What You Need to Know About an ERP Implementation

January 17th, 2020 | IT Consulting

As businesses grow and scale, the current systems and technology solutions often need to be upgraded or changed completely. This can be especially true for manufacturing, distribution, and other industries that rely on ERP solutions.

Whether you are implementing an ERP solution for the first time, upgrading, or changing your current solution, you should never make a significant technology change without considering how it will affect your entire organization. Your Chief Information Officer (CIO) will help you understand how to successfully implement a new ERP to ensure that your chosen solution works for your people and business. To do this, they must first know why you want to make the switch.

Reasons to Implement a New ERP Solution

Whether it’s moving away from legacy software, the need for more features, an integrated solution, or better reporting, there are several reasons your company may want to implement a new ERP system.

  • Your current system is no longer supported: Software companies face the same challenges as any other company. Unfortunately, when the demand no longer exists, it is not uncommon for these companies to sunset software or discontinue product support. It is a frustrating but common occurrence, especially among smaller software providers.
  • You have outgrown your current solution: When you implemented your current system, it may have been the perfect-fit solution, but as technology and processes change, so do your technology needs. In addition, new products may have been released and implemented that don’t tie in with your legacy ERP solution. When all these solutions aren’t talking to each other, it negates the benefits of your current ERP solution.
  • Your company is going through a digital transformation: Up until this point, you may have been using manual, outdated, or disconnected technology for each department or business unit, but you’re ready to start tying all the pieces together in one solution. As your company matures, so does your need for technology solutions that can help you scale.
  • It’s more attainable than it used to be: Even though the “e” in ERP stands for enterprise, many high-growth and mid-sized companies are starting to implement ERP solutions that are built just for them. Products like Epicor and Sage were developed specifically for smaller businesses. Even prominent players like NetSuite and SAP have created ERP solutions specifically for this market.
  • You need better reporting: When you first implemented your current ERP solution, it probably met the needs of your stakeholders, but over time, the metrics that matter may have changed, and if your current solution can’t provide the data you need, you’ll need to make a change.

Regardless of your reasons for changing, you are a technology solutions partner that understands your business goals and the technology that can help you achieve those costs within your time and budget constraints.

What is the ERP Implementation Process?

In its simplest form, the process of implementing an ERP follows three steps:

  1. Discovery & Selection
  2. Implementation
  3. Training

Step One: Discovery & Selection

The first step is understanding your goals for implementation. For example, are you trying to control costs better, improve efficiency, or alleviate frustrations with the current solution? Once you can clearly define your goals, it makes the discovery process much more manageable.

At Aldridge, the discovery and selection of an ERP solution would happen during the design phase, outlined in our Framework for Successful IT. Then, by understanding your goals, we would research and vet different ERP solutions before recommending a best-fit solution.

Step Two: Implementation

Once a solution has been identified as the right choice for your business, the next step is implementing it. Depending on the solution, this can be as simple as an out-of-the-box product that requires no customization to a highly complex implementation that can take months to complete. Of course, this all depends on what works for your business.

Step Three: Testing

First impressions are essential, especially when introducing a new ERP to your staff. Suppose you roll out a new ERP without testing its real-life functionality within your business. In that case, employees will likely become frustrated by unexpected limitations, and adoption rates will suffer as a result. Therefore, your IT implementation team should coordinate a pilot group with multiple employees from various departments and roles who will use the ERP system to do their jobs. This group will test drive the software and work with IT to identify obstacles impacting the functionality and reducing employee productivity. By trying the new ERP solution with a small group of relevant users who expect to encounter limitations, IT can proactively address these issues before impacting the rest of the organization.

Step Four: Training and Support

Rolling out a solution as robust as an ERP system doesn’t stop with implementation. Significant technology changes will always be somewhat disruptive, but these disruptions should be planned for, communicated, and focused on facilitating employee training and adoption after completing the software configuration. If team members don’t know to use the new system correctly, you’ve accomplished nothing. Extensive training and documentation should be the final step to ensure success with your new ERP solution.

These steps outline the primary initiatives to cover in your ERP implementation plan, but many more tasks, resources, and people are involved. Learn more about what it takes to achieve a successful IT implementation and determine what you need from IT and your staff throughout the process.

When Should IT Get Involved?

Getting started can feel like a daunting task, especially if you don’t know where to start or what questions to ask. That’s why it’s crucial to have your CIO, or equivalent position, involved from the beginning. They know the questions to ask to ensure success for the project.

At Aldridge, we’re not just here to implement the software. That’s just a tiny part of what we do. We start by understanding questions like:

  • Why isn’t your current solution meeting your needs?
  • What are the essential requirements the new resolution should meet?
  • What risks accompany the new ERP implementation?
  • What do you expect these needs to look like in 5 years?

By understanding your pain points and goals, we can better provide strategic direction and offer solutions to meet your current and future needs.

IT’s job isn’t complete once the software has been installed, but when your new ERP productively integrates with your existing technology, people, and operations.

To increase employee buy-in, IT should work with your leadership team to communicate why the change is being made, how it will help improve their everyday work life, and what to expect during each transition step. In addition, once the software has been implemented, it’s important to ensure training and support are available for current and future employees so their questions are answered. Then, they can use the new ERP as expected.

To successfully implement a new ERP, you need various technical skill sets to research, design, implement, train, support, and roll out the new solution with minimal business disruptions and unexpected costs. If you don’t have the expertise available for every step in the process, you’re setting yourself up for future headaches.

If you’re ready to take the first steps in implementing a new solution, talk to our IT consultation team to recommend the best path to move forward.