The 8 Elements of a Successful ERP Implementation Plan
There are no guarantees in life, let alone your ERP implementation plan.
The perils of poorly implemented ERP software are well-documented. In fact, a Technology Evaluation Centers study found that nearly half of ERP implementation initiatives fail on the first attempt, and even the successful ones take 30 percent longer than anticipated.
The rise of postmodern ERP deployment and its myriad integrations further complicate matters, with Gartner going so far as to predict that, by 2022, 70 percent of ERP initiatives will be considered failures (full research available to Gartner clients).
This all might sound bleak, but here’s the good news: Your organization doesn’t have to be another in a long line of implementation failure stories, and with sufficient preparation, it won’t be.
Businesses that clearly communicate objectives to their ERP vendor, thoroughly plan and schedule action items, and practice proper change management will significantly reduce the risk of ERP implementation failure.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to an ERP implementation plan. But most successful strategies include some version of the following checklist items:
Let’s dig deeper into each of these elements.
Set Clear Expectations by Defining the Scope of the Project
Nothing thwarts an ERP implementation faster than muddled objectives. Conquering such an ambitious and intricate project requires a carefully considered road map for success, navigated with unwavering resolve.
Without a detailed game plan, you might as well throw your proposed budget and project deadline out the window.
To stay on time and under budget, work with your ERP vendor to:
Define the scope of the initiative. What do you hope to achieve by implementing ERP software? Before you can be successful, you have to define success.
Outline project specifications. This includes everything from resource allocation to desired functionality to third-party software integrations. Be as specific and all-encompassing as possible, but don’t overshoot your own capabilities.
Establish a reasonable timeline for each step of the process. Once you’ve defined objectives on both a macro and micro level, flesh out dates for the completion of each implementation phase. Be sure to consult your vendor and determine what constitutes a reasonable timeline, and weigh your objectives against your available resources and budget.
Assemble a Dedicated Team of IT Experts and Core Stakeholders
A project as robust as ERP implementation needs an equally robust team of process masters and ERP aficionados. Some will be internal, while others will come externally through your vendor or an implementation consultant.
While this team will work collectively to achieve your desired objectives, it should also be broken down into four micro-teams:
Steering committee. These are mostly high-level executives and management, who will establish big-picture items like structure, direction and prioritization.
Project managers. By managing timelines and communication between team members, project managers oversee day-to-day operations and ensure everyone follows the plan.
Consultants. While not necessarily essential, having consultants on hand to answer questions and provide expertise is always a wise investment (budget permitting).
Key users. These are individuals from across your business who will execute each element of the implementation plan and give voice to the needs of different user profiles.
Engage Employees With a Thorough Change Management Plan
Your ERP implementation plan is only half of your change management strategy. Because the software streamlines a variety of processes across an organization, your ERP initiative will impact most—if not all—of your employees.
If you don’t keep them apprised of the changes, you run the risk of alienating your most relevant constituency: your workforce.
Employee-focused components of your change management plan include:
Communication. Determine the best method to inform your employees of the change, and do it as early in the process as possible. Be sure to encourage feedback and answer questions, ideally in a companywide presentation with an additional Q&A session.
Justification. Explain the reasons why your new ERP is necessary—how it’ll make their job easier, their workflows more efficient and the business more profitable.
Acclimation. Provide employees with all necessary information about the new system, while establishing and communicating a timeline for user training.
Budget for Unexpected Costs and Prioritize Spending Initiatives
Establishing a reasonable, realistic budget is one of the hardest aspects of any ERP implementation plan. How do you keep your spending relatively modest without sacrificing your desired outcomes?
The secret is to prioritize spending initiatives and account for all possible outcome.
When drafting your implementation budget, keep these things in mind:
Hardware and network upgrades. When implementing a shiny new ERP, make sure your existing equipment is compatible with—if not optimal for—the system upgrade. Likewise, if you’re hosting your ERP on-site, you’re gonna need a bigger server.
Overtime pay. Implementing an ERP is a lot of work, and team members could potentially have to work overtime to meet tight deadlines.
