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Five top tips for getting ERP implementations right

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Jaroslav Cerny, CEO of RDB Consulting
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is typically a costly exercise and there are often high expectations placed on projects to deliver the anticipated business benefits. This makes it vital to get the implementation right the first time around.

When it comes to ERP, or any IT solution for that matter, a proactive approach towards selecting and implementing technology will always be beneficial in ensuring the solution does not fail. By incorporating these five top tips organisations can go a long way towards ensuring that the ERP system provides the expected benefits, and will continue to deliver these benefits into the future.

Top Tip #1 – Get executive buy-in

Lack of buy-in from the very top levels represents one of the biggest points of failure when it comes to ERP and other IT solutions. The reality is, no matter how good the tools are they will inevitably fail if the top management of the organisations does not think the solution is necessary.

You need to have the backing of the Board in order to give solutions the best possible chance of succeeding, and this buy-in should then be filtered from the top down to the rest of the organisation to ensure that resistance to change is minimised.
This requires a breakdown of the traditional disconnect between IT and the business. If the executive is to believe in the necessity of the solution they need to understand how it will benefit the business and how the solution fits into the overall strategy of the organisation.

Top Tip #2 – Continuous internal selling

Once the executive has bought into the solution and understands its strategic importance as well as the benefits it will deliver to the
business, it is vital to filter this buy-in through the entire organisation. People are typically very resistant to change, which can hinder the effectiveness of the ERP system if it is not effectively dealt with from the outset.

However, it is not enough to do this once at the beginning of the implementation. The internal selling process must be continuous throughout implementation and the early phases of using the solution. The benefits to the business, both logistically and financially, need to be understood by all parties, as well as the benefits to the individuals themselves so that they will see how the solution will make their jobs easier. There needs to be a constant process of reinforcement so that buy-in is established and then maintained.

Top Tip #3 – Do your homework when selecting software

Selecting the right software for your business is extremely important as this tool will form the basis of the ERP solution within an organisation. Simply opting for the cheapest or the most well known system is not the most intelligent way to go about beginning the journey on a large strategic implementation – if the wrong software is selected it will become a costly and frustrating process of correcting mistakes that could have been avoided from the beginning.

Take all of the factors into consideration, including the cost, the complexity of your environment and the functionality you require. This involves building a strong business case off the back of the motivation to executives. A solution has to fit the needs of the business if it is to provide the expected benefits. To ensure a fit with your organisation, do site visits where your chosen solution has been successfully implemented.

Ask questions, gather information and ensure that you know everything possible about the various software options.

Top Tip #4 – Do your homework when choosing an implementation partner

Just as important as selecting the right software is choosing the right partner to assist with the journey of implementing the solution. ERP implementation is not a core competency of the majority of businesses that require the solution, so it makes sense to outsource this phase to experts in the field.

Get references from previous clients of the partner to establish the success of their implementations as well as the quality of the consultants allocated; their knowledge, expertise and experience and especially with overseas consultants, the turnaround times of implementation and fault correction. Find out whether the consulting project team is based locally or overseas, as this will affect the overall time to implement. Gather all the information you possibly can so that you know whether the partner you have selected is the right one for your organisation.

Top Tip #5 – Form a strong internal project team

Managing the project internally is important to ensure that it will ultimately meet the business needs of the organisation. For the internal project team to be strong all of the strategic business units should be involved and each strategic business unit (SBU) should allocate at least one person to the project. Not only will this help to ensure the solution meets the needs of each SBU, it will also assist with maintaining buy-in by making the entire organisation feel that it is contributing to the success of the implementation.

The members of the internal project team must be empowered to make decisions on behalf of their SBUs, which means that they need to have a strong understanding of their portfolio and their role and be given the authority to make decisions quickly without the need to always obtain approval from various other bodies.

Complementary to this is the need to ensure that project management is thorough as different products have different implementation methodology.

Project management methodology needs to be consistent and project managers need to ensure that no shortcuts are taken – otherwise the end result will be a failure, despite all of the work put in on previous steps.

To conclude

ERP implementations are a costly and involved process, so going back to fix mistakes made at the outset is simply not an option for most organisations.

Getting it right the first time requires careful thought and a process to ensure the support of the entire organisation.

Selecting the right tools is important, but it is not the only factor to be considered. Of equal importance is the buy-in of the executive and the organisation as a whole, managing the project internally, and selecting the right implementation company to partner with you on your journey towards delivering the benefits of ERP solutions to the organisation.

Jaroslav Cerny, CEO of RDB Consulting

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