If there is one thing you don’t want to get wrong in business, it’s implementing your ERP system. Yet, I have been called in many times over the years to review failing (or failed!) projects and in many cases, provide evidence of poor implementation as a professional witness in some cases.
The reason for failed ERP projects can lie in both camps: it can be a poorly scoped project in which the client isn’t clear about their needs, or it can be that the wrong ERP provider has been chosen for the work. ERP isn’t the same for every industry, which makes choosing one with relevant experience critical.
Understanding your business needs for ERP and ensuring that your business case has been developed before engaging a provider can ensure your ERP software project doesn’t go off the rails or put you in a stoush with your software vendor.
As a team with combined experience of more than 50 years and over a thousand implementations of ERP and accounting solutions, Kinetic can stand up hand on heart and say we’ve not had a failed project let alone a court case.
With proper requirements gathering and spending the time needed to get the scope of the project clearly articulated for all stakeholders is vital.
So what do you need to get right before considering ERP implementation?
Decide on your goals
What are the reasons that your business needs an ERP? Having clear goals, defined purpose and properly articulated outcomes for your project are essential for project success.
This also ensures that you don’t get dragged into the ‘technology for technology’s sake’ debate that can often turn into a debacle. Your goals, purpose and outcomes should make it clear what it is that you need to improve and why. The business case is valuable for ensuring that the vendors you work with are clear on their deliverables too.
The business case will also help your organisation to establish whether ERP is what’s required for more efficient operations or whether there are existing systems that could benefit from enhancement or a ‘best-of-breed’ alternative. Analysing the cost versus benefit of a bright, shiny new ERP have to be justified as part of that process.
You need to establish whether you really need ERP and whether improvements could not be made to existing solutions or best of bread as an alternative. It is also important to analyse costs verses benefits of your new shiny ERP system.
Defining the business requirements
Writing a functional and requirements specification document is an essential part of the ERP process before you start engaging potential software vendors because it will enable you to shortlist the vendors that are most capable of delivering your new ERP.
Defining the ‘current’ state of the business processes in your organisation will help your organisation to clarify how business processes work for your business, warts and all. This is not a time to document ‘how we think it is’ but rather the good, the bad and the ugly of ‘as is’ processes.
The next step is to identify and document the future state of your business processes, or the ‘to be’ processes that your organisation wants to achieve. This typically enables your business to clarify how the processes will work at a point-in-time in the future when changes are in place, such as technology or business process changes.
One of the chief issues with project failures is a lack of agreement on what is essential and what is a ‘nice to have’. Documenting the requirements and assigning priority will help both the business and the vendor to understand clearly what needs to be delivered and when.
Bring them on the journey
Requirements gathering is the perfect opportunity to get your users and stakeholders on-board, because it allows your employees to buy in early and be involved in the process. End-users are critical to the success or failure of a project, because they are at the frontline of technology solutions and business processes everyday.
Bring together a mix of relevant stakeholders from within your business to ensure that the right users are involved in the requirements gathering process. End users are your best source of feedback throughout change because they will be able to highlight the issues they contend with on a daily basis.
When users know what change is likely to occur and the benefits of the change, then there is a better opportunity to enhance and deliver a better solution.
Choosing the best software
While this may sound silly, I know from experience that projects can still fail even if you’ve selected the correct software.
But if you’ve selected the wrong software or the wrong vendor, trying to force a solution that doesn’t meet your essential requirements just because you like the technology is like forcing a round peg into a square hole. It never works. Put simply, you’re on a hiding to nothing.
If the deadline seems too good to be true, it probably is and that’s usually due to an overly enthusiastic sales person pushing to close a sale and meet a commission target. A good vendor will focus on the true business benefit and they will want to build a partnership with your team so that the outcomes are the best solution possible for your business.
Get real about implementation
Timelines and staying within scope are vital for keeping a project within budget.
Beware the overly enthusiastic promise on a deadline. We involve our consultants in every discussion with potential clients because they are able to set realistic expectations about what needs to be done to ensure timely delivery. Our consultants also ensure that our potential clients understand the remit:
- The right resources are in place
- Change management needs are understood by all stakeholders
- The correct business process workflow definitions are documented
- Testing time and UAT is planned in from the beginning.
On boarding new software takes time and effort. Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved by technology alone. The right vendor for your business will take the time needed to ensure that your project is set up for success from the beginning, with appropriate metrology in place and documented timelines and budgets.
Define your business processes and workflows
It’s rare that an out-of-the-box ERP solution can meet every business need. Most well-designed software, such a s GreenTree ERP do not assume a perfect fit to the business.
As mentioned above, bringing your team along for the journey yields better outcomes, however they are also invaluable for mapping out processes within the organisation, which leads to a better, more efficient and elegant solution.
Manage scope, time and budget
A good vendor will usually add a strong project manager to your ERP project development and it’s important to meet your vendor PM.
This enables them to clearly explain the approach they will take to deliver your project, how they will manage scope creep, variations, budget slips and timeline management, but it’s also really critical that they are able to explain simply which methodology is in place to manage your ERP implementation.
Measuring the outcome – ERP ROI
Any project worth doing should be measurable: this ensures that the benefits have been delivered. A post-implementation review is invaluable when a project is complete, because it allows your vendors and stakeholders to review and address any issues.
Not all benefits are instantly measurable, but can be monitored over time. Remember – and I explain this to all of our Greentree clients and potential new business – that a good ERP implementation is a journey of continual improvement
I hope you find the following advice helpful and please feel free to contact us should you be considering and ERP project now or in the near future.
Scott Graham is one of the Directors of Kinetic Information Systems. He started his career in the UK as an accountant in practice and then industry. Scott has been in the software industry for over 18 years in the UK and over the past six years down under. You can connect with Scott via his LinkedIn profile linkedin.com/in/scottgrahamkinetic