Implementing complex, large-scale systems in any business inevitably requires dealing with some snags and difficulties along the way. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software systems are no different from other capital projects in this regard — and, as with other types of large project implementations, there are some common challenges in ERP implementation that present themselves in one company after another.
The good news is that, with careful attention to avoiding common errors, it’s possible to sidestep some of the most costly mistakes. Read up on the following must-know mistakes that plague ERP implementation processes and keep them in mind when designing the deployment strategy for an ERP software solution.
1. Rushing the implementation process
With the widespread move to cloud-based SaaS ERP, the implementation speed of ERP projects has improved markedly in many cases. However, it’s still critically important to budget an appropriate amount of time and labor for implementation. Be prepared for unexpected obstacles to arise, and try to avoid staking the success of other projects on whether an ERP project meets a strict deadline.
2. Over-customizing an ERP solution
Popular ERP solutions like SAP ERP software have become known for the ability to customize their offerings, and customization is still often a key part of the ERP implementation process. However, the level of customization has a big effect on the time and resources the project will require. Many firms avoid this by choosing industry-specific ERP products that require less customization, such as manufacturing ERP software that’s designed specifically for the needs manufacturing facilities. Others use the built-in configuration capabilities available in most ERP software to create a system that meets their needs with minimal under-the-hood modification.
3. Failing to get buy-in from all organizational levels
Implementing ERP software creates substantial change in an organization’s day-to-day operations, and that means it requires investment “from top floor to shop floor,” as the saying goes. Personal attention from upper leadership is crucial for clearing organizational obstacles and freeing up resources for the project. Meanwhile, buy-in from ground level employees provides invaluable real-world feedback about the system’s operational capacities and can even help rally other rank and file staff to support the project. To that end, ERP implementation teams should be sure to incorporate multi-level and multi-department communications into their project management stacks from day one
4. Not creating a robust data migration plan
Migrating data into an ERP system can be surprisingly tricky for businesses that go in unprepared. Larger and/or older businesses can be particularly vulnerable to this problem since they often have more data to migrate or older legacy systems to replace. Data upload templates and mapping often take some time to work out, so businesses should start work on them as soon as possible. “Cleaning up” data by eliminating extraneous or damaged data is an especially important element for streamlining the process.
5. Skipping or rushing through parts of the testing process
A thorough testing process is another essential part of any successful ERP implementation. Where many testing regimens fail, however, is in remembering that a business needs a 360-degree evaluation of its new ERP system, not a report that only assumes ideal conditions. Instead, it requires in-depth stress testing to determine its ability to function smoothly with many users logged on or while it’s performing complex operations. One useful strategy is to develop specific scenario projections that could affect the system’s performance and design the tests to emulate them.
6. Maintaining too many parts of a legacy system indefinitely
Businesses transitioning from older ERP software sometimes try to have it both ways by keeping various parts of their legacy systems active. While rolling out a new system gradually can be beneficial, it’s also crucial to have a defined sunset plan (and possibly a date) for legacy systems. For businesses that intend to use parts of an older system indefinitely, talk to the ERP vendors about managing integration between the two systems and be prepared to work out any pain points that arise.
7. Going live before employees are comfortable with the system
While most employees won’t know the software inside and out on launch day, it’s important that they’re at least confident with the day-to-day fundamentals they need. The months leading up to the go-live date should feature hands-on training and Q&A sessions; most vendors provide in-house training resources that can be helpful. Ongoing training and tech support is also a must as employees encounter the inevitable questions and challenges.
8. Failing to communicate with vendors and other supply chain stakeholders
Disruptions from an ERP system rollout can reach far beyond a business’s own employees. That’s why it’s so critical for any business implementing an ERP system to communicate effectively with stakeholders throughout the supply chain. Make sure that vendors and customers are aware if system downtime has the potential to affect them, and make a plan well in advance to accomplish any necessary change-overs in areas that affect supply chain operations, such as EDI integrations.
9. Neglecting follow-through after going live
The journey is hardly over when an ERP system goes live. Instead, the period after go-live is a time to closely monitor the system’s performance and listen to feedback from employees and other stakeholders. Continue to work closely with the software vendor during this period and use their support resources to troubleshoot as new issues arise. To ensure strong visibility, establish and track KPIs that will illuminate the aspects of the system’s performance that are most vital to success.
Perhaps the most important takeaway for a successful ERP implementation is this: The process will take time, and it won’t be perfect right away. A successful ERP implementation is all about seeing the long-term vision for how a new software system can improve business operations and allocating the necessary resources to make the process a truly productive one.