ERP Implementation: Planning Your First Steps
Are you considering implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning system? As you’ve probably heard, how well you manage your ERP implementation has a direct correlation on whether or not your project will succeed. A preliminary step most organizations take after deciding to implement ERP is to spend some time “planning to plan,” or in other words, building lists and discussing the preliminaries that will help to assess what’s ahead. To help you get started on your own first steps, our team of ERP project managers put together the list below.
1. Identify internal team members who are best suited to help with the project.
It’s never too soon for this step! Consider team members’ bandwidth: will you provide some backup help to these employees so they are freed up to participate? You’ll need help with project management and training, but throughout the ERP implementation process you will also need to tap into the expertise of key employees from each functional area who know the processes and data that their function is responsible for. Bring these employees in fairly early to begin talking about the issues. Some examples of questions that will get the conversation going include:
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of your organization’s current systems and processes?
- What core business activities are performed manually and could be automated with a new ERP?
- Where does communication breakdown often occur?
- What data is often manually re-entered from one system into another?
- What other systems are you using that will need to be integrated with the ERP or replaced?
2. Obtain a few good RFP templates to begin planning for the ERP selection process.
If you plan to use an RFP when conducting your product search, take advantage of the free templates that are out there. Crafting a clear RFP that targets your business needs will help you narrow down the selection to a short, relevant list of solutions. Contact us for our free RFP template — it is tailored to common requirements of distribution and manufacturing companies. You will also want to consider evaluation criteria as part of putting together your RFP.
3. Plan to increase the ROI of your ERP implementation by bringing in a knowledgeable consultant.
One study indicates that companies reduced operating costs 9% more with a consultant than without one.1 Your consultant can guide you through every step, from preliminary planning and ERP selection to implementation, training, go-live and beyond.
4. Determine how you will get feedback from external stakeholders.
Seeking the input of your customers and vendors is a great way to find out how to make doing business with you easier. Whether you plan to use an online survey or take a less formal approach, getting the input of your external stakeholders can bring new insights, strengthen relationships and lead to opportunities for growth. Be sure to incorporate this valuable input to your ERP implementation project.
5. Evaluate industry and business trends.
What will be important in your industry over the next 10 years? What practices increase productivity, and what are the changing trends that your customers will begin to expect from you? What are the trends in the supply chain? Sometimes you can even look outside your business vertical at how the marketplace has evolved and apply those new trends to your business for increased competitive advantage. An ERP consultant who works in your industry can help you identify the trends and technology that should be on your radar. Information you gather will help you to identify software solutions and functionality that will provide greater ROI for the lifetime of your ERP.
6. Begin mapping the requirements of your new ERP system.
While it’s still early in your ERP implementation, you’re beginning to hear a lot of great input and so begin to capture it all in a requirements document. Requirements gathering is an important step that will feed into your RFP.
7. Look at ways to lower your ERP costs by using the cloud.
Cloud ERP and SaaS ERP solutions have lower infrastructure and maintenance costs than traditional on-premise ERP. To learn more about cloud vs. SaaS ERP solutions, see our article: Cloud-hosted ERP vs. SaaS: Which Choice is Right for You?
8. Plan your ERP implementation so that you allow time and budget for adequate user training.
User acceptance is absolutely critical. Once you go live, you will be relying on users to follow the ERP’s built-in processes and to take advantage of the functionality of your new system. If they haven’t been adequately trained, users typically create manual workarounds that defeat the purpose of the system and in turn lead to lower ROI.
For more information about ERP implementation and additional tips that will guide your success, see our other related articles:
1Aberdeen Group. A Guide for a Successful ERP Strategy in the Midmarket: Selection, Services, and Integration