ERP Selection Tips

1. Understand Why

It’s important for companies to understand why they are going through ERP selection. One good reason to do an ERP project is to leverage technology as a competitive advantage within your industry. This is a better reason than, “Our support is ending on our current product, and we need to switch.”

Once you understand your reasons for implementing ERP, you need executive sponsorship around these reasons, and you need buy-in all the way down to end users.

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2. Document Requirements

It’s important to do requirements gathering upfront as opposed to doing it after you’ve selected an ERP vendor. At that point, you’re on the vendor’s dime, and you’re rushing to define your business requirements.

From our project recovery experience, we have found a common theme is companies waiting too long to begin requirements gathering. It’s painful work, but it ensures you implement successfully. In fact, one of our clients’ CFOs told us that spending money upfront decreases expenses during implementation.

3. Prioritize Functional Areas

Your choice of ERP software will depend on what functional areas you prioritize. Maybe you want to focus on financial management and operational management since you’re aiming to optimize your supply chain and manufacturing processes. Or you might focus on financial management and omni-channel since you’re trying to improve the customer experience within with an e-commerce platform.

Depending on your focus and the size of your company, ERP vendors have a different mix of solutions – some stand alone, some fully-integrated. Do you just want a workforce management solution, or do you want human capital management, as well? Do you want your system to include payroll, or do you want to continue to outsource it?

If your organization is prioritizing the customer experience, you’ll need a system that handles marketing and customer relationship management. Some of these systems also handle configure-price-quote.

When you’re talking about meeting customer expectations, you probably need an e-commerce platform that integrates with a core ERP system. This allows you to integrate customer data, dynamic pricing information and other real-time data with your supply chain. The retiring of Baby Boomers and the increase of the Millennial workforce is a major reason why a lot of companies are integrating e-commerce.

Some of our clients want a permanent solution, while other clients know their business is going to change and want a solution that lasts five to ten years. This decision also can influence what functional areas you prioritize.

4. Understand the Software Tiers

  • We define Tier I as systems suited for companies with $750 million or more in annual revenue. Tier I vendors target enterprise-level companies with multiple entities and complex operations.
  • Upper Tier II vendors still serve companies with multiple industries and business units, but these companies are slightly smaller.
  • Lower Tier II vendors play well with small- to mid-sized businesses that typically serve one industry with a single entity.
  • Tier III vendors include point solutions suited for startup companies.

5. Align Your People, Processes and Technology

Another important aspect of selection and implementation is strategic alignment. A clearly defined digital strategy is essential. It’s important to have a strategic roadmap with KPIs to ensure executives and middle management are aligned around the same expectations.

People and processes also must align with the defined strategy to ensure a successful project. Successful ERP projects are those that focus on improving operating processes and helping employees develop digital competencies. All too often, companies think that technology leads the project, and that’s not necessarily the case.

Organizational Change and Business Process Management Tips

1. Focus on the Customer Experience

We typically use a top-down approach to business process management, called value chain mapping. This allows companies to see processes across functional areas and business units to eliminate redundancies, improve the customer experience and generate ROI.

Amazon is a perfect example of improving the customer experience. Unfortunately, not every organization has as much to spend on technology as Amazon, but you can certainly look at them as a model.

2. Standardize Some of Your Processes

Our clients often struggle with determining what processes to standardize and which to differentiate. All too often, companies evaluate ERP solutions based on their current state, which typically is a handful of workarounds and limitations. In cases like this, companies should consider standardizing some of their processes based on best practices.

3. Define KPIs

From an operational standpoint, it’s critical to define project goals because you need some sort of success measurement, not only during implementation, but after you’ve gone live.

4. Move Beyond a Communications Plan

The way we look at change management is we meld the traditional approaches with modern times in order to enable the digital worker. A lot of traditional change management is about communicating with employees from across the organization throughout the project.

Integrating people and processes is challenging and requires more than a communication plan. So, in addition to helping companies develop a communication plan, we help them conduct focus groups and business readiness assessments.

ERP implementations and business transformation initiatives fundamentally change an organization’s key processes and operations. As such, companies should develop a full change management plan that views change from different perspectives such as culture, structure, workflows, processes and digital awareness.

We had a client whose executives initially said, “We don’t meet change management. Please don’t mention change management activities.” Four years later, they’re behind in their implementation, so they decide to focus on change management.

ERP Implementation Tips

1. Focus on Benefits Realization

Many companies think they need all this advanced functionality in order to receive benefits. However, in our experience, as companies are implementing basic out-of-the-box functionality in phase one, they are receiving all sorts of benefits. Because of the new technology, users are figuring out how to leverage information and data differently.

An example of basic functionality that delivers benefits is workflow automation. The ability to automate processes, such as a purchase order approval, makes your organization more efficient.

After a year or two of basic functionality, our clients then start to pick and choose where they want to implement advanced functionality. That’s when they’re going to realize benefits tenfold of what they’ve already seen.

2. Focus on Change Management

The key lesson learned from these project results is to focus on change management. This is because . . .  

  • Employee adoption determines the success of the ERP project. In many of our software expert witness cases, we’ve noticed that this was a key ERP failure
  • If team members are not engaged in the project, they find ways to work around the system. You don’t want to invest in technology, take the time to implement it and then have users do workarounds.

3. Determine Your Ideal Implementation Approach

Many companies in our study are choosing a phased approach by module. Another popular approach is the big bang approach. Companies with multiple locations that use this approach typically don’t go live with all locations at once but choose one or two locations with similar functionality. Many of these companies implement basic functionality all at once, which accounts for most, but not all of the ERP system.

There’s not one right approach. What we do with our clients is determine the best strategy based on unique factors, like culture and ERP project team dynamics.

4. Use ERP Consultants

Working with a consultant is like having a fresh pair of eyes since the consultant is a third party. ERP consultants can walk into companies and ask, “Why is it being done this way?” Companies will often answer, “It’s just the way it’s always been done to work around certain people or give certain people certain positions.”

In my career as a CEO, that’s what we usually used consultants for. In my experience, consultants were useful because they taught us “how to fish,” and left us with deliverables and documents that could enhance our team’s performance in the future.

5. Define ERP Success

How should you define success? That’s a very interesting question because there’s many different perspectives, and every organization is going to define success differently.

For executives, success if often about creating value for the customer, remaining competitive and achieving ROI. When you think about achieving ROI, you could achieve it from a financial perspective, but you can also achieve it via innovation and employee retention. Technology is just an enabler to all this.

From an end-user perspective, success might look like the ability to do your job more efficiently. Once people are trained on the systems, they realize the importance of data and the upstream and downstream effects.

For example, it’s very important for the sales team to capture the right amount of data around pricing. The proper input of this data has a ripple effect throughout the organization. If end users take the extra minute to populate more data fields, then other parts of the organization, like operations or finance, will benefit.


Panorama’s ERP consultants can help your company set realistic expectations for its upcoming ERP project. Request a free consutlation below.

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