No matter what type of business you're in, implementing an ERP solution is a critical project that must be taken seriously. From concerns about cost and demonstrating ROI, to practical considerations about who will manage the process at your company, ERP implementation efforts require commitment by a project team and support by business leaders to ensure success.
There's no getting around the fact that ERP deployment is a major undertaking, but the process doesn't have to be painful. With proper planning and execution, implementing an ERP system should be a smooth process and quickly improve efficiency across your business. Here are some critical ERP implementation best practices to consider when selecting and deploying a solution.
Given the range of functions that ERP encompasses, it should come as no surprise that there are multiple types of ERP implementations. You can choose to build your own custom ERP and program it from the bottom up, though the cost and complexity of taking on such a huge project can make a do-it-yourself approach a poor one.
Or you can purchase on-premise ERP software and install it on your company's computers and servers. Before investing in an on-site ERP solution, however, consider this sobering fact: Two-thirds of mid-size businesses are running old versions of their ERP software. 1Why the lag? Organizations often decide that the pain required to re-implement incremental releases is too great—especially since each upgrade means the business risks losing critical customizations and integrations. Keeping ERP technology current is key to maximizing its potential, so it's essential to choose a system deployment option that's easy to update and will preserve custom features.
There's a third alternative: a cloud-based ERP solution like NetSuite. Because the system is cloud-based and managed entirely off site by the ERP provider, a cloud-based solution means you don't have to make expensive upfront investments in IT hardware and servers, nor worry about dedicating significant personnel resources to managing it. In addition, cloud-based implementations are usually much faster and easier to deploy than on-site deployments, and maintenance is much easier since the cloud-based ERP provider is responsible for keeping the technology up to date. Most importantly, with cloud technology, product enhancements are painless—customizations and integrations automatically update with system upgrades—so you can always be assured that your business is running with the most advanced capability.
Getting buy-in from company executives means more than just getting a signature to approve investment in an ERP solution (though that is certainly important); it means educating leadership about what ERP implementation means for the company. More than just software, ERP technology can transform the business, an idea that executives must support before moving forward with any deployment effort. Frequent communication from executives about ERP implementation plans and changing processes are vital to helping build consensus—and even excitement—across your company.
ERP software is powerful technology that can streamline processes, improve visibility, reduce costs, and completely change the way that your company does business—but it won't happen overnight. ERP solutions encompass many complex front- and back-office systems, from accounting and inventory management to ecommerce and CRM, which need to be integrated to create a seamless experience for end users.
This takes careful planning and time to execute. To accelerate the implementation process, make sure your project is scoped appropriately and consider working with an experienced, knowledgeable ERP expert. The average NetSuite customer is typically able to implement its ERP system within three months—much less than the on-premise ERP implementation industry average of a year and a half.
Before starting any ERP implementation, make sure that your company has the staff resources in place to see the project through to completion. This may seem like an obvious point, but many companies begin deployment without resourcing it adequately, resulting in overworked, unhappy employees and a less-than-optimal installation.
Identifying a dedicated project leader and a team for your ERP implementation will help ensure that the project goes smoothly. For ERP team members, consider reassigning or removing some of their normal job duties so they have enough time to concentrate on the task at hand. Identify a team leader with strong project management skills who can facilitate team communication, address any issues that may arise, and keep the implementation on schedule.
Keeping these best practices in mind will help you launch your deployment on the right track and keep it there throughout the entire process. Researching the best ERP implementation option for your business, building consensus around the effort, setting realistic expectations, and giving your staff the support they need—these steps take more time, but they result in a more effective ERP experience and a better-run business in the long term.
1“Why Cloud Computing Matters to Finance,” Ron Gill, CMA, CFM: Strategic Finance, January 2011.