By Tofiq Indawala, PMP
Implementing an ERP system is one of the most valued investments that a company can make. It brings every element of your operations on to a single platform, allowing you to run operations from a single point of information. There are many articles out there discussing requirements gathering for an ERP, feature lists, and how to manage the implementation project. However, there are few that discuss the most critical elements for success. You may have prepared and developed a plan for implementation, but if the following items aren’t taken into account, you will be in for a rocky ride.
What is the driving force leading you to consider system change? I find that many companies make system change decisions as a silver bullet to fix their financial situation. Although a system change can have impact to the bottom line, system changes can have a much greater impact to overall company operations.
No two systems will have the same features, therefore if your purpose is to simply mimic your current processes, manual or otherwise, into your new system, what’s the purpose for change? The purpose of the implementation, the impact to the company and the impact to the company employees must be fully understood before committing to an implementation.
System and process changes have a great impact on your team. People are vital to the success of your implementation. Assembling a team of Subject Matter Expert (SMEs) is vital to a successful implementation. The selected SME doesn’t have to be a manger or supervisor, but someone who knows the business processes best. It is also important to select a Project Manager to lead your company to success. You must assign your PM a level of authority to delegate tasks and impose deadlines to your project team. This authority must be communicated throughout your company ensuring every member knows the PM is acting on behalf of the sponsor.
Too often I find people getting bogged down on the technical details of the system, instead of focusing on the business processes. The technical details of a system can play a part in selecting your system, i.e. Cloud based or not, sql db vs oracle vs mssql, etc. However, this may have little impact to your business operations other than how the system brings your team together.
Can the Sales team work on the same system as the Accounting team? Can the Operations team work on the same system as the Accounting team? How will my Sales team book a new sale? How will my Project team submit an invoice request? How will the Service team access project and other customer details? How will the Accounting team manage project WIP and revenue recognition? When you start thinking outside of the technical details, there are much bigger questions that need to be answered to bring harmony to business operations.
Creating a fluid business process with transparency across functional areas increase ROI. This will lead to a more scalable operation with a bigger impact to your bottom line, and ultimately provide greater service to your customers.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, it takes work, persistence and practice. Going through change isn’t easy and you must provide ample time to your team to practice the new way of doing business. You must identify your businesses critical processes, and ensure you run through those in your new system before launch.
Throughout the implementation, expect a lot of feedback from your team about what the system should do and how it should do it. This has the danger of becoming very subjective, and not aligned with new business processes. Remind them of the high level objectives/purpose of the change to influence your team’s decisions.
Author: Tofiq Indawala, PMP