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5 ways to help your ERP project succeed

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation projects continue to be regarded as a high-risk undertaking by most companies. Ten years ago, purchasing and implementing an ERP system was a complex issue and this hasn’t changed. If anything, it has become even more so. The value chain is more complex, the connections with customers, distributors and the channel have proliferated and the amount of available solutions is larger than ever.

As a result, management frameworks to select ERP solutions and implementation partners have become more rigorous. Yet, many projects fail to deliver the full return on investment that was expected at the start if a few keys steps are overlooked.

An ERP system needs to have long-term viability to add value to the business. When choosing an implementation partner and software solution, organisations should consider how well that partner will be able to support them in the long run, rather than just the software capabilities.

Here are five recommendations for the successful choice and implementation of an ERP solution:

1. Understand the business requirements and engage key stakeholders
An organisation must fully understand the problem it is trying to solve. This sounds simple, yet remains one of the biggest stumbling blocks. Teams often haven’t mapped the current business processes so they also won’t understand the future state of what they want. Organisations need to start by understanding what is working and what isn’t, so they don’t replicate inefficient processes.

By mapping business processes a company can identify best practices and take full advantage of the functionality and workflow offered by an ERP system.

Equally as important will be engaging leadership and consultants early enough in the process to manage expectations and ensure the best possible results. Once a project starts, it is difficult to change direction without significant cost, weakening of the design and delays. This can lead to missed market opportunities and can rapidly turn initial internal enthusiasm into antipathy among staff.

2. Choose the right technology
There is a wide range of ERP solutions available, ranging from monolithic and mid-market ERP solutions through to industry-specific ERP solutions and everything in between.

Choosing a solution isn’t just about price. It’s important to look at a variety of parameters including:

  • depth of functionality
  • industry-specific features
  • ease of support
  • future development path
  • flexibility to adapt to the changing business model
  • integration with existing/future systems
  • cloud versus on-premise reporting
  • availability of analysis tools

3. Future-proof the decision
Choosing an ERP solution is not a quick-fix job. It’s a project that requires extensive planning and attention to detail. It is important to select a solution that maps as closely as possible to the current and future requirements of the business.

When it comes to choosing an implementation partner, it is best to look for companies that aren’t tied to one ERP solution. Companies that work exclusively with a certain product will of course recommend that solution, which means that better-suited products may be overlooked.

4. Look for a strategic partner
An ERP implementation is a major IT infrastructure project. A successful project will depend heavily on the accomplishments of the partner. They should be stable, financially secure, well-referenced and reliable.

An ERP project is not about simply installing software. There are many stakeholders and complex, mission-critical business processes involved. This means a high quality of work is required, with the scope for customisation and the need for appropriate (technical) support.

5. Post-implementation support
The implementation of an ERP solution is a long-term investment, which requires continued input from the partner for ongoing success.

There needs to be a clear support mechanism for changes to the system. The chosen partner should look at modification and optimisation continuously.

It is also important to have a skills transfer with training and education for the internal teams at the end of the initial implementation. Involving the entire team with the new system will add to the success of the project and the adoption of the new ERP solution.

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Warren Muir is the CEO of Customer Service at UXC Eclipse. He has more than three decades of computing experience and now specialises in the customer side of software implementation.
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