Making an ERP decision isn’t easy. In fact, the path from realization to committal is often as stressful as the implementation process itself. From knowing when it’s time to make a move to evaluating functionality, reading reviews, and selecting your ideal solution, the steps you take before you move to complete a project could make or break the implementation.

At Integrated Business Group, our goal is to help you make an informed and confident decision in your next steps so that you can reduce risk and capitalize on the benefits promised. Today, we would like to explore some of the preliminary steps you should take that can keep people on board and on task.

Preliminaries Can Make or Break a Project

Return on investment. Integration. Automation. Functionality. All of these are important considerations when identifying your needs, developing your shortlist, and ultimately making your selection. However, before you can even begin to complete a ROI analysis, compare features, or finalize decisions, it’s necessary to get your house in order.

A recent guide from explored the five key steps to completing an ERP implementation—from knowing it’s time to making the move; over the next few months, we will discuss some of the basics and best practices for making a successful move alongside our blogs on selecting software for functionality, integration, usability, and more.

Understanding Why You Need a New System

In a recent blog, we discussed some of the main signs that an ERP system fails to meet your needs, and this point bears repeating. If you hope to complete a successful implementation, you need to be deliberate; the only thing worse for a company than going into an ERP implementation without a plan is going into one without a purpose.

Luckily, most organizations have good reasons to make the move. Either they’ve outgrown, overextended, or outlived the useful life of their current system, resulting in one or more of the following realizations:

  • Your current system is not supporting your business’ needs either now or in the near future (it doesn’t do what you need it to do).
  • Your current system is cumbersome; users complain that it takes longer to do their jobs with the system than it would without. Another indication is a proliferation of spreadsheets and manual work-arounds.
  • You are unable to respond to customer requests because of system limitations.
  • Competitors outperform your company because they have better, faster, or more flexible systems.
  • Reporting is weak, unreliable, or cumbersome; you’re having trouble seeing the big picture.
  • Your aging system is unreliable, unsecure, or costs too much to maintain.

Knowing that challenges exist in your current platform gives you the ability to not only rationalize your decision, it allows you to take leadership of a project and convince the team your company is making a change worth making.

Establishing a Team

From finance to sales and marketing, IT to operations, an ERP decision affects everyone in the organization. Knowing this, an ERP decision should leverage the expertise of members who have a stake in the decision: Users must be involved right from the start and should lead the effort in selecting the system and planning/carrying out the implementation.

A feeling of ownership can establish trust between end users and decision makers, no one wants to feel like they are being dragged along for the ride. From here, the right ERP project team includes the following members, among others:

  • Part Time Executive Sponsor: The individual in charge of developing a vision for the project and motivating people throughout the process. This person acts more as a cheerleader than a manager, but plays a vital role in keeping people motivated.
  • Project Leader: One of the most vital members of an implementation project, the project leader should understand the way your business operates, know how to keep people on task, and coordinate discussions between people throughout the business.
  • Department Representatives: The overall project can be broken down into clearly identified tasks and responsibilities that can be arranged on a time line (Gant or PERT chart) with names assigned to each task – your team members. These are the people who know each department and who can act as both a representative and leader.

Planning and Budgeting a Project

Project management is a well-understood process with many resources – books, classes, software tools – to support it. It is very important to use these tools to establish a detailed plan, budget and schedule to direct the management of the project through to completion. The plan should be reviewed and updated at least weekly. Any deviations or concerns must be addressed and resolved quickly so that they do not have an undue impact on other tasks or the eventual success of the project.

Communicating a Project: Keeping Morale High

Before you make the decision, you need to ensure people are on board and willing. No one can fear losing their job, the process has to be clearly detailed and explained to team members, and information needs to flow through your organization as the project heads towards its start date. All areas of the business will be affected by the new system and you don’t want to surprise them with a fait accompli. Get their cooperation and interest by keeping them informed and involved.

Developing a Broad Outline

Before deciding on your long list or even documenting your needs, you need to look at the big picture, asking why you intend to make the move and outlining the general shape and form of your ERP selection and implementation project.

Start by stating your overarching goals, objectives, and hopes so that you can establish a clear path forward and develop a communications plan. With this plan, you can begin to explain how a project will affect both the business as a whole as well as end users, not just in terms of monetary return but in efficiency and effectiveness. Consider this your strategy document—something that holds a decision together and presents skeptical users with a picture of what’s to come.

Forging Ahead: Your Journey to Improved Business with ERP

At Integrated Business Group, we have been in the business of ERP for decades, and know that with many moving parts, the path to selecting an ERP solution for your business could result in everything from analysis paralysis to fear of failure. Over the next few months, we will continue to explore the path to selecting an ERP and VAR to get you there, as well as things such as training, conversion, and the official go-live. Get to know more about your path by downloading the five-step guide to selecting an ERP software, learning more about the products we sell, and contacting us for more information.