How to successfully implement ERP software

How to successfully implement ERP software

After choosing the right ERP solution for your business, the seriously hard work starts: implementation.  This phase can be the most intimidating, and we’re not going to sugar-coat it.  It is also probably the most demanding.  But done right, implementation doesn’t have to be a nightmare.

Probably the most important consideration for ‘doing it right’ is having the right partner (which is discussed in this blog).  In fact, the choice of partner is often a bigger factor in success or otherwise, than even the choice of software.  You want to look for appropriate experience not only with the ERP package itself, but perhaps even more importantly, experience of business.  That’s business in general, and your industry and organisation in particular.

At the outset, we should point out that no two ERP implementations are the same (if they were, you could simply install the software yourself, as you might do with an accounting package).  That said, there are similarities, and that’s why experience and a proven methodology count.

Your implementation will start with the involvement of our Project Management Office and a project manager who will be your primary contact.  The project manager makes sure everything stays on track, identifies any issues that may disrupt the project and organises our team (and works with your project manager and sponsor – the senior person in your organisation who drives the project) to get things done.

Our lead consultant is the ‘system specialist’ (and there may be multiple specialists who get involved in the delivery of your project); they work to understand your requirements and determine the system configuration.  The lead consultant is deeply involved in the project the whole way through and is supported by general consultants who will perform various other tasks as required.

Most projects go through around 8 phases. The first is presales, which essentially scopes the project. That’s followed by:

  • Solution engagement
  • Project planning and organisation
  • Solution build
  • Systems customisation
  • Solution delivery
  • Prep and go live
  • Solution handover

That is a lot of phases – but don’t be fazed.  Again, a proven methodology in the hands of a partner which has earned its stripes in ERP implementation means that as the project moves from one step to another, regular communication, formal documentation and regular meetings keep things on track.

Bear in mind that the cost of the implementation to a very large extent comes down to how much time we spend working on your ERP system – which means it’s worth looking at those factors most likely to drive up costs.

The first is customisation.  As already mentioned, ERP software is highly configurable. It is also customisable – which means making unique additions to the standard code.

The second thing is data conversion, where the data from preceding systems is formatted to be brought into the new system.  This includes master data (key information like customer and supplier details, inventory records, etc), opening balances from the General Ledger and open sales orders, purchase orders etc, and transactional data.  Transaction history can also be transformed and loaded - but this can add complexity and difficulty (and therefore cost).

What should by now be apparent is that there are a lot of moving parts to an implementation.  This also means there is a lot of potential room for scope creep, more hours of work than expected and budget blowouts (which are depressingly commonplace in ERP implementations).

And that’s why Verde offers fixed price/fixed time contracts.  This does mean a little more work upfront, as we need to be sure of precisely what we’re dealing with.  We can do it owing to our lengthy track record and experience in delivering complex ERP solutions for a wide range of industries – and that experience is crucial in our ability to not only understand your needs, but to accurately plan, scope and deliver within a defined budget.

Finally, once the implementation is done, bear in mind that what is delivered is likely to be an ‘initial’ one.

At the end of this phase, you’re not going to have a perfect, companywide system fully integrated with your trading partners.  What you are going to have is a solid foundation which delivers substantial improvements to most common processes, replaces multiple disparate systems, and helps eliminate dependence on spreadsheets, word documents and information contained in employee’s heads.

To be fair, that is a significant gain.  But ERP is like marriage; the effort only starts once the ring is slid onto the finger.  From there, it takes work to develop and grow into a lasting and valuable engagement: you don’t get everything you want at the beginning.

With enough time and money, an ERP system can be made to do just about anything.  Therein, however, lies risk.  Scope creep, which we have addressed before, is often the consequence of realising just how powerful ERP software is, with the stars in the eyes leading to a desire to add functionality outside of the initial plan.  This is a very bad idea; sticking to the initial installation and the creation of that foundation is essential.  Not only to keep to the agreed budget, but also to minimise risk to your company.

Juanita Potgieter

Juanita Potgieter

With over 10 years’ experience in various marketing fields, Juanita is an action-oriented Marketing Manager with a proven track record of creating marketing initiatives and managing new product development to drive growth. Prior to joining Verde, Juanita worked within strategic business development and marketing management roles at several international companies.

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