Successful ERP implementations are executed in phases. With each phase comes a set of deliverables, exit criteria and best practices.
Depending on the ERP implementation methodology chosen for your project, you may have more or fewer phases than what we have listed below. In our experience, there is no “one size fits all” approach to ERP implementation best practices.
However, there is a basic structure most successful projects follow. At a high-level, most ERP projects require a six-phase strategy: plan, design, build, test, deploy and optimize.
2021 ERP Report
This report summarizes our independent research into organizations' selection and implementation decisions and their project results.
Regardless of how many phases your project timeline has, or what you choose to call them, each phase has one or more critical success factors that define them. Planning for and monitoring each success factor is one way to ensure ERP success.
ERP Implementation Success Factors
Phase 1: Plan
One of the phases often taken for granted, the planning phase, contains the most critical success factor – KPI validation. This is where you review the business benefits and key performance indicators (KPIs) you defined prior to ERP selection.
While reviewing KPIs, you should ensure they are realistic and measurable. It also is important to ensure that your KPIs are relevant. In other words, are you measuring the right things, or just measuring something for its own sake?
These KPIs are a project management tool that will help you continuously monitor whether your project is on track to realizing expected benefits.
Phase 2: Design
The design phase is one of the more analytical phases of an ERP implementation and involves activities like business process blueprinting.
If you’ve already gathered your ERP requirements during ERP selection, then you have a good foundation for creating a business blueprint. While your list of requirements didn’t consider specific ERP functionality, your blueprint should be based on specific functionality since you’ve already selected a system.
While you may have already seen an ERP demo addressing your business requirements, it’s important to reaffirm the technical feasibility of these requirements. How do you do this? Provide your business blueprint to your ERP vendor, so they can use it to configure the ERP system in the next phase of implementation.
Phase 3: Build
During the build phase, the ERP software is configured to meet your business requirements and code is deployed to bridge functionality gaps. While quality code is an obvious success factor, there is another element that is just as important: unit test cases.
Unit test cases should be thorough and encompass not just the best-case scenarios but also the exceptions. The more unit test cases that new code passes through, the less likely bugs will be reported later in the project.
These test cases can be written by developers, ERP consultants or business analysts to test key features, but in the end, it’s the business stakeholders that must sign off on the test cases to ensure they are valid and provide accurate coverage.
Phase 4: Test
Quality test cases are also a success factor in the testing phase. This rings true for all types of testing: process testing, systems integration testing, user acceptance testing and performance testing.
Whether you have one hundred or ten thousand test cases, the percentage of passing cases is the main success factor for this phase. The amount of high severity bugs that are remaining prior to go-live can determine your go/no go decision.
Also in this phase, performance metrics should be captured and reported. The better the performance of the ERP system, the more likely users will adopt it.
Monitoring system performance throughout the ERP implementation (and even after) is recommended and shouldn’t only occur in the testing phase.
Phase 5: Deploy
A solid cutover plan addressing ERP data migration is a crucial success factor in the deploy phase.
Listing all the steps required to prepare the production environment is necessary to help your team prepare for go-live. The more detailed the cutover plan, the more likely it is to succeed. We recommend including details such as who is responsible for the action and when he or she should complete it.
Another ERP implementation best practice in the deploy phase is end-user training. When users are prepared to use new ERP solutions, they are more likely to adopt them and less likely to report “bugs.”
It’s common that untrained users will report many bugs that aren’t bugs at all – they are instead incorrect procedures or missed training steps. Even if the incidents the users are reporting are not actually bugs, it can still be frustrating to the end-user to continually have to call the help desk.
Phase 6: Optimize
An important success factor for the optimize phase is performance benchmarking. While you probably did performance testing in earlier phases of the project, it’s not until real users are acting in the production environment with real data that true performance can be measured. Continuing to monitor and improve performance after go-live is crucial to maximizing ERP business benefits.
Other ERP Implementation Best Practices
While we did not mention all the success factors for each implementation phase, this post should give you a high-level overview. Many of the success factors we didn’t discuss are activities that span the entire project and cannot be confined to a particular phase.
For example, organizational change management should be a continuous focus throughout selection and throughout each implementation phase. ERP benefits realization development is another continuous activity that should not be overlooked.
To learn more about phase-specific or continuous project activities, you can chat with our business transformation and ERP consultants. We have helped companies successfully execute both the technical and business aspects of their ERP projects.