What’s involved in an ERP implementation?

So you have decided that you want to take your business to the next level and you are planning an ERP implementation? Not sure what is going to be involved? Here’s our overview of the fun that you are about to get yourself into!

Are you not even sure what an ERP is? Checkout our primer here.

This article is the first part of a series that provides an overview of ERP implementations.

ERP Implementation Size

No two businesses are identical therefore no two ERP implementations are going to be the same.

There will be differences in the complexity and duration depending on the type of ERP project you are undertaking.

Analogy time!

Picture yourself firing up a new video game and you have to choose the difficulty level. Here’s what the screen might show you:

Easy

  • For the newcomer
  • Standalone Out Of the Box (OOTB) installation
  • Configuration for your specific business

Normal

  • Some experience recommended
  • Standalone Out of the box (OOTB) installation
  • Configuration for your specific business
  • Some Custom software development

Hard

  • Not for the feint of heart
  • Out of the box (OOTB) installation
  • Configuration for your specific business
  • Some Custom software development
  • Integration of ERP with other systems

Extreme

  • Only the bravest will pass
  • Fully custom ERP software development
  • Integrated with other systems

So which difficulty are you preparing to play?

What stages are involved in an ERP implementation?

No matter which level of project difficulty you are about to undertake there are standard stages that you will experience.

Scoping

This is where we figure out the extent of the project. Which aspects of the ERP are we implementing?

  • Accounting
  • Customer Requirements Management (CRM)
  • Manufacturing
  • Stock Control
  • eCommerce
  • etc

As well as which aspects we need to agree on which business processes are in scope for the implementation.

Requirements

With our scope agreed it’s time to figure out the requirements in more detail.

The goal of software requirements is to reach a common understanding from the person or business that wants to use the software (you) and the people who are tasked to deliver the project (us).

Requirements can be documented in a number of different ways – some suit certain projects better than others. There is no single approach that is better than others. The important thing is that the requirements are clear and allows the implementation to meet your expectations.

Cartoon of a woman looking at pages of an ERP implementation scope.

Our tip here is that requirements should document the business needs rather than being a statement of how the system look and behave specifically. This means we will understand the reason for the requirement and be able to suggest multiple specific implementations.

Implementation

This is where we actually design and implement your ERP system.

Armed with the requirements we can select the best ERP solution for you and your business.

Sidenote: Here at ITgeniq we are technology agnostic, which means we don’t try to sell you just one software platform. We provide tailored solutions and choose the best software for your company.

During implementation we will occasionally need to clarify the business requirements, which is why we recommend documenting the business goal goal clearly to reduce the need for us to constantly hassle you!

Verification

This is the part of the implementation where you, the customer verifies the solution. Most people call this phase the testing phase.

Testing your solution is an essential step in the project. This is your chance to check that what has been installed, configured or customised actually does what you need.

Don’t underestimate the time required to undertake this step with appropriate rigor.

Data Migration

It’s rare that an ERP implementation is being done in a brand new business with no existing data. Usually there is existing business data, even if it’s in a bunch of spreadsheets that needs to be brought into the newly built system. Here’s some of the data we would need to migrate:

  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Products
  • Sales Opportunities
  • Chart of Accounts
  • Financial Transactions
  • Employees and HR information

Usually it takes a number of attempts to get this part right and it will form an essential part of the testing and verification stage.

Change Management

So this one we left until last and it’s definitely not because it’s the last step in the project. It is because it is actually something that needs to happen over the whole life of the project.

However the most visible aspect change management occurs after testing has been completed and that is training the users.

For an ERP implementation to be successful you need your staff to know how to perform their job when their world changes. A Change Management plan helps guide everyone in preparing people for the coming change.

We also recommend nominating a “Change Champions”. A change champion believes in the change and is driven by the vision of the improvements the change can bring about. They are responsible for helping to break down any resistance to the change and represent the impacted staff.

The key things to factor in are how and when you communicate the changes. If you get everyone on board early and bring them along on the ride you are more likely to have a successful implementation. On the other hand if you ignore it until the last minute your staff are likely to resent the changes and put your success at risk.

Identifying Your Key Stakeholders

Anyone that will be impacted by the ERP implementation is a stakeholder in the project. In a typical small business this usually is everyone, however not everyone is a KEY stakeholder.

Your key stakeholders are the ones that if they stopped supporting the project then it would fail. In a small business setting this always includes the owner / director of the company.

Project Methodology for your ERP Implementation

Cute Cartoon of an ERP implementation Project Team

Let’s take a moment to talk about the way projects are run. Please note that this is a simplified overview and project methodologies are a hotly debated topic and can even be considered akin to a religion to some.

Waterfall Projects

Waterfall is considered the traditional way of running projects. First we define the requirements then we design everything. After the design is agreed we build everything. Next comes the testing (verification) and training and finally the project is migrated into production. This is called waterfall because each phase happens sequentially one after the other like a progressive waterfall.

Overview of the stages of a waterfall ERP Implementation

One of the biggest complaints against the waterfall model is that testing doesn’t happen until after development is completed. The later in the process that bugs are found the more expensive they become to fix. One of the other issues is that it is rare for requirements to be fully understood up front or the requirements actually change over time. The longer the project the more this becomes an issue.

Agile Projects

Agile projects on the other hand take an iterative approach to development. The emphasis on put on delivering smaller working parts of the system that can be tested and used by the customer.

2 people in front of an agile ERP implementation board

It is worth pointing out that Agile is a term that encompasses a number of different approaches that are meant to address the deficiencies in the waterfall process. You may have heard of Scrum, Kanban or Lean, which are specific approaches to the Agile priciples.

One of the issues with Agile approach is that it requires more involvement from the customer to guide the project over it’s entire duration.

Other project options for your ERP implementation

There is also options in between such as phased waterfall which follows a waterfall project methodology in a number of phases breaking up the implementation.

Which option you should choose will depend on your specific circumstances and all factors should be considered before commencing your project.

More detailed examples

We have two more articles in this series which will expand on the ins and outs of each approach. A day in the life of each, so to speak.

We are hoping that this series will give you an insight on each approach so that you can work with your ERP consultant in deciding which approach will work best for you.

If you need advice about your ERP implementation then fill in the form below and let us know what we can help you with.

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