Are you planning to implement an ERP system to help you cut costs and increase efficiency? To achieve these goals, you’ll first need to understand your current processes and determine what’s working and what’s not.

This is called ERP process documentation, and it’s an important activity during the discovery phase of ERP selection.

Today, we’re sharing expert advice on how to document business processes, what level of detail you need and how to use your documentation during the selection process.

The 2024 Top 10 ERP Systems Report

What vendors are considering for your ERP implementation? This list is a helpful starting point.

Why Should You Conduct ERP Process Documentation?

The information that comes to light during process documentation will direct the course of your entire project. This is a tool that gets you talking about the ERP requirements you will present to potential ERP vendors. It helps you define what you need the new software to provide and what functionality you can live without. 

As you dig deeper into your current workflows, you’ll also identify pain points, which will lead to discussions about process improvement and standardization.

Another benefit of ERP process documentation is that it can be used to educate employees about end-to-end workflows. For instance, people in shipping can learn about financial ramifications of decisions they make.

Finally, process documentation is beneficial during the design and testing phase of implementation. You can reference the documentation to ensure the new ERP system meets your business requirements.

6 Tips for ERP Process Documentation

1. Start with Your Core Processes

Instead of mapping your entire current state, start with your core processes, such as order fulfillment and order procurement. Map these processes at a high level, focusing on mapping what downstream employees want and track how it gets to them.

erp process mapping

2. Involve Multiple Departments and Ask for Input

The task of process documentation shouldn’t be isolated