Rules for successful ERP implementations
The decision to implement a complex software solution that would increase the efficiency of the operations and have a major impact in consolidating your businesses on long term is a strategic decision. For a successful implementation we recommend you 10 golden rules you have to take into account.
1. Supporting the top management
If the top management is not convinced about the need of an enterprise resource management solution, you still have time to give up the implementation. Any employee must know, see, hear, feel that the implementation of this solution is a strategic decision at organization level, and that the operational efficiency translated into cost reduction and profit increase is the company's number one target.
2. Support in understanding the needs
The field of ERP software applications is extremely vast. The "standard" solutions that attract you with implementation times of a few days and initial low costs are not an option at all, because they block you in the most important aspects: the flexibility to generate business as you know best and the agility to adapt your information system to market changes. Ask help from people who know every single detail of the ERP solutions with the relevant expertise in your industry, able to understand the needs of your organization and do anything to build an end-to-end solution for you.
3. Commitment of the future users
You need the commitment of all your employees who interact with the software solution. The classic approach, where the application is enforced by the management downwards will be viewed by the employees as "another application requested by the bosses that will eat up my time". The key of a successful implementation lays in convincing the opinion leaders and those with influence about the utility of this action. These key employees must be convinced first that an ERP application facilitates the employees' work and provides support in making the right decisions.
4. The employees' training is essential
For being able to use an ERP application, each user has to attend an intensive training course before gaining access to the interface. An ideal training program should focus on the benefits of an ERP strategy, on the advantages of an enterprise resource planning software solution, but also on the step-by-step explanation of all the possible cases of interaction between the employees of the same department, between different departments or between employees and customers. The ideal training courses are structured, include case studies and demos, as well as actual exercises that help employees to consolidate the gained knowledge and have the opportunity to ask questions to the specialists of the providing companies.
5. Encourage the feedback of the application users
Discuss as much as possible with the application users. They are not only the ones who should benefit from a software solution, but also the ones who, with the help of this software solution, will add value to the company. The adoption of the application by the employees is as important as supporting the top management. Do not ignore the employees' opinions regarding the further improvement of the application just because you have finished the implementation.
6. Don't be rigid
Even the best ERP solutions need improvements and customizations to complete the usage experience. Don't start from the premise that there are standard applications that can include from the beginning all your needs, all types or possible work cases. On the contrary, the more a solution is adapted to the specific of the company, the more it will generate faster results, it will be easier adopted by the employees and you will recover your investment quicker.
7. The post-implementation support
Have you sent your employees to training courses for using the application? You have only solved a part of the problem. The moment the application becomes functional, employees forget what they have learned and skip certain steps in order to facilitate their activity. If the data are not entered in the same format or if the execution does not comply with the initially agreed workflows, or if the internal processes are not followed in the same manner by all the employees, the application cannot give the expected results. The post-implementation support monitors the accuracy in using the application in the first months since its deployment and increases the efficiency in the activity of employees in using the application in actual working conditions.
8. Don't try to achieve everything from the first attempt
The implementation of an ERP solution has a powerful impact on the entire organization. Don't try to implement such a solution simultaneously in all teams. You risk to confuse your employees. The implementation should be done gradually. Within these teams it is better if you start to change the processes with low impact upon the business in order to associate a low risk with change resistance that is usually higher in the first implementation stages.
9. Don't have unrealistic expectations
Don't expect to achieve from the first month since the implementation the operational efficiency of industry leaders. It takes months until the work processes are fully accepted, when the employees become aware of the benefits of the application, when downtimes are eliminated and the personnel aligns the information regarding customers and suppliers.
10. Insist on the design stage
Many ERP solutions include tens of useless fields coming from the desire to capture every single possible information about a customer or a potential situation. The adoption of such an application is a nightmare, because the users will have to search in hundreds of fields to reach the required field. It will be even more frustrating if, after such a search, the required field does not allow him/her to enter all the information the user desires. Even from the moment of choosing the ERP solution you should talk to the employees (see rule 3), to remove the useless fields and to add other fields specific to your processes and then be prepared to change them again, after the deployment of the application (see rule 6).