By Rick Cook
Consistent Support From The Top
The first element in ERP success is strong, consistent support from the top of the organization. If the CEO and other top executives aren’t behind the project for the long haul, your chances of success are not good.
This support needs to be intelligent. That is, the people at the top have to understand what the company is committing to and that there will be ups and downs in the process. Without a realistic view of the ERP implementation, support is likely to waver and diminish as time goes on.
For example, everyone has to understand that the ERP implementation will take time – a minimum of 18 months and perhaps as much as three years – and be prepared to commit to it over the long haul.
Everyone involved needs to understand that the process is long and often difficult, but they also need to understand that the rewards of a properly implemented ERP system are worth it.
Scope creep is one of the deadly enemies of ERP implementation. To succeed the ERP implementation needs clearly defined and focused goals. That focus cannot be allowed to wander to include things that were not part of the plan.
Understand, of course, that goals may need to change as the ERP process evolves, but they cannot change willy-nilly. If something needs to change after a careful review, then so be it, but that is a decision to be made at the very top.
Minimize Customization – Or Eliminate It Entirely
Customization busts deadlines and raises costs. As much as possible you should strive for a plain-vanilla implementation.
Distinguish between customization and configuration. Configuration is making choices within the program to determine how the ERP system will be implemented. Customization is changing the way the basic program works. Configuration is normal and acceptable. Customization should be viewed with considerably more suspicion.
Some ERP implementations are so heavily customized that less than half the code base is used as-is. These are also the implementations that are mostly like to run over schedule and over budget, or to fail outright.
In an ideal world, you’ll do no customization at all. Realistically, you will probably have to do some, but hold it to an absolute minimum.
Have an approved solution design process. All major design decisions need to pass through a carefully designed and tightly controlled approval process. An ERP implementation is not the place to try winging it.
The approval process should include input from top management as well as major stakeholders. Each decision should be carefully examined.
Have A Data Migration Strategy
In order for the ERP system to work, data from your existing systems has to be imported. This is a process which is more complicated and time-consuming than it appears.
You need to decide what data you need to bring over, determine what formats the data is presently in, and develop a migration strategy that will translate it with the minimum amount of effort.
Sometimes you get lucky and the transformation can be done entirely automatically. Some data will have to be moved by slow, expensive manual processes. Take an inventory of the data that needs to be translated and what format it is in. If necessary bring in additional help or outsource the translation operations.
Test The System Throughly
Don’t assume everything is working because the project is done. Test all aspects of the ERP system repeatedly at every stage of the process.
As much as possible, involve the users and other stakeholders in the testing process and use their feedback to improve the user interface. Remember your goal is not just to have something that works, but something that is easy for your users to understand and use.