Installing an ERP system is a big undertaking and strong commitment on all sides will ensure a successful journey. Embrace the potential of positive change in working practices – and see how ERP’s many benefits and efficiencies far outweigh any setup challenges.
The decision’s been made and the order’s been placed – the company is planning to install an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. There is no doubt that an ERP system can strengthen a business – benefits include streamlined processes, a boost in productivity, lower costs and enhanced visibility throughout the company – but implementing the software can be daunting for customers.
However, it needn’t be an intimidating operation. Read the seven key steps below to simplify the process and enjoy a successful and stress-free implementation.
- Ensure alignment between executives and staff.
- Set a schedule.
- Set expectations with users of the software.
- Plan, do, check and adjust.
- Evaluate processes and adopt new best practices.
- Stay up-to-date on training.
- Test and validate.
1. Management Involvement
Ensure alignment between management executives and the staff actually implementing the system. This is critical. Company leaders need to keep their fingers on the pulse of the project, but delegate and establish responsibility and accountability among their staff and across various departments along the way. Carry out periodic reviews. A strong team that leads and stays engaged is essential as implementation can take four to six months, or even up to a year for larger firms and projects.
2. Allocate Time
We’re all busy, but the people involved in the implementation must dedicate the necessary time in their day, otherwise it sets up problems further down the road. Setting the schedule early leads to more focused effort among the team and enough time needs to be assigned across both the frontline employees and the company’s leadership team. Some team members may need to have some of their existing responsibilities delegated or reduced during key phases to ensure they don’t skimp on their necessary responsibilities during implementation.
3. Clear Expectations
Nobody likes change, and installing an ERP will definitely bring a big change to existing practices which some staff could resist in the beginning. Setting clear expectations with users of the software can help, and managing the transition will require persistence and support to convince staff that the system is not their enemy and will become their friend by making their job easier in time. Keep talking too. Staying in constant communication about the implementation means that potential problems can be dealt with before the system goes live, when they’re much harder to fix.
A good and detailed plan is a must – and so is sticking to it. Four key words here are: plan, do, check, and adjust. Use the plan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t change it when necessary. Regular reviews also mean the project stays on track and deadlines are met. Datacor has a template for a ‘recommended’ plan but the more a customer is involved in developing and executing on its plan is critical to the project’s success.
An early and important part of the plan also necessitates the customer documenting and organizing all of its existing procedures, reports and needs for the software provider, who is going to want to find out as much as possible about existing processes and practices in order to improve the system and make it work with the ERP.
5. New Best Practices
Installing ERP brings a great opportunity to look for new best practices. Is the way you’ve been doing your job over the past several years the best and most efficient? Often it’s not. But it’s ingrained into our brains, so encouraging staff to step back and look with an open mind at what the system can offer is beneficial for both the employee and the company.
6. Training and Practice
We learn by doing, so constant training and practice is a must for users of a new software. Getting your company’s data into the ERP is essential so that training can be meaningful. There are no shortcuts. Yes, the system can take a while to learn, so taking the time to attend the relevant training and keep practicing is vital if the ERP is to perform as expected.
Datacor has a special ‘hot key’ feature to assist users in creating their own internal guides that match their exact workflow. Built into the software, the hot key is basically a documentation wizard. It automatically takes a screen shot of the data on the screen and opens a word document, placing the screen shot within. This can be repeated as many times as needed. The document already includes a layout and headers, making it very easy for the user.
The system must be fully functional before it goes live. Sounds simple, but unless employees have participated in the training and practice, and the tests have been validated, then the system will not work as expected. Many firms just assume the system will work fine when the switch is flipped, but unless they have tested it thoroughly, they could be in for some nasty surprises. Errors and problems may not get unearthed until months later and they can take a long time to unravel. Those firms that have truly put the system through its paces in the safe test environment will have much more success in the early days of going live.
Making sure you plan, communicate and dedicate time, means you avoid a long and complicated implementation. The importance of utilizing all the aforementioned key steps cannot be overstated – it won’t work by cherry picking just one or two. ERP is the lifeline of manufacturing so give it the attention it deserves.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system?
An ERP software system automates a manufacturer’s processes, such as orders received, inventory tracking, purchases, payroll, generating and using the data across the business to optimize operations.
How hard is ERP to implement?
It takes time and is not always easy, but any challenges are far outweighed by the benefits. Following a step-by-step plan is crucial to a successful implementation.
What should I look for in an ERP system?
Make sure you find out which technologies an ERP offers, and ascertain which technologies you actually need, rather than want. Define its capabilities and potential fit with existing systems, and the capital cost.