5 aspects to planning a successful ERP go-live
ERP Go-Live is one of the last events to be scheduled in an ERP implementation plan. It is also the most hectic and intense period in the entire ERP project so it deserves some particular attention.
1. Schedule before & after
This is the moment when you throw the switch and your business begins running (much better) on your new ERP. To make that moment magic, you will begin earlier with some check off details. You will also extend the moment to include some days or maybe weeks immediately following the actual go-live.
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2. Complete testing
Your ERP testing began months ago and has resulted in much learning and a lot of issues to be resolved. Look over your issue list. What issues are remaining open? Which issues will still be open on the planned go-live date? If any of those are show stoppers, consider delaying go live. The others? Are they an improvement you can live without for a while? The few remaining will require a work around until they can be resolved.
3. Set up your hardware
Be sure your hardware set up and working at all sites. This includes servers and networks as well as desktop computers. It also includes any wireless networks and wireless connections both on your premises and externally. Is the speed of the system at all sites adequate? Have you tested the system under a load? It might work well with only a few super users testing and completely fail when thousands of users across the globe begin using it at ERP go-live.
4. Review your training program
Check with customers and suppliers to be sure any portals they depend on still work with the new ERP. Does anyone at those organizations need any training?
Review your training schedule. Who fell through the cracks? Someone was out to lunch and never got the training they will need. Some others will possibly need remedial training.
5. Reports & support
Are all reports and dashboards designed and ready to run? Have the users accepted them?
Who will support users at ERP go-live – on site or remote? Super users, managers, and technical people will be needed. Maybe only to hold someone’s hand. Maybe to work out a solution to that situation you forgot to test. These people will need to be quickly available for a long time – maybe more than 24 hours! So plan for it and be sure they are fed and rested as much as possible.
You should know the time needed for data conversion and the time for installation of the ERP system. Decide on cutoff times and dates for transactions. Throw the switch and get ready for pats on the back when it is all wildly successful.
What to when things go wrong: ERP go-live triage
As a broad rule of thumb, assume that your ERP help desk will receive approximately one ticket request for every two ERP end users on the first day of go live. This is a number that should be used for initial discussion and planning purposes, and can be adjusted liberally based on how rushed/leisurely the final days of the implementation are; how integration testing goes; how many business processes still have bugs at ERP go-live, etc. The point isn’t that predicting the number of help tickets post ERP go-live is an exact science, it is that without some expectation of help ticket volume and type, how you staff an ERP help desk, and with whom, becomes an arbitrary decision.
As part of help desk documentation, it is important to have a triage process to assign priorities to help tickets. Help requests which can be fixed in five minutes should be given a top priority and fixed in five minutes. Nothing contributes to organizational panic more than not being able to resolve a supply chain master data problem for an hour because you don’t have time to get to it. After that, equally high priority needs to be assigned to problems which are currently prohibiting product from moving to the next stage of manufacturing or distribution – a broken production reporting transaction, for instance, or the inability to print a label to ship an order. It does not take very many production reporting delays or errors cascading though the new ERP system before undoing all the damage takes far more time than resolving the problem.
Keep the Machines Running
The next priority level should be any impediments from producing a valid production schedule. Without a production schedule, the machines stop, and if the machines stop, it will be said that ERP doesn’t work. In general, the largest group of complicated help tickets will come out of supply chain and order entry. It is impossible to test every possible permutation of product, quantity, and request date, and unexpected – and undesired -outcomes will occur. There will always be a logical reason for the outcome, but it may take a while to investigate and understand. Even more dicey is what to do about the problem; usually without careful testing, fixing this problem has the potential of breaking something else.
Triage continues by breaking down problems into successive layers of criticality. Most problems can be assigned on a 1 to 3 scale; although some feel better with a 1 to 4 or 1 to 5 scale. Managing ERP go-live problems is no different than managing customer service problems, or manufacturing problems, or any other business problems – some are important, and can’t wait; some are less critical and can wait, literally, forever. Intelligent application of business knowledge and judgment will ensure that the right problems get solved in the right order.
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