Before implementing ERP, study these helpful hints

Before implementing ERP, you are going to put a great deal of pre-purchase effort into deciding what kind of ERP software system will be the best fit for your organization. Developing an ERP strategy is an important first step that will help you move forward with the rest of the planning.

You also want to know what kind of impact implementing ERP will have on the people in your organization. There are a lot of questions that should be asked and answered in interviews with the managers, the IT department and all of the end users.

Training is important

How many people are going to learn the software? It is not only important to ensure that the right mix of people receive training, you should also have a succession training plan. You want the knowledge to be transferred if any of the training recipients were to leave the company. You certainly do not want your investment in training and software knowledge to walk out of the door.

Don’t set the training program in motion too soon before implementing ERP, especially if you have people traveling offsite to learn. Once the trainees leave, you should be ready to start the ERP implementation as soon as they get back. People forget what they have learned very quickly unless they are hands on right away.

ERP implementation plan

When implementing ERP, most companies have their IT department create a comprehensive ERP implementation plan and timeline. But who should really be involved? Everyone in the company! Planning the implementation is a pizza party task – or perhaps several pizza parties if there are a lot of departments and people. Once a top level implementation plan has been created, then the ERP project team can go ahead and hammer out the details.

This is a good time to demonstrate to employees that this company really values its human capital. Get everyone fired up about the ERP system implementation and ask for their input.

Put all their suggestions for a smooth implementation process onto a big whiteboard or SMART board and develop a plan together. This will ensure that everyone in the company is on board with the implementation, that they know how long it will take and that there are sufficient resources to carry out each task in a timely manner.

During the planning exercise you should also pick a window of opportunity for the implementation – the period when the least amount of real-time data is required such as monthly sales figures, project performance reports, production forecasts, inventory adjustments or financial statements. This will reduce end user frustration while the implementation is in progress.

Quell the rumors

There will be opposition, especially if this is the first time that the company has had an enterprise wide, integrated system. Departments can be very territorial and reluctant to have a system in place that shares information company-wide. People who hate change may spread rumors about the new system and the "negative affect" it will have on the operation.

For managers and other people who are really apprehensive about change, provide then with before and after visuals of key components of their job to reassure them that the new system will provide an overall benefit to the organization.

If you sense that there is still going to be opposition, pick a champion. Get a project leader on board by setting up a test database with one or two of his projects or create a mini production run for a plant manager. Enter sufficient data to create reports that demonstrate positive outcomes from the new ERP system. Your champion will then sell the benefits of the system to his peers.

Looking for a little help?

If someone recommends purchasing software tools to help manage the implementation beware. This could create additional overhead rather than being a benefit. The priority is learning how to effectively use the new core system, not additional software.

The IT department may even find a really neat data migration utility or system integration tool and think “we only need it for a short time, we can download a thirty day trial”. Great if that is true. But the operation could be in trouble once the trial has expired if your integrated system tells you that you have to purchase a license or lose functionality, especially if the cost of the license is outside the budget.

Parallel Processing or Cold Turkey?

There is no right or wrong decision on whether or not to run parallel processing in the old and new system or just shut off the old system and start afresh. Integrity of the ERP database is key. You want to have sufficient resources to check and compare the data in two systems if you are going to run parallel. If you are going “cold turkey” with the new ERP software system, you need to have checks and balances in place to reassure everyone that the data is accurate.

Finally, build lots of contingency into the plan when implementing ERP. It is better to be realistic. Chances are that even if the implementation has been very carefully planned, there will be cost and time overruns because there are people involved in the process.

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