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ERP system rollouts can be incredibly nerve-wracking . . . and with good reason. We’ve all heard stories of company after company suffering major disruptions to their supply chains and order fulfillment capabilities due to ERP failures, mishaps and glitches. Most companies worth their salt try to minimize risk by aggressively training employees in the new system, alerting all the members of their supply chain to the change, and by keeping the legacy ERP software humming in the background in case the organization needs to quickly “roll back” to keep operations moving. All of these elements are valid, but they also can serve to raise more even more issues. What if the staff simply didn’t retain the training? What if the vendors can’t react quickly to upsets? What if the old system is somehow corrupted, or if using it in parallel with the new system means that everything is duplicated?

A true business contingency plan for ERP failure certainly could and should include analysis of those elements but, for my money, also should make provisions for bringing the company back to the stone age. That’s right . . . a business contingency plan must address how the company would fulfill orders, process information, communicate with customers and even operate at the most basic level without a computer system. In other words, to truly prepare your company for an ERP implementation disaster, you must systematically establish and map the manual processes necessary to keep revenue creation alive. Further still, you must assume that the computer system will be down for a month or more. Following are some action steps to take to get the ball rolling:

  • Examine the business processes mapped during the business blueprinting phase of your ERP implementation. (If your organization skipped that critical ERP success factor, then obviously the first step is to map both each functional area’s “as is” and the “to be” business processes.) Without knowing exactly how your organization is operating or will operate, it’s impossible to develop the “alternate routes” that employees will need to utilize to keep the business afloat.
  • Talk to your staff. Explain that while the chances are minimal that you’ll have to revert to the 1950’s, it is a possibility and you’d like their feedback and insight on the situation and the plan. These conversations should be conducted as part of a comprehensive organizational change management plan.
  • Prioritize. After you collect the needed data and input, it is necessary to prioritize operations to ensure that the most necessary can continue to function without an ERP system. Is it more important to have your shop floor operating or your already made orders shipping? Tough decisions will have to be made, so take it to the highest levels for sign-off.

While some of you might doubt the need for such a drastic contingency plan, you must bear in mind that it would act as insurance not only during or immediately following ERP implementation, but also from ongoing threats (e.g., hackers, malware, natural disasters, etc.). An ERP failure can have immediate and lasting effects on your brand, profitability, employee morale, customer relationships and, essentially, everything that your business has worked so hard to build. Hoping it won’t happen is not an answer. Disaster must be addressed and planned for.

To learn more about making your ERP implementation a success, register for next Thursday’s webinar, Lessons Learned From Best-in-Class ERP Implementations.

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