4 Valuable Lessons For Selecting And Implementing An ERP System

One of the most important decisions you'll make as a project manager is selecting and implementing ERP business process management software. Make the right decision - you're a hero. Make the wrong decision - the results can be financially and culturally catastrophic.

One of the most important decisions you’ll make as a project manager is selecting and implementing ERP business process management software.

Make the right decision — you’re a hero. Make the wrong decision — the results can be financially and culturally catastrophic.

I should know. I just went through the process myself.

While I found a lot of helpful information online, most of it covered the same topics: Have management support. Make sure the system has cloud capacity. And so on.

ALSO SEE: ERP in Food & Beverage

The four most-valuable lessons I learned came first-hand:

1. Hire an independent ERP consulting team. The fact is: You don’t know what you don’t know. This can be especially true for smaller organizations. That’s why it’s critical to partner with an experienced consulting team to guide you through the process.

It’s easy to rely on one trusted individual within an organization to shepherd the process. However, that person likely doesn’t have anywhere near the experience of an entire ERP consulting team.

Most consulting groups claim you save money when you pay their fees because they can get you discounted software. I don’t believe this to be the case initially. But I do believe consultants pay for themselves after several years considering the substantial ongoing maintenance costs of an ERP system.

Keep in mind: You don’t have to have the consultant to stay on after the selection. After all, once your ERP partner is selected, it’s probably better to work with someone specializing in that specific software system rather than an industry generalist.

2. Set ambitious, yet feasible, goals. Without a doubt, ERP selection and implementation is a daunting process. Your goals should reflect this.

Assuming you have a motivated team, the right combination of ambitiousness and feasibility in goal-setting will be a great asset when pushing the team to achieve — all while avoiding a situation doomed for failure.

3. Don’t be afraid to reduce scope and implement in phases. It’s difficult to predict where problems might arise during implementation. In UEA’s case, we completed our implementation within our initial target date of seven months. However, this wouldn’t have been possible if we had refused to adjust the initial scope.

During training and piloting, it became clear four of the modules were going to push us past our target date. All four were non-mission-critical modules that could be added at a later date. By moving these modules from the initial scope, the team was able to bear down and focus on the truly important core system and select modules.

When moving a piece of the system out of the initial scope, it’s important to set a new goal for when it will be implemented. Using this strategy, we had two of the four modules implemented just three months after the initial go-live date.

4. Regularly conduct outside system audits. When selecting an ERP system, it’s easy to get idealistic about how processes will work in the future. It becomes much more difficult to keep that high-level vision during the daily grind of training and implementation.

It’s extremely important to have an outsider audit the ERP system on a yearly basis or even more frequently. The audit will help align individual processes with organizational goals and, ultimately, help to cultivate the best return on investment for your new system.

Be your organization’s hero. Use these four valuable lessons for selecting and implementing an ERP system.

Daniel Hanawalt is a Marketing Coordinator at UEA.