There are plenty of do's, don'ts, gotchas, pitfalls and minefields waiting for the naive or unsuspecting when it comes to ERP implementation. So much so, in fact, that lawsuits over failed ERP implementations are a regular occurrence.
These seven implementation tips from ERP experts can help keep your ERP project on track.
Avoid ERP Rigidity
Rigidity is a common ERP complaint. You want to continue your business processes, but the ERP package insists on you following its processes. You want to integrate data with another system, and it won't let you. You want to expand to other areas, and your ERP system isn't flexible enough.
Look for ERP sofware that is flexible enough now and for anticipated future needs. Flexibility means the ability to expand to new geographies, to add new products, to acquire companies or to shift business models, said Diane Haines, vice president of Product Marketing, Sage. These factors should be considered as part of the selection process.
Consider ERP Customization Needs
Without identifying the technical requirements of the business, followed by a thorough evaluation of ERP short list candidates, it is difficult to determine with any hope of accuracy which ERP vendors can accommodate those needs. Due diligence should encompass company-specific needs such as areas in need of customization.
"Most ERP deployments will require some degree of customization, so you have to make sure you understand which customizations you'll need and how much they will cost to implement," said Forrest Burnson, ERP Market Research associate at Software Advice.
Involve Upper Management in ERP Implementation
Insist upon good communication with upper management and buy-in from them as an essential element of ERP success.
"Bring every relevant party to the table during the implementation process in order to determine the best course of action," said Burnson. "The worst ERP implementation failures I've read about resulted from upper management having unrealistic expectations for a time frame or otherwise not listening to the needs and concerns of their IT and implementation services teams."
Focus on Early ERP Expectations
The Boy Scout motto "be prepared" applies to ERP. Go into the process knowing which systems need to talk to each other, what questions you hope to answer and how you want to access the system. If you shift your expectations or requirements halfway through, you may tack on huge amounts of cost and time. Know what you want from the get go, and you'll have a better chance of actually getting it.
"ERP implementations have a history of spectacular, fiery, expensive failures," said Andrew Marder, ERP analyst at Capterra. "Setup is everything."
Get Right ERP Implementation Partner
In all but relatively small scale and simple projects, it is probably best to get help before embarking upon ERP implementation. Sometimes, however, help doesn't turn out to be that helpful. John Miles, president of Enterprise Resources International, suggested finding an implementation partner that you like and work well with rather than one you hear has a history of successful deployments.
"Some liken it to the interview process where one is always more likely of success if the interested and willing candidate is picked over the successful and disinterested candidate, regardless of experience," said Miles.
Pay Attention to Reporting
Miles has noticed a lack of foresight when it comes to reporting. Many companies adopt an integrated ERP solution to help on reporting the health of departments or the company as a whole. But sometimes the urge to get there fast trumps prudence, and companies end up implementing the system fully without considering reporting. Important data fields that could have been recorded with proper planning and observation are omitted.
"If you don't consider reporting early enough, you can paint yourself into a corner," said Miles.
Head to the Cloud
Many companies that installed ERP software over the past two decades are now ready to move on. Instead of continuing old habits by picking an in-house system, Korak suggested that organizations without large and ERP-savvy IT staffs should look to the cloud.
"Upgrading on-premise software to a cloud-based ERP system is the move every business owner should make over the next couple of years," he said. "This can help free up capital, while providing the flexibility to meet evolving operational needs."
Another factor in this choice is this: In a rapid-paced market, mergers and acquisitions happen frequently and unexpectedly. When two organizations merge, so does their software, hardware, infrastructure and processes. The cloud can offer a way to avoid disruption and create a smoother path to synching all of these processes, Korak said.
Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in Florida, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).