So here we are at our blog’s post number 999. That’s a good opportunity to put some final summary thoughts to our years of ERP blogging by suggesting the key takeaways from 30 years of implementing systems, and to provide some parting guidance to those who seek, or implement, business management software.
Here then, are our Top Ten Tips on the matter of ERP, a subject dear to the hearts of tens of thousands who make their living by doing it, and the millions who follow their advice and live with the results.
- You absolutely get what you pay for. It’s a mature industry and there’s no such thing as a ‘steal’ in ERP. If you’re a buyer, never lose sight of this fact. If you’re a seller, never sell yourself short.
- Knowledge and experience are everything. Most modern ERP software is ‘good’ software. What truly matters is the team: the one implementing and their complement at the company where it’s being implemented.
- You cannot over-plan. Once you think you’ve found a solution partner, the first major step is to engage in a complete business process analysis. That’s where you map workflows, develop process strategies, solicit advice from your entire implementation team, identify the gap between where you are and where you want to be, and figure out how – precisely — you’re going to fill those gaps with the proposed future system. Identify redundancies and extra work steps, scattered silos of information not accessible by all, key reports you will need. Use this time to decide what matters, and what’s only done because ‘it’s what we’ve always done.’ B e ruthless in this regard. More than likely, you only get this one shot.
- Run toward the fires. Communicate issues, troubles or concerns early and honestly – while there is still time for contingency planning. Anything swept under a rug is highly likely to combust later, at substantially higher risk or cost.
- There is no ‘right’ system. There is only the right system for you. Hence, see step 3.
- Whenever possible, try to phase-in your implementation. It’s not always possible – sometimes, “big bang” or implementing everything at once is the only viable option. But whenever you can, implement discrete areas of your system in stages. It helps you keep focus, minimizes downstream peril and allows you to gauge progress and re-calibrate as you go.
- Limit software modifications in the early stages of implementation, except where your BPA shows them to be necessary to your workflows. Leave the software tweaking for later, after you have the fundamentals up and running. As noted earlier, most software today is ‘good.’ ERP publishers have had decades to perfect things like workflows, user controls and basic modifiability by the user. Try their way first. Provided you selected software that can be reasonably modified, you can always do so later.
- Recognize that the system you want and need may not be the one for which you budgeted. Your timelines and budgets are merely guidelines. If you define your scope tightly enough (a near impossibility in itself, practically speaking), then maybe you can fit your budget. But scope is a funny thing… and has funny ways of changing between the beginning of a project and the end. Plan accordingly.
- It never hurts to under-promise and over-deliver.
- The two most important working components of an ERP implementation are trust and communication. (Patience doesn’t hurt either.) No one wins in a lawsuit over systems gone awry. Avoid the perils by communicating honestly and patiently, early and often.