The four most critical steps during an ERP implementation
Before you get to the implementation stage, you should already have your goals, budgets and milestones mapped out. Without these, it would have been near-impossible to select the right ERP system.
Once you’ve chosen your preferred system and vendor? Then the next set of challenges is the implementation itself.
Planning ERP implementation steps
First, you need to plan out your ERP implementation steps and delegate these across your ERP implementation team.
Here’s an at-a-glance checklist, for a more detailed plan, we have a free, downloadable ERP implementation schedule. Before getting your implementation rolling, you need to prepare for the main project phases:
- An ERP implementation schedule
- Data migration and integration process
- ERP user training
- Testing and go-live plan
At every stage, you’ll need to keep your key stakeholders onside. That includes your future ERP users. Make your plans clear and visible way ahead of implementation. You’ll need to have sold-in the benefits of the system and be prepared for push-back. Major changes can be met with resistance from some parties. If you already have change management skills in-house, you’ll be putting them to good use during this transition. If you don’t, it’s advisable to seek an external consultant experienced in transformation if your budget allows it.
ERP data migrations and integrations
Data migration and system integrations can be complex. Automated systems vary in their abilities to provide a smooth transition and while vendors can help to a point, you need to ensure your data is clean and ready to go before you make the switch.
In an age where breaches and regulatory bodies are so concerned with data privacy, security, compliance and due diligence concerns are paramount. Poorly planned and executed migrations can cause your project to crash and burn. Proper planning and careful execution are key.
Be ready to help your analysts with:
- Data verification and cleansing
- Mapping legacy data to new database fields
- Data transfer
- Testing legacy data
- Testing new data inputs
If you are integrating your ERP with existing tools, make sure you have chosen the right vendor with the right tools and people to help you implement APIs and custom work where needed. If your new ERP needs to speak to your legacy CRM or SCM system, plan the integration well ahead of roll-out to minimize risk and negative impact on business-critical workflows.
ERP user training
If people don’t know how to use it, or they’re afraid of it, it will fail. Poor training leads to poor adoption rates. Users need to be involved from the start of your ERP implementation. It begins with education on the benefits to the business and their own working lives and evolves into a solid ERP training plan. Communicating the change early is the first step. Next, you need to define a training program that works for individual departments, task types, and individuals.
Many vendors offer help with end-user training but since no two businesses are the same, you’ll need to work with them and supplement their materials with your own mix. Consider the following tools to plan your training:
- An updatable knowledge management system
- Video tutorials
- Workshops differentiated by user types
- Super-users and ERP champions
- Dedicated ERP helpdesk support
Testing and go-live plan
Before you’re ready to flip the switch, you need a go-live plan. The testing phase will have helped you eliminate the majority of issues but if any of them are critical to productivity, you have to be ready to delay. For minor issues, you might choose to live and take an agile approach to problem-solving.
Testing shouldn’t be reserved for a handful of super-users. Make sure you test under the load of a high-volume of users and plan for out-of-hours test activity to minimize risk.
Once you and your team are satisfied, it’s time to let the magic happen. If you've handled these major steps well, your business will start to operate more efficiently and effectively.
Of course, it doesn’t end here. Evaluating the success of your project, reporting, ongoing training and support are as important as the go-live date in ensuring ERP implementation success.
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