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ERP implementations are tough. By the time executives and project team members get to the end of the implementation, they are ready to be done with the pain, risk and disruption. Many executives are just happy to not exceed their implementation budget or extend their project timeline, so the last thing on their minds is determining actual post-implementation results.

If this sounds familiar, then you’re probably not surprised to learn that organizations usually realize minimal business benefits from their ERP implementations. It’s hard enough to successfully complete an implementation, let alone ensure it delivers expected results.

However, a post-implementation audit can help you determine “benefit leakage” following an ERP implementation as well as next steps to increase ROI. Here are a few tips to help your organization achieve business benefits as quickly as possible:

Plan your post-implementation. It may sound elementary, but planning beyond go-live is incomprehensible to most executives and project team members, especially when they are stuck in the weeds of an implementation. However, no organization will achieve its expected business benefits without long-term planning. As proven in our experience and research, successful ERP implementations make post-implementation activities a high priority.

Focus on tangible results. If you can’t and don’t measure it, you won’t achieve it, so post-implementation audits are a critical way to ensure benefits realization. The project team should define key performance indicators (KPIs) that will drive the business benefits expected by the executive team. These KPIs should then be translated into individual and departmental metrics, along with target levels of performance to be used as the basis for the post-implementation audit. Even soft benefits that are hard to quantify should be translated to tangible benefits wherever possible. In addition, business process reengineering activities can and should be prioritized to focus on those that will deliver the most tangible operational results the quickest.

Integrate “hard” KPIs with “soft” organizational change activities. One of the most powerful ERP implementation tools I have seen in my career is the successful integration of hard metrics with soft organizational change management activities. This balance ensures that the soft side of change management is focused on delivering tangible and measurable business results. Whether it relates to end-user training, organizational design or a host of other critical activities, your organizational change management plan should be designed to deliver measurable results. Otherwise, it is extremely difficult to justify change management and other activities that may be perceived as discretionary spending in an ERP implementation.

Use anticipated post-implementation results as a guide for implementation decision-making. Post-implementation audits can actually help guide implementation decision making as well, because they help the project team focus on items that will contribute to increase business benefits. For example, if and when a project team member decides that he or she wants the organization to invest in expensive or risky software customization, the end-state vision of expected business benefits will help determine whether or not that investment is warranted. If the expected ROI is there, then it may make sense to make that decision during implementation. Only with a quantitative vision of how the organization will perform after the ERP software is installed can project teams make informed decisions.

These are just a few tips to help your organization position itself for implementation and post-implementation success. By keeping the end-state result in mind via planned post-implementation audits, ERP project teams and executives will be in a much better position to realize expected business benefits.

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