Our expectations for instant gratification have infiltrated every part of our lives, including our work endeavors. As such, many business leaders have unrealistic expectations when it comes to average ERP implementation timeline.

While it’s natural to want ROI as soon as possible, rushing to go-live to meet some arbitrary industry benchmark is one of the quickest routes to ERP failure. In contrast, the road to success is lined with resource-intensive activities that require months, sometimes years, to complete.

Today, we’re sharing some time-based standards to know, so you can set realistic expectations for how long your project will take.

How Common are ERP Timeline Overruns?

In our 2021 ERP Report, we found that 46% of organizations completed their ERP projects outside of their anticipated timeframe. Most of these companies planned for an 11-month timeline and ended up taking 15 months.

While this may not seem like a huge difference, a 29% duration overrun can have a significant impact on project ROI.

The 2021 ERP Report

This annual report summarizes our independent research into organizations' selection and implementation decisions and their project results.

Technical Factors That Affect Your ERP Implementation Timeline

Your project may take months, or it could take years. There are several different factors that will affect your true timeline. A few of the technical ones include:

  • The number of ERP modules you’re implementing
  • The complexity of the ERP solution
  • The type of deployment (cloud vs. on-premise)
  • Legacy system migration/integration
  • Data requirements (reconciling different data sources, migrating data, ensuring data integrity)
  • The total number of concurrent users
  • The number of independent instances you need
  • The amount of software customization and independent software vendor (ISV) add-ons

You can prevent these technical factors from causing surprise timeline extensions by developing a detailed project plan and assembling a competent project team.

Organizational Factors That Affect Your ERP Implementation Timeline

In addition to technical factors, there are also people-based factors that can affect how long your ERP implementation takes. Many times, issues with these organizational components lead to greater overruns than those caused by technical factors.

Some of these organizational factors include:

  • Employee resistance to change
  • Project governance issues
  • Issues with process redesign

By taking a proactive approach to organizational change management, your project team can mitigate any delays that might occur due to end-user resistance. This means ensuring that everyone has access to the knowledge and resources they need to embrace the new system. 

The same concept applies to business process management. Mitigating issues requires a proactive approach, meaning you need to start before ERP selection. Whether you’re conducting process improvement or business process reengineering, the effort should be collaborative with input from managers, executives, and employees. When all these inputs are considered, you can find effective ways to eliminate pain points and automate the right workflows within the new ERP system

When it comes to people and processes, strong project governance is essential. Moving forward without governance and controls is a recipe for strategic misalignment. Disagreements regarding project goals can impede your organizational change management and process management efforts.

How to Set a Realistic ERP Timeline

Now that you know a few of the factors that play into your timeline, how should you go about setting one that works for your company?

To start, don’t take your vendor or system integrator’s word for it. Remember that these partners are incentivized to sell, so it’s common for them to promise a quick timeline in an effort to win the work. 

Only later do companies discover that key milestones are impossible to meet by the anticipated delivery dates. This can lead to technical breakdowns and internal conflicts, both of which can push your project out even further.

So, what’s an organization to do? Here are some tips for keeping your project on schedule:

 

  1. When you receive your ERP vendor’s proposed schedule, take the time to augment it with key activities that might be missing. These include the organizational elements mentioned above, like change management.
  2. Consider the complexity of your operations, the scale of your project, and the magnitude of the proposed change. 
  3. Along the way, keep communication constant. Schedule weekly status meetings to stay abreast of how your team is doing and the progress they’re making.
  4. Don’t be afraid to make minor scheduling tweaks if it helps you avoid more costly and stressful delays down the road.

Understanding Average ERP Implementation Time

By now, you know that there isn’t an average ERP implementation time that you should strive to meet. Rather, your ideal timeline will depend on several factors, both technical and organizational in nature. Companies run off-course when they agree to a pre-defined schedule without taking those factors into account.

Our ERP consulting team can help you understand the scope and complexity of your project so you can develop a project plan and set a timeframe that works. Contact us below for a free consultation.

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