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ERP Implementation Best Practices

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An ERP solution will provide benefits across a whole organisation, however in order to manage the implementation well, the projects need to be taken seriously. Before beginning an implementation it is important to have buy-in from senior business leaders and a well-resourced and committed project team—this will ensure the project costs are kept to a minimum, and a positive ROI can be demonstrated.

Although challenging, deploying an ERP system does not have to be painful. By following the planning and execution processes recommended by experienced vendors, these systems can be quickly and efficiently integrated into your organisation. Some best-practices for an ERP implementation are as follows:

Select the Best ERP Implementation for Your Business

The flexibility of ERP systems means that there are specified versions for all types of organisations. These have the benefit of already being customised to the businesses they are developed for, although some businesses will feel that they would like systems individually customised. Beware; building any software from scratch—particularly an ERP system—can be expensive, and time-consuming, requiring highly specialised software development skills.

An alternative is to purchase a specified, on-premise ERP software installation which is deployed on the business's local servers. These are versions of the software that will need managing on-site and as a result are often not updated as regularly as they should be—in fact, two-thirds of mid-sized businesses that run such installations find they are running an old version of the ERP software1. If you don't have the in-office resources to manage the system, it is important to find an installation which can be updated easily, to ensure that you are getting the best out of your ERP solution and it remains secure and customised to your needs.

The increasingly popular third option is to use a cloud-based ERP provider such as NetSuite. Many types of business software are now becoming cloud-based as it reduces upfront installation costs and makes deployment easier as the complex technical work is managed by the ERP provider. Running costs and complexities are also decreased as updates and maintenance can be completed by the central experts—ensuring that your business does not have to manage this technical work. This service allows your business to benefit from the most advanced technology and capabilities at the lowest cost.

Get Executive Buy-In and Build Consensus around ERP Implementation

Apart from having senior executives sign-off of on the project, it is also important that these leaders see the clear benefits of the work and believe in its worth. By ensuring that the leadership team are educated around ERP implementations and have an understanding of how the ERP technology will work, the case for how the ERP solution will transform the business can be understood. This buy-in will enable the whole organisation to ensure the deployment will be successful before the project begins. By providing regular updates on the installation progress and efficiencies gained, you will help maintain the enthusiasm and buy-in for the project.

Set Realistic Expectations for ERP Implementation

The benefits from ERP software should be felt across large parts of the organisation through improved cost efficiencies, time efficiencies and visibility. However, organisations, particularly in traditional industries may take longer to adapt to using technology in their day-to-day operations. It is important to understand that integrating the technology around different teams and changing the ways teams operate may not happen overnight.

Therefore, it is vital that the scoping and planning of the project are done well. It is usually a good idea to discuss this with an ERP expert that works with your ERP software vendor - to ensure that the software demands are not too small or too ambitious. A NetSuite customer will typically take three months to complete a deployment compared to 18 months for an on-premises ERP implementation.

Focus on Staff Resources and Strong Project Management

ERP implementations, as with most technical implementations, require the right staff resources to manage the projects. The resources required are much reduced with a cloud-based service. However, people are still needed to ensure that ERP software is integrated with the whole organisation. Without this allocation, your staff may not understand how to use the system and may end-up being overworked and unhappy.

Find a dedicated ERP project leader in your organisation that can help the deployment go smoothly. Think about removing some day-to-day tasks temporarily from the ERP team members, so they have enough time to think-through this project. The ERP team leader should have good project management skills and the ability to work well with multiple teams across the organisation—ensuring that deadlines are kept to, and the planned benefits are realised.

By following the best practices for your ERP implementation, you can ensure that your deployment is completed in less time and with less stress. By building consensus around the benefits, researching the best software for you, setting realistic expectations and supporting your staff, you can ensure the maximum long-term benefits are achieved with the minimal short-term costs.

1“Why Cloud Computing Matters to Finance,” Ron Gill, CMA, CFM: Strategic Finance, January 2011.