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How to Get Your ERP Implementation Back on Track

There are several reasons why any ERP implementation may need an intervention and rescue strategy. Whether it’s going over time and budget, scope creep, or not delivering intended results, an IT implementation in dire straits can negatively impact the business for years. It can also result in the project champions losing their jobs.

Getting your implementation back on track begins with asking the right questions and knowing where to start the reclamation project. And with the right expertise, your project can recover quickly to improve business outcomes and stay ahead of the competition. It can also save jobs and careers.

OSI professional services staff have a track record of working with clients to get their implementations back on track. With certified, world-class IT and business consultants in accounting, manufacturing, supply chain, field service management, human resources, and other areas, OSI possesses proven best practices for designing and implementing solutions that succeed. Based on this one-of-a-kind deep experience, we’ve identified five critical criteria for pulling your project out of the trash heap and into the success bin.

1. Reassess project goals

For many businesses, poorly defined goals at the start of the ERP implementation can lead to project failure. Many companies view ERP software as the “magic bullet” solution to all their business and operations problems. But the software must connect to focused and prioritized business outcomes. Why? Because ERP implementations will not solve everything. Business leaders must prioritize and set a shared vision, ensuring everyone understands what they will and will not get out of the project.

OSI recommends asking these questions:

  1. What are the driving circumstances for this change, and why now?
  2. Where do you want to be in three months? Six months? One year?
  3. What are the risks associated with this project?
  4. What is the risk of doing nothing?

Understanding the driving reasons for change, having a solid vision for timing, and assessing the risks of moving vs. doing nothing, will be the foundation for your goals and the guide for your roadmap. And documenting a detailed roadmap to guide you each step of the way will help you stay focused and show mid-project decisions, including conversations with department leaders and users.

As you engage with your internal teams to determine the top 3-5 measurable goals for the implementation, be prepared for “healthy tension.” Team members within your organization will naturally have different perspectives of what should be a top priority. Encourage and embrace different opinions to ensure that all issues and risks come forward. This lets team members feel heard and engaged. This exercise of genuinely listening to all stakeholders, then making a final plan fueled by thoughtfulness, will go a long way to get stakeholder buy-in for the larger project vision.

2. Revisit processes

An ERP solution can create incredible efficiencies in what a business does internally in terms of its processes. Still, it has to be based on an effective process from the start. You don’t want to create efficiency at losing money. Setting up a flawed process in an ERP system will not make the process better; it will just make that flawed process go fast.

Even though an ERP implementation project by itself will not correct poor processes, it is a perfect opportunity to analyze and re-engineer your existing workflows as part of the change. Luckily, there are several process improvement methods available to help.

Experience shows that these assessment tools are some of the most effective for this exercise:

  • Value mapping
  • Critical path analysis
  • Queuing analysis
  • Six Sigma (SIPOC)

By taking the first step to revisit your project goals, you can then organize a “conference room pilot” where you bring people together in the organization to look at current processes, map those against desired outcomes, and perform a gap analysis. If you spend a few days together establishing a baseline of where the business is, how existing processes work, and what’s missing, you can develop new requirements and build the proper procedures to reach the right business goals in the most efficient manager possible.

You will also want to revisit what reports and dashboards you use now and what you’ll want based on your new goals and processes. Ask what key data points should you check every day? What reports can be pre-defined? And what can be ad-hoc or available when needed? These questions help determine your system architecture. And take a cautious approach to legacy data because it’s expensive, expensive, difficult, and largely unsatisfying once ported into your new system. You’ll want to take the direction using the least amount of legacy data that can be migrated.

3. Evaluate your change management

Your people, not the software, are the catalyst to software success, so a top priority should be effective strategies for supporting your team through the change. You (or the right partner experienced in change management) will want to clearly define the change and align it to business goals and determine the impacts and those affected. You’ll then want to develop an engagement strategy that’s comprehensive and evolving. In addition to providing adequate training, make sure to include a support structure and, if possible, KPIs to measure the change process.

Similarly, clearly defining the benefit to your team members is critical. Understand that users are correct in their fear that change creates work. Your job is to put a carrot in front of them to inspire change. What bright future state do they have to look forward to? What’s in it for them? You have to validate their concerns first, build a future vision that’s worth fighting for, and then inspire the team daily to keep that vision in mind as they put in their work to get there. The vision will energize your team to execute the additional work you need to make the change happen.

Some tips for engaging and supporting your team:

  • Ask for their input early in the process and make them feel heard
  • If their request can’t be included, let them know why and if there’s a future plan for it
  • Tie the change effort back to the driving vision, and remind the team of this vision regularly
  • Identify champions within each functional group that can learn the new software in-depth and support their colleagues at go-live
  • Host user acceptance testing (UAT) sessions where staff can attempt real-world scenarios to identify bugs and issues in advance

4. Train and Test

You’ll want to set up the right environment that includes development, testing, Q/A, and production. With a structured approach, you can assess and affirm existing and new business processes in a low-risk environment. By testing and promoting the approved code one step at a time to production, you’ll have multiple layers of review to ensure that the functionality works as expected.

You should create a subject matter expert team to design functional tests of the new and improved plan. Similar to determining what reports can be automated, ask yourself what tests can be automated to save everyone in the organization time and money. And then, determine the criteria for functionality promotion. How do you evaluate success? What criteria signal that your ERP capabilities meet their intended objectives? Codify that upfront before testing to give you the proper benchmark.

The following list includes some optional training techniques.

  • Instructor-led training, with documented lessons and exercises
  • User workflow documentation, with system-based steps (i.e., button clicking guidance)
  • A test system that includes “real-world” scenarios and exceptions to the system
  • Short, function-focused videos sent to staff before going live
  • After go-live in-person support to reinforce the training workflows

5. Find the right partner

Even with your internal staff of experts experienced in major IT installations, attempting to implement enterprise software like ERP can be a massive undertaking. And trying a course correction can be even more difficult. This is where business and IT professional service companies can help.

You’ll want to find a partner that can give consultation before starting any work. They should demonstrate they understand your current situation (getting your implementation back on track) and provide valuable references from customer organizations.

The right partner will listen first, work alongside you to deeply understand your business, and carefully analyze your operations and software to date. With a customer-first approach, combined with in-depth business process expertise, they can then redesign systems, project plans, goals, roles, and objectives to overcome the challenges you previously experienced.

They can do this by identifying the root causes of your project issues, working with you to review project documentation, make recommendations, and design and execute new strategies that change the trajectory of your implementation.

OSI to the rescue

If your ERP implementation has stagnated and you need help, look no further. For over a decade, OSI has helped hundreds of organizations implement open source ERP to bring together your disparate systems to improve core business processes, from accounting to manufacturing, services, human resources, and more. This expertise allows OSI to perform project recovery services that identify high-risk areas and chart a new path forward.

OSI’s proven methodology helps define and remediate issues and risks. Through a formal project recovery plan and updates to your implementation plan and strategy, they can help address your implementation’s people, process, and technology to get back on track and move into the future with a competitive advantage.

Need help getting your ERP solution back on track? Contact us today.

About the author:

Greg Mader is the founder and president of Open Source Integrators (OSI), a global leader in open source business consulting and IT services. He’s an Army Veteran and entrepreneur, adept at managing large teams and complex projects, delivered on time and budget. His background includes leading and developing large and small teams, with a focus on communication, mission relevance, and improved deliveries. His expertise spans across strategic planning, project management, ERP, GIS, and other enterprise technologies.

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