Implementing new software can be daunting, but all good things take a bit of work. Remember the doll house that your child had to have? Or the big garage with the cool track for your child’s tiny race cars? Or the beautiful bookshelf or dresser that was finally delivered from Ikea? All of these things will bring tremendous joy to people in your home, but they will also require assembly before use. It may take hours, or days, it may even have you questioning your life’s choices.
That’s exactly like the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for your business. It can be a complex undertaking and, as with any major initiative, a carefully designed implementation plan is critical. Separating your implementation into phases with clear objectives will maximize your success.
What Is ERP Implementation?
Unfortunately, an ERP system doesn’t just come out of its box ready to go. It’s a complex system that integrates many functions across your business, such as financial management, human resources, sales and manufacturing, etc. The system allows all of these different functions to communicate and work together, thereby delivering benefits in productivity and efficiency. The system has a big job to do, and because of that, the implementation process can take a few months, and considerably longer for some.
To ensure a successful implementation, patience, planning, research, configuring, and testing are all required. How do you get this done in an organized, timely way? I’m glad you asked. Each business has its own unique needs and processes, but ultimately, the process should be broken into six phases.
What Are the Phases of an ERP Implementation Plan?
- Discovery & Planning
You should begin by heavily researching and selecting a system, setting up a project team, and defining detailed system requirements. Consider what you already have and how it is failing you before coming up with a new system’s requirements. While coming up with this list of inefficiencies and the new systems to repair them, your team should also consider whether to use an on-premises ERP system or one that runs in the cloud.
Your project team will handle tasks like laying out the project plan and target dates, ensuring adequate resources are allocated, making product and design decisions, and day-to-day project management.
Your team should incorporate representatives from the various departments that will use the system, as they are the ones who will need to utilize it going forward. Senior management should also be involved in order to ensure the project gets the resources and support it needs. Also added in the mix should be any internal specialists involved in implementing the system, such as a representative from IT. This person, or perhaps a specified report writer, should develop customized reports and manuals for users across your business.
It’s also a good idea to incorporate an external consultant that can offer expertise in the selection and configuration processes.
After having considered the inefficiencies of your current system and how it negatively impacts workflow, this phase means designing new, more efficient workflows and other business processes that take advantage of the system. Just like in the last phase, it’s highly recommended that you involve users in the design phase. This importance is twofold: they know the areas of frustration in the current system and if they are involved in the design process, it is more likely they will take full advantage of the new system. Buy-in is really important, but not always guaranteed.
Gap analysis can be used to detect process complexities that may require customization of the ERP software or changes to workflow. If an ERP specialist is brought in as part of the team, they could easily identify potential solutions.
You know the must haves, and now you can begin putting it all together. The software will be configured and, where necessary, customized to support the redesigned processes. If the company has other applications or systems not being replaced by the new ERP system, it will be integrated in this phase.
Should you choose to use an on-premises ERP system, the necessary hardware and software will need to be installed. Planning for data migration needs to happen now, too, because it can be a lengthy process (which is one benefit of ERP Cloud systems). Data migration involves extracting, transforming, and loading data from multiple systems, each of which may use different formats and/or hold duplicate or inconsistent information.
Also important, while the software is in the development phase, the team should develop training materials to help users understand the new system.
Testing and development may occur alongside each other. Specific modules and features can be tested, and the team can then develop fixes or adjustments based on the results. Then retesting should be done. Another option is to test one ERP module while another is still in development. Initial testing of the software’s basic functions should be followed by thorough testing of the system’s full capabilities. Allow employees to test the system using their day-to-day activities. Migrated data should also be tested.
Ask your vendor for pre- and post-deployment tools for user training. These tools are great, but it’s also important for the project team to be creating materials during the development phase as these will perfectly align with what the users are seeing and doing.
This is when the system can finally go live. Despite all your careful planning, there can still be hiccups, and this is to be expected. There are a lot of moving parts, and your employees are still adjusting to the change despite all your efforts to prepare them. Your project team should be ready for questions and help users troubleshoot and fix any issues. In time, your users will acclimate to a new system, and they will find their flow.
Deployment times may vary depending on your preference. Some businesses chose to deploy all modules and processes at once, while others only deploy high-priority modules to begin with. Others chose to keep older systems running in tandem with the new ERP system, though this can be disruptive and reduce user productivity.
This is also the time when all data, such as current transactions, must be migrated. Other data that is consistent and nonchanging could have been moved a few phrases ago.
- Support & Updates
After deployment, you can’t just kick the ERP system out of the nest and see if it flies. Now it’s important to listen for user feedback and adjust the system accordingly. Training or retraining may be needed for staff. Additional developments or configurations may be found lacking and need adjustments. Also important, if you selected an on-premises ERP system, you’ll need to install periodic software updates. Hardware may also need an upgrade over time. If you opted for using a cloud-based ERP system, your vendor may update the software automatically, allowing for your staff to continue their daily workload uninterrupted.
There you have it: the six phases of implementing an ERP system.
This will take time, and it’s important not to rush through any of the phases, especially the research and planning phase. Other best practices include proper support and communication throughout the entire process. Let your staff be aware of what is going on and how it will be beneficial for them in the long term. Let them know they aren’t expected to figure things out as they go. Help them to feel ownership of this new member of their team.
The best way to ensure success is to rely on the experts. Godlan can help guide you through every step of selection and implementation, helping you isolate weaknesses and find plans to better future outcomes.