Outside costs. Some of these are obvious (consulting, support), and others less so (testing, employee resistance). Be sure to account for all possible outcomes when putting together your budget.
Cleanse Your Data and Secure Connections for Migration
Migrating your data into an ERP isn’t as simple as connecting two computers with a USB cable and pressing “start” (though wouldn’t that be nice).
Before you start migrating, you need to ensure your data is transfer-ready and establish the proper connections, which can take days—if not weeks—to complete. And the last thing you want is for the transfer to fail and put your valuable business data at risk.
Thankfully, there are things you can do to make the process as seamless as possible. Start with:
Cleansing your data. The last thing you want is an ERP with a bunch of duplicate or inconsistent data. Make sure your data points adhere to the same format across all relevant systems, down to the last digit and decimal point.
Mapping your connections. With so many inputs and variable at play, you’ll want to map everything out prior to the data transfer to ensure all routes are optimal and connections secure.
Testing the migration process. Before you do the real thing, do multiple migration tests and document your results. Continue to fine-tune the process until it’s pristine and confidence is high.
Customize Your Training to the Needs of the Individual
Without adequate training, your ERP implementation will fly off the rails.
Businesses that take a strategic approach tailored to individual users will be better positioned for success in both the short and long term.
When devising a training plan, utilize:
A combination of in-person training and e-training. We all have our preferred learning methods, whether in person or online. On the flip side, not all processes can be taught remotely, in which case in-person training sessions ought to be mandatory. Do what makes the most sense for each activity.
Process-based training geared toward various proficiency levels, roles and responsibilities. Similarly, power users and digital natives needn’t endure the same training as those who have less experience. Tailoring your lessons to different skill levels and disciplines will make the process more efficient.
Continue training beyond implementation. Just because the implementation is finished doesn’t mean your training should be. The complex nature of ERP systems demands that learning extend months after the launch date, if not perpetually.
Devise a Comprehensive Go-Live Strategy
As the most consequential step in any ERP implementation plan, your go-live strategy should be exhaustive from end to end. There’s no turning back after this.
Key considerations of a successful go-live strategy include:
Staff and usage scheduling. To avoid overloading your servers from the get-go, roll out employee usage in phases and confirm your system can handle any capacity increases.
Testing network speed and reliability. Along those same lines, designate IT specialists to constantly test and monitor network performance.
Backup processes. Your data is the lifeblood of your business, and you should do everything you can to protect it. This starts with routine system backups, which are especially crucial in the early, more delicate post-launch stages.
Communications strategy. Establish a process for how to communicate any glitches or disruptions. This is the best way to funnel particular issues to the most relevant parties.
Evaluate Your Results With Key Performance Metrics
Congratulations—you survived your ERP implementation! Now it’s time to determine what kind of return you’re getting on your big investment.
With any ERP, the most immediate and substantial byproduct is an increase in efficiency. This can manifest in several forms, and different businesses have different definitions of success.
Generally speaking, the following data categories can serve as a baseline for post-implementation performance evaluation:
Workforce productivity. These metrics will vary depending on the nature of your business, but whatever they are, your ERP’s ability to automate routine processes should result in noticeable efficiency boosts.
Client satisfaction. Your ERP stores client-focused data within its customer relationship management (CRM) module, including retention rates, referrals and other sales metrics.
Revenue generation. While its impact won’t be felt immediately, your new ERP’s streamlined processes and subsequent efficiency boosts should yield greater revenue generation over time.
Next Steps: Setting the Stage for ERP Implementation
And there you have it—the roadmap to ERP implementation success. While this checklist will guide you through the planning process, there are things you can do right now to build a solid foundation of knowledge before you get the ball rolling:
**Stay on top of industry news and trends.** Things change quickly in the wide world of ERP software, with emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, postmodern ERP and cloud-based deployment poised to assume even bigger roles in the years to come. To compete in this new technology-driven business landscape, you need to stay informed. Our Resources page exists to help you do exactly that.
Talk to one of our software advisors. If you have questions about your software implementation, or simply need help finding the right vendor for your business, our team of software advisors are ready and willing to offer their expertise. For a free 15-minute phone consultation with a real, live expert, give us a call at 855-998-8505.