What to Expect in Your ERP Implementation

How SMEs Can Prepare for a Successful ERP Project

Implementing a new ERP system is a big undertaking – it impacts nearly every area of your business and most of your team. But it doesn't have to be a stressful event.

To help you prepare, we're outlining a typical ERP implementation so you know what to expect before you dive into your project.

You can also download a free copy of our ERP change management guide to support your team throughout your project.

Tips to Make Your ERP Implementation a Success

Many small and mid-size companies are nervous about implementing new ERP software. We get it – you want a better way of operating, but switching out your core system is still a disruption.

So, what's the key to a successful ERP implementation? Planning ahead.

We have a lot of information to share with you here – but these are the most important takeaways.

  • Put your people first. Create a change management plan to help your team transition to a new way of working.
  • Make the project a priority. Work with key employees to help them manage their regular workload while they're working on the ERP project.
  • Prioritize the relationship with your ERP partner. They'll be a key part of your business going forward.
  • Focus on process improvement. Transferring bad process into a new system won't yield the results you want. Be open to changing process for the better.

Chapter 1:

What Are the Steps in an ERP Implementation?

ERP Implementation Project Plan

You’ll work closely with your ERP partner to create an implementation plan based on the scope of work, including any customization or integrations. They should provide you with a complete project plan outlining stages, key milestones and responsibilities so you have a clear vision of the next few months.

The details might differ based on your partner’s process, but here’s what you can generally expect to see in your ERP implementation plan.

ERP Implementation Project Timeline

1. Process Analysis and Design

During your ERP evaluation, you did a discovery session with your ERP partner to uncover the key challenges in your business. Now, your partner will go even deeper. They'll get to know your processes almost as well as you do so they can properly design your ERP system. At this stage, they may also recommend process improvements to adopt best practices.

You'll have the opportunity to review and sign off on the system design before the project moves ahead.

2. Software Configuration

Based on the system design, your partner will configure your ERP system.

If you chose an on-premise solution, your partner will install the software. They'll also setup your hosting environment if you opted for private cloud ERP hosting.

3. Data Cleaning and Migration

Your team will clean your existing data before handing it off to your partner to import into your new ERP system.

Most companies underestimate the effort needed to properly clean and validate their data. It might seem like a good place to save time but resist the urge. If you’re hoping your new ERP system will give you better visibility into performance and business health, you need quality data first. As the saying goes...garbage in, garbage out.

Here are a few tips to help you properly clean your ERP data before migration:

  • Develop a data cleaning strategy.
    Treat this stage like a mini-project with timelines, responsibilities, and deadlines.
  • Think carefully about what data you move.
    Not every piece of data will add value in your new system.
  • Assign the right resources.
    The people working with the data regularly are best equipped to analyze it and correct errors.
  • Test thoroughly.
    Review every field to ensure the data is imported in the proper format, without errors.
  • Assume your data needs heavy cleaning.
    As you’re reviewing your data, look for completeness, consistency, accuracy and duplication.
  • Prioritize data migration.
    Start early and allocate plenty of time to do the work.
  • Define data standards.
    Identify inconsistencies in data types or formats. Set standards that you’ll enforce moving forward.

4. Business Process Implementation

Your partner will configure the system to handle your business processes. This includes setting up user authorizations, creating workflows, building reports and implementing any customizations you need.

5. Training and User Acceptance Testing

You’ll work through your processes in a test environment to ensure the system is working properly. This is one of the best ways to train your users – they'll have a chance to interact with the system and get a feel for their new workflows.

Thorough testing and training is an essential step in your ERP implementation. If you need extra time here, take it. We know you'll be eager for go-live, but flipping the switch on your system before your team is comfortable will likely lead to pain down the road.

6. System Go-live

Congratulations – you're officially running your business in your new ERP system!

If your team is well trained on the system, go-live should be fairly seamless. But don't be alarmed if there are a few little bumps in the road. Rely on your ERP partner for support – they should have dedicated resources available during go-live and for a period of time afterward.

7. Post-implementation Review and Support

Immediately following go-live, you’ll continue with training efforts and work out any kinks in your processes before moving into maintenance mode. We have a few tips on post-implementation in Chapter 3.

Chapter 2:

Create a Change Management Strategy That Ensures User Adoption

Implementing an ERP system affects every part of your organization – and virtually every individual. Some will be accepting of the change and eager to see the benefits. Others will resist. Not managing this tension properly is one of the top reasons why ERP projects fail.

A failed project is every business owner's fear. But it can be easily avoided with an effective change management plan.

Here are a few simple things you can do:

  • Identify your resistors and what's driving their resistance to change. Then create a plan to manage them.
  • Share the why behind your ERP project. Focus on the positive impacts to your employees' day-to-day.
  • Tailor your training program based on user roles, learning styles and skill sets.
  • Communicate frequently and openly. Don’t leave your communication to chance – make a plan and stick to it.

eBook Download: How to Manage Change in an ERP Project

Chapter 3:

5 Proven Ways to Get the Most Out of Your ERP Investment

An ERP go-live event is exciting and stressful all at the same time. If you’re feeling fatigued after working on the implementation, take some time to decompress and celebrate the hard work your team has put in. It’s good to have a clear head before you dive into the next phase of the project.

Post-implementation is something that many companies don’t think about up-front. But your post-implementation activities are just as important as everything leading up to go-live.

  • Do a post-implementation review.
    About 3–4 months after your go-live, do a review with your ERP partner. Talk about what went well, what was challenging and what still needs to be addressed.
  • Create an ongoing training plan.
    Schedule refresher sessions to reinforce new processes. Work with your partner for training on new features and functionality.
  • Make continuous improvement part of your culture.
    You've focused the last several months on improving your processes. Carry that continuous improvement mindset forward with a dedicated committee and continued reinforcement.
  • Develop an ERP security plan to protect your business data.
    As part of your implementation, you created user profiles and assigned appropriate permissions. You'll want to review these regularly and implement other ERP security best practices like multi-factor authentication and password requirements.
  • Document your processes.
    Create clear and complete documentation to prevent people from backsliding into old habits and help your team learn the new processes.
  • Align with your ERP partner.
    Set a regular check-in with your ERP partner and designate one or two key people in your company to manage the partner relationship moving forward.
  • Create a continuous improvement plan.
    As your business grows and changes, your ERP system should change with it. Create a continuous improvement process to help you manage future enhancements to your system and maximize your return.

Ready to chat about your upcoming ERP project?

Connect with our team to learn how we can help you improve business performance – and to see if we're the right fit for you.