Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is hard to implement, and any denial of this fact by a vendor or value-added reseller is either naïve or dishonest. At Milestone Information Solutions, we’ve been in this business long enough to understand this fact, and even if we may make it “look easy” and have a history of success in getting the job done, we’re not going to gloss over the fact that it takes a lot of planning and execution to get the job done right.
Following our last blog on the dangers of implementation mutiny and the importance of building a team with the skills and motivation to get the job done, we would today like to highlight another danger that exists—getting lost in the wilderness.
ERP Failure: Lost Direction
Going into an ERP project is like planning an Antarctic expedition. Few things are more rewarding than successfully completing one, but it’s very easy to get lost along the way. In the 3-12 months it takes to complete the project, you can only expect to run into the occasional “blizzard” or other scenario in which you may lose your way from point A to point B, and without the right planning or guidance, you can quickly start heading in the wrong direction.
Without guidance or direction, you can end up getting distracted by new features, unexpected challenges, or data conversion hiccups that occur during migration.
Change is hard, and without the right goals, planning, or communication, the move could result in new or unexpected challenges that derail an implementation project. Fewer things will distress employees more than an announcement that the project will take a few more months, they won’t get a promised benefit, or that they will need to do more work during the transition.
As we discussed in our last blog on the implementation process, end user mutiny a real concern, so it pays to take stock of your current systems and develop a plan.
Solution: Understanding Where You Are and Where You Hope to Be
With your team in place, your communications initiatives documented, and end user input taken into consideration, it’s time to develop a project plan.
Be Ready to Answer Why You Are Making a Change
People are loyal to their brand. Ask an Apple user to make the switch to Android, a Chrome user to use Edge, or a Linux user to use any other operating system and the response will range from eye rolls to disdain. Sometimes, however, this loyalty is misplaced or dangerous—imagine the number of Windows XP or Internet Explorer users who would rather put themselves at risk than make an upgrade.
The same goes for an ERP upgrade. People will remain loyal to their spreadsheets, legacy ERP, and entry level accounting software. As you begin to look at new solutions, you need to be able to answer why you are making a change, discussing the weak points of your current system, the reasons a new system is going to help end users do their jobs more effectively, and the benefits of an upgrade.
Know Who You’re Talking To
Depending on who asks you the question, you (and your internal communication team) will need to tailor the answer to the person asking the question. For example, your board members expect a detailed ROI analysis and an explanation that they will receive real-time, easy to understand dashboards customized to them so they can make decisions with less work.
Alternatively, you need to pitch end users on the benefits an upgrade will provide to them in the form of time savings and ease of use while quelling the fears that they will be rendered obsolete.
Understand Where Your Business Is Now
In laying the groundwork for your implementation project,it’s important to take stock of your current systems and processes so that you can communicate this with your vendor and implementation partner when you choose to do so. The process for measuring your current status is twofold:
It’s been said that bad data on premises turns into bad data in the cloud; a migration project isn’t a magic cure for errors, deficiencies, or corrupted data. If you have errors in your current data, they will need to be addressed at some point. If you don’t address them before you begin an implementation project, the clean-up will need to take place during the implementation (i.e. the project gets put on hold). Completing a clean-up before a project will save you money, reduce the likelihood of cost and time overruns, and minimize risk.
How long does it take to pay a supplier? How accurate is your current inventory? How satisfied are your customers? It’s necessary to take baseline measurements to understand how much value you receive from a new system.
For example, distribution firms who know their current inventory turns will be able to compare the two solutions to understand why the new solution has benefited them. Field service businesses or professional services firms who can understand project costs or resource utilization before and after can understand just how much better they are doing with a new solution.
Build a Project Outline
With a communication template in order, baseline measurements taken, and an understanding of the current challenges and processes, you can begin to develop a ‘big picture’ of your ideal solution,outlining the general shape and form of an implementation project.
Getting to know the project without a specific solution in mind will help you know exactly what you want to ask end users about their needs, vendors about functionality, and implementation partners about skills and services.
This will give the new and prospective project team members a bit of insight into what they will be doing, over what period of time. Detail will be added as the project progresses and you have more input from partners and other companies that have implemented the system you ultimately select.
Developing this plan, begin with a statement of purpose. Ask why. Discuss the strategic goals of an ERP implementation—where do you see your business eight years from now and how will the right ERP solution help you get there?
Stay on Path: Your ERP Expedition Starts with Milestone
Making a move to implement new ERP software is rarely an easy decision, and the path to complete an implementation is often a challenge. However, with the right vision, planning, and strategy, you can reduce risk and stay on the right path even if an unexpected challenge arises.
Developing a strategy will not only keep your internal and external team on the same page, it will provide your communications team with a template for maintaining morale and allow everyone to feel like they are part of something bigger.
At Milestone Information Solutions, we know how hard it is to complete a project, but as a company who has completed thousands of successful implementations, we know what it takes to complete one. Whether you are just starting your journey to ERP or the wheels are already in motion, we would love to help. Get to know more about the ERP implementation process by downloading the Acumatica Guide, Navigating the ERP Implementation process here, read testimonials, and contact us to learn more about how we can help.