Like any major project, ERP implementations go best when planned in advance.
Larger companies can dedicate multiple senior executives as well as teams of junior stakeholders to an ERP project. Smaller companies, on the other hand, can’t dedicate the same number of people to a project, but they do not require the same detail when planning an ERP project.
Regardless of the size of your project, whether you employ 10 people or 10,000, every ERP project should take the following steps when planning an ERP project.
Clear and Unambiguous Authority
An ERP project is a strategic initiative and the process must be managed with no ambiguity in the decision making authority.
Executive buy-in is critical. Without a clear decision making authority, deadlines can be threatened as the implementation team wastes time trying to find someone with the authority to make a decision; and good ideas are easily lost when there is a flood of pressing tasks pressuring everyone.
Structured Rigorous Selection Process
Without a structured process, you will end up comparing ERP solutions based on different sets of criteria and may not get the best solution for your business.
Process Definition of Requirements
You know your business better than an ERP vendor or reseller. ERP vendors and resellers know their product better than you. The best way to bridge this knowledge gap is to define ERP requirements in terms of the business process that you are trying to streamline. This will provide you with a systematic evaluation of how the business operates and its information needs, and allow you to strategize the best routes for the future.
User Participation and Buy-In
All areas of the business need to have representation on the selection team and they need to be meaningfully consulted during the selection process. In smaller organizations, with a limited number of people that they can afford to commit to an ERP project, an acquisition team of two or three members can handle the initial selection and then the team can be expended when the short list of vendors are reviewed.
As Forrester Research have pointed out, projects fail when the people issues are ignored. Without user participation and buy-in, key requirements can be overlooked and the solution may end up complicating work for end-users. These problems will increase end-user resistance which can dampen or completely nullify the benefits of implementing ERP.
Document Rationale for Each Decision
The reason for every decision is often as important as the decision itself. No matter how thorough your selection requirements, an implementer will at some point need to interpret the decision. Perhaps there are not enough details, or there are technical implications that the selection team doesn’t understand.
Without documenting the rationale for each decision, those tasked with implementing the project are likely to make more wrong assumptions that will drag out the project than if they understood why a decision is made.
The specifics of your ERP project and your business will likely result in a number of other critical details that you need to plan in advance, but these five are common to projects of any size.