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ERP Implementation Best Practices Best Practices in ERP Software Implementation

 

Project Management Takes the Lead

Formal and disciplined project management is crucial to ERP software implementation success. This is a purposeful, proactive management of the entire project to include software configuration and change management. It is the alpha and the omega of the implementation.

Choose a single person to be in charge of project management and to whom all involved parties must report and answer. It is vital that such person have the authority to direct activities. Otherwise, this person will become little more than a convenient scapegoat when the project eventually flounders and fails. This is true of all major IT projects, but especially so with the vast and over-arching ERP implementations.

Since ERP deployments are huge, sweeping projects it is a best practice to use certified project managers who are also well versed in the particular ERP software system being implemented.

Document Everything

The best way to protect your ERP implementation investment is to document everything. Why? Well for several reasons, actually.

First, if you document your baseline and your goals that will keep you on course with your mapping now and with your evaluations later.

Second, if you undergo staff changes, or your consultant /integration /implementation firm does, you have institutionalized knowledge for new team members to use to quickly come up to speed. Also, nothing gets lost in the transition or the translation.

Thirdly, the documentation verifies what was done when and to what extent. This is important as ERP projects typically are huge in scope and occur over time. Memories can get muddied in the process. It is better to have a document to refer to if and when it is needed.

Fourthly, it resolves interpersonal conflicts that may arise between your organization and the vendor, the vendor and your implementation partner, IT and the business units, etc. If everything is fully documented, discord can be speedily resolved and the project thus not unduly delayed.

Finally, documenting both system integration and ERP software customizations enables you to easily transfer them or fix breaks in the code caused by recurring upgrades.

The take-away: document everything in every way, every day.

Carefully Choose Consultants

ERP software consultants and integrators are like any other professionals that do the same job day after day – they fall into performance ruts. It is a professional hazard not a conscious decision so they are typically unaware of the habits they have formed.

Since any given business process can be configured and developed in many different ways, it is in your best interest to ask consultants to run simulations prior to implementing one. This way you avoid the consultant using a configuration they are most comfortable with instead of the one that will work best for your organization. It will cost you a little more to do it this way but your return on investment – and overall happiness with the software – will be infinitely higher.

Also, make sure the consultant or integration firm you choose is financially sound. The recent recession has been hard on the field, and even the bigger firms can be teetering from the blow. If you think the big firms are too big to fail, think again. That is what people used to think about the mega-banks, too.

Check their financial stability before you enter a contract to avoid finding yourself working alone midstream in the implementation process. Also, offer consultants incremental terms on payment to help ensure their viability. In other words, a hold-back or partial payments upfront and throughout the process may do more to stabilize the consultant than a final payment at the end of the project. Although, you should be careful that you tie such payments to specific accomplishments or milestones to avoid cost and time overruns.

The Cloud as an Implementation Advantage

"Cloud computing support for ERP solutions is a critical decision factor in all enterprise infrastructure planning decisions," notes Don Ryan, managing director of Technology at Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB). A recent survey by CMB shows that 70% of enterprises are using either internal or external cloud infrastructure computing. "While the preponderance of these implementations are proof of concept or initial roll-outs, the overall percentage of deployments speak to the fact that any new enterprise application must be compatible and work seamlessly within a cloud architecture," he says.

It is important to realize that even if you select an ERP solution that is strictly on-premise, the system will have to incorporate or integrate with other business applications that are in the Cloud if not immediately then certainly very soon. For this reason, and others, cloud ERP versions are increasing in popularity.

"ERP in the cloud is a reality," agrees Amit Sen, director and practice leader, Patni Americas’ Business Consulting Services group. "The early focus was on private clouds, and companies have seen significant changes in the cost structure and accounting treatment within their organizations."

Sen says moving ERP to the cloud will have the following impacts:

  • The CIO will focus on delivering the value of ERP to the business and not managing the application
  • There will be an increased focus on data quality and utilization
  • ERP software will take on the role of process steward within the organization, driving much needed business IT alignment
  • It will move IT closer to business by decentralizing some of the business analyst functions of IT.

Avoid Code Traps

ERP software customization is helpful – to a point. Too much of this good thing renders an ERP system entirely different from the packaged software you bought. That can cost you in vendor support abandonment or in large breakage in future upgrades. It is also a leading cause of scope creep and budget overruns. Over customization is a major problem regardless of the ERP platform.

Here’s the best practice rule: make as few modifications to the source code as possible.

Customize where needed, but only where needed.

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Here’s an ERP best practice rule: make as few modifications to the source code as possible.

 

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