1. Business Process Requirements and Maps
The time honoured way of preparing a company for an implementation is to do an exhaustive requirements gathering phase. Usually this involves hiring a bunch of business process management experts to spend 4 months to 1 year plus documenting the processes within your company (timescales vary depending on size, complexity, age of the company).
Ignoring processes and procedures within a business is the same as building a house without any foundations and the most successful businesses find a way to evolve these to match their operating environment.
Produce a flow chart of your processes per department to show actors and when information has to flow to another department. Include users' job roles involved in approvals between the steps. This step alone will help you clarify certain aspects internally and give you an overall high level view of if the flow of information within your organisation and approvals show if they are in-line with your current operating reality.
Sign-up to ChatGPT and get the list of departmental requirements per area or a google search will yield these, then you can match them up and embellish them with expected functions a department should do. Add your specific requirements to help start the deliverables of what you want from an ERP.
2. Data Quality
Within an ERP implementation there is base data sometimes referred to as master data that needs to come into the ERP system. The quality of the data is key to ensure that your system is delivered cleanly. Take note of the phrase "Garbage in Garbage out" and this should be your guiding principle.
Within each department put a procedure in place to start getting versions of your data sets, so a month or two before the project you extract core data from your systems and start working on improving the quality.
Examples of master data will include
- Suppliers / Vendors
- Products / Inventory
A data conversion strategy is a core part of any implementation and it is important to "own" your data during an implementation so reconciliations and acceptance of the validity of the information should be part of your internal steps.
Do not underestimate how much time data conversion takes and you also need to put in place a method to "catch up" on new data created during the project implementation.
3. Organise your departments
Kick off a regular round of "process improvements" workshops per department. This should help you identify employees who have good ideas and are willing to put these forwards within their departments so they can be empowered during the implementation phase.
Their involvement is key as they will be the users of the system in their job roles and the more time they spend on how they will evolve into a digital platform to complete their jobs the better your organisation will be prepared to undertake this initiative.
Try and allocate a certain amount of time a week for them to set aside for the ERP project, you might not need more than 2 hours per week to get them involved.
Separating business as usual from ERP implementation will yield dividends in the future for making sure the project is a success and focus the team with the departmental leads to set aside time to focus on the activities pre the engagement starting.
4. Project Management
Appoint a dedicated project manager to lead this initiative.
This is one of the major stumbling blocks for companies who are taking their digital steps for the first time. You should have your project manager in place before you engage an implementation partner.
Internally your project manager should already have a project personnel and governance structure in place similar to what is already done for project led initiatives.
The difference this time is that the ERP implementation covers all operational areas. This does not mean you must have a COO to lead the initiative, more likely appoint a good project manager from within the business.
It is not always necessary to hire someone without any history of your business, I would always recommend you use someone with a history in the business and once the tasks and responsibilities have been defined the project will run smoothly, but you should have a PM that has a good relationship with the department heads and process owners.
The most important aspect is anyone who is your PM must have at least 30% of their work time dedicated to the project to ensure it runs well for the duration of the implementation. Tracking at this level makes a very big positive difference to your odds of success.
5. Software Selection
Once you have completed your selection round, encourage your employees to start gaining a look and feel of the product you will be implementing.
There are so many free online resources where you can have a demo feel of the system you have chosen.
This will help to encourage adoption of the product and can expand and garner interest in your employees as they would feel that a positive change is coming into the business to help improve their working environment.
Being open about an impending change that is meant to transform the companies working pattern is important and they can find out other aspects of what is possible in the platform to engage more in the process as they look for ways to improve and move your business into the digital age.
More than 70% of ERP initiatives do not achieve a high percentage of the objectives set out at the onset of the project. Increase your chances of success by addressing those points and your digital transformation journey with your ERP implementation at the heart of it will be much smoother.