how those functionality features that you need from the ERP system to support the overall growth of your company.

Key 3: Assemble your all-star team

Leverage Cross-Departmental Discussion

None of the steps discussed above can happen without some foundation in cross-departmental discussion. This discussion should ideally be in place within your new all-star team, the major stakeholders involved in the selection and implementation of the ERP system. This all-star team is there to build a strong foundation on which the ERP system can fully function.

Understand Team Needs

It’s important to understand who can be part of the team. In large part, they’ll need extra time. This extra responsibility can be part of their current schedule. But if they don’t have time, then you’ll need to ensure that is given to them as part of their new duties.

Open lines of Communication

The point of having an all-star team is to facilitate communication among key stakeholders. Having such a team in place will not only help take advantage of the lines of communication that are already open in the company, but also help build them up. It’s vital that you ensure that communication is open and frequent, so that issues are promptly brought up and successfully addressed.

Meeting Structure

Having a tea doesn’t take away the need for general meetings. In fact, you should specifically structure meetings to discuss and resolve issues as they arise. In general, these meetings should stay brief and they should happen at a regular time every day.

Management Tools

You should also ensure that tools used prior to the implementation of the ERP system are still being used to their fullest during this phase. This isn’t just technological solutions either. Managerial or even outright analogue record-keeping can be powerful tools to help pave the way into the future. Just because many of these tools are about to be replaced doesn’t mean they have to be dropped all at once. In fact, that’s part of the reason why one should plan for ERP migration rather than diving in.

In conclusion

While most of the points discussed above may seem like common sense, they do however need to be emphasised. People often assume that the simple steps will just fall into place – they won’t, unless they are carefully planned, monitored, and tweaked as needed.

Tasks like ensuring that lines of communication are open can easily go unsaid. And as a result, they don’t enter into firm plans. But by keeping all of these steps in mind, you can ensure that your ERP selection and migration goes smoothly.

Deeana Radley, Business & Technology Writer, Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC)
Image Credit: Technology Evaluation Centers

Deeana Radley is a Business & Technology Writer at Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC). Areas of Expertise: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) | Customer Relationship Management (CRM) | Business Intelligence (BI) Deeana Radley is a business and technology writer with over 5 years of industry insight. She has written extensively on technology trends, software solutions and market developments.