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ERP Implementation Best Practices Best Practices in ERP Software Implementation

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Map Your Moves

Before you can map the best route to your destination, you need to know where you are. Start by getting a good grip on your business processes as they are now AND on the gaps and problems that exist within them. This will enable you to identify your destination – the processes and goals that signify that you have arrived at your goal.

Decide the ERP implementation phase structure. In other words, determine which things you will do first, organize all as sequential phases and map out specific steps to accomplish each phase. Take your time and be thorough in identifying specific steps to be taken. This one thing will save you headaches, lost time, scope creep and budget kills. Slow down and get this right before you begin implementation.

One additional tip: Use virtualization or sandbox environments to test steps you have taken before you push anything to a production ERP system. This will enable you to prevent breaks and find answers before a problem hits the full system. It's an incremental approach that saves time in the end.

It is vital that you do not shortcut on testing each phase as bugs are much harder to fix (and more costly as well) if you do not catch them quickly. Also, undetected problems in an earlier phase can negatively impact a later phase. Such occurrences will complicate correction efforts. Make it an IT department mantra – test each phase thoroughly with both Unit Acceptance Tests (UATs) and regression testing before proceeding to the next.

Consider the Total Landscape

In the not so distant past, all ERP software implementations dealt entirely with putting enterprise applications on desktop computers. The landscape has grown since then to include remote and mobile workers. Remote workers are generally stationary but work outside your company’s walls whereas mobile workers are generally traveling. The needs of remote workers and mobile workers overlap in places and widely diverge in others. Therefore, it is important to map each separately in your ERP implementation plans in order to avoid overlooking key constituents and components of the enterprise’s overall goals.

There are, however, key areas to focus on in the implementation process for each type of ‘outside’ worker. For mobile workers, keep things easy and fast to use – particularly on smartphones, tablets and other handheld devices. Do not just move the ERP desktop application to the mobile user. Instead, launch a subset defined by the worker’s actual job role and daily routine. This makes better use of the mobile worker’s time and increases adoption rates significantly.

For remote workers, the issues revolve more around remote accessibility of enterprise data and, of course, related security matters. Be sure to take these into consideration during ERP implementation planning.

Control the Data Flow

It almost goes without saying that your data must be clean to be of any use. Almost goes without saying. Unfortunately, it is all too common for organizations to shortcut early data analysis and subsequent data cleansing.

In truth, dirty data can not be overcome by any other step in the implementation process. It acts as a contagion that infects and spoils all functions, sort to speak. In essence, none of your reports will be reliable or usable if the data is accurate and complete. It’s easier to scrub it prior to implementation and then maintain it throughout then it is to scrub it after the fact.

Additionally, plan for data surges in advance, such as seasonal movement if you are a retailer or changes in your business from mergers and acquisitions. Configure your ERP system to handle such ebbs and flows early in the process so that such events do not break the system or muddy reports when they occur.

Be sure to test your system for traffic flows that mimic actual peak traffic. This is the best way to resolve problems before they hurt the company and raise user ire. Again, a breakdown during peak periods is especially bad timing so prepare ahead of time to prevent these scenarios.

Let it Rip

Usually when a company fails to reap sufficient benefits from ERP software it is because they never unleashed its power. Learn to let go at some point and let it rip!

Unleashed, ERP systems will still fail if they are not continuously optimized to accommodate changes in your business. Therefore, remember that letting it rip is way different from letting it rot.

Enterprise Resource Planning is powerful software. By all means, harness that power but do not contain it so tightly that it cannot perform nor give it so much freedom that it wanders off course. Balance is the key to ERP implementation success.

Train on Your Timetable

Many ERP vendors try to sell training in a single burst session, often 10 to 30 days over a six week period. Nix this idea entirely as it will only confuse your organization’s employees. By the time users reach the end of the training period, they will have forgotten much of what they learned earlier or, in the case of tech –newbies, they will have gotten lost early on and never caught up to the most needed information.

It is better to train staff in shorter sessions that allow users to become proficient with one set of information before moving onto the next set. This type of training schedule will increase information retention and adoption rates.

Know your users and plan training accordingly. Be sure to insist the ERP vendor comply with your training needs.

In addition, plan on continuing education for employees. Your ERP system will change over time as you continuously optimize it to fit changes in the organization. This means that users will need to be trained on the changes on a routine and regular basis. It also means training documents should be frequently updated.

Timing is Everything

Hopefully, you got the ERP vendors to come clean on their upgrade schedules prior to making a final ERP software product selection. If you did, you now have a vendor who upgrades frequently enough to continuously add value but infrequently enough to prevent unnecessary work.

But your vendor is not the only one that should be helpful by considering the timing of the actions. Plan ERP upgrades and enhancements based on a schedule that makes sense for your organization’s goals and internal timetables. By being in sync with your organization’s internal workings, you will also add benefit to users without adding unnecessary work.

Guard Against Vendor Take-Overs and Folds

Hopefully, you did sufficient due diligence during the ERP selection process so that you have chosen an ERP vendor who is financially solid. If not, your company could be at risk. But even if you did do due diligence properly, that is no safeguard against all possible future events. Make it part of your plan to periodically check the financial standing of your vendor. If it appears that the vendor may be in trouble, talk to them about it early. You may be able to negotiate an early contract release or transition that will enable you to better afford a switch to a new vendor. Such may also help you avoid the snarls of the vendor’s bankruptcy proceedings.

Watch for a vendor buy-out even if the company is financially stable. When an ERP vendor is bought it usually means bad news for customers. Typically, buyers want the client base and care little about the software. Best practice in your defense, then, is to stay aware of mergers and acquisitions that affect your ERP vendor. Move immediately to introduce yourself to any new owner and push loudly for a commitment of software support and upgrades.

It is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. Squeak first. Squeak loud. Squeak continuously until your needs are met, but be aware that it is exceptionally rare to get all your needs met in such circumstances. Identify your list of ‘must-haves’ and focus on getting those.

Work Your Plan

After doing everything above – stay true to it! Work your plan. Work your plan. Work your plan.

If you do, your ERP software will deliver the expected benefits right on schedule. End

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Plan for continuing ERP education. Your ERP system will change over time as you continuously optimize it to fit changes in the organization.

 

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