A lot of effort goes into picking and implementing a new ERP system. So much so, “ERP fatigue” often sets in by the time a new system is installed. In my 20 plus years of ERP consulting, I’ve observed a variety of behaviors around ERP and why some implementations are more successful than others. Some of these behaviors and insights are as follows:
Go-live is just the beginning
Not to diminish the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to turn on a new system, but it is important to have a mindset that go-live is not the end, but a new beginning or stage of the project. Of course, you want to celebrate the milestone while working out the kinks, but this “new stage” of your ERP project should transition or signal the start of what happens after the system gets installed.
Best practices for ERP implementation
- Replenish and reform a new team. With ERP implementations taking from months to years, your original team is tired and anxious to return to their regular jobs. Form a new team that is willing to shepherd the system into its next phase(s). Retaining one or two of the original members (think continuity) is desirable, but not a deal breaker.
- The new team should have the ability to tackle many topics, so an effective strategic plan is needed. It’s a best practice to prioritize the team’s mission and objectives while seeking out a “thought leader” from your organization or an independent ERP consultant to lead the charge. A logical first step is to survey users to see how they’re faring with the new system. Typically, this will uncover steps or issues that the new team will want to address. These could include additional training, quelling a loud naysayer, or identifying future system modifications. The survey results help to form a bridge between the original implementation team and the new team.
- If your company has a center for excellence or a team dedicated to continuous improvement, involve them. They will often surface “the voice of the customer,” whereas employees may be more concerned with internal processes. Increased customer satisfaction should always be a benefit of a new ERP system and this must be spelled out, measured, and communicated to employees. These practices allow them to see the bigger picture and benefits to the company. For some companies, installing a new ERP system or digital transformation is the lifejacket needed to remain afloat. For others, it is the catalyst to becoming more competitive and keep growing. If a company isn’t doing well, the employees already know it. Telling them how technology is positively impacting the bottom line is welcome news they’re likely to rally behind.
- The original project team should have established target metrics or ROI numbers that should be achieved from the new system when measured at regular intervals. The intervals should be at least quarterly, and for some businesses it makes sense to have them even more often. The new team is responsible for reporting the ROI numbers and surfacing issues impeding or deterring positive momentum. For example, your ROI after month one can typically be lower than in month six because of learning curves and culture change surrounding the new system. If you don’t measure it, you can’t fix it.
Sidebar: If the original project team didn’t establish ROI goals, the new team should take this on. It will only help their credibility within the organization and bolster support from upper management.
- Make sure you are taking full advantage of your vendor’s software. It’s not unusual that only core modules are installed at go-live. It’s also not unusual that other modules purchased get forgotten or set aside. Two thoughts about this:
- Examine all uninstalled modules purchased to see if it makes sense to incorporate them.
- Understand what other modules can be purchased from your software vendor and/or explore compatible “bolt-on” software from other companies that can be added to address specific needs or gaps.
Optimize your ERP solution with innovative thinking
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to treat your ERP project as an ongoing living effort within your company to maximize the benefits of any new system. I’ve seen too many instances when an old legacy system was replaced by a sexy new system, which basically emulated what the old one did (in a more automated fashion). Another common misstep is not flushing out and defining a company’s “future state” needs before implementation.
The art and science of ERP strategy, software, selection and implementation are not easy. Any achievement is typically supported by a consistent methodology followed by continuous improvement to maximize return on investment.
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