Searching for ERP
In my years of working with companies looking for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, there is usually a lot of emphasis placed on buying the right system along with declarations on how the new system is going to help run the business better. Other companies have achieved this, your company can also.
All that excitement and careful planning is well worth the effort. The right ERP can transform a company by providing data which wasn’t previously available. In many cases, life before ERP consisted of looking for problems and then figuring out how to solve them. A good example of this is the production meeting, where supervisors and managers sit in a room and go over every job. Most of the meeting is spent looking for problems. Imagine going into the meeting knowing the problems—and starting with possible solutions. That’s what ERP can do.
How to implement an ERP in an organization
But getting there is a process. Even though choosing the right ERP software and creating a vision of what it will do for you is important, you need a plan on how to move the organization from where you are today to where you want to be—in other words, detailed guidance on how to implement an ERP system step-by-step. ERP implementation requires as much focus as selecting the ERP itself. In fact, I’d argue it requires most of your attention.
Here is the reality of the situation: A company whose staff is well-trained on a less-robust ERP package will outperform a company whose staff is poorly trained on a function-rich ERP system. If the staff is poorly trained, the rich features of the ERP aren’t being used! An old crop duster with a trained pilot can beat a fighter jet in a race if I’m in the cockpit of the fighter jet. I’m not a pilot. I’d get to the finish line quicker on a bike. What you have isn’t as important as what you are trained to use.
Implementation horror stories
Every ERP implementation horror story I’ve read about always centers around a company losing a bazillion dollars because they couldn’t (take your pick) enter orders, ship product, invoice customers, buy materials or produce product. This disruption in business usually leads to the company suing the ERP provider. No matter how the lawsuit turns out, it will never erase the disruption in business. The business would have been much better off if their employees were trained and there was no lawsuit.
So, how to implement an ERP system step by step is just as important – if not more so – than the ERP selection (and the ERP selection is important).
How will your company implement the ERP software?
My goal is not to scare you, but you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls. What you need first is a plan; then you need to execute it. Don’t feel you have to come up with that plan on your own. In fact, unless you have a lot of experience with how to implement ERP in an organization, you shouldn’t come up with the plan. It’s the job of your ERP vendor to provide ERP implementation consulting. Don’t just judge them on the software they are showing you. Find out how they will get you from where you are today to where you want to be. Don’t discuss this at the software demo; you’ll be too mentally drained. Schedule a separate, detailed meeting to discuss the ERP implementation plan.
Learn how to implement an ERP system step-by-step
My eBook ClearFocus—6 Steps to Successfully Implement ERP (available here) was written to give you a clear idea of how an implementation process should look. Once you have a basic understanding of that, you can more accurately judge the plans presented to you by potential ERP vendors.
If you’d like to discuss ERP implementation in more detail, all you need to do is let me know. I’m happy to help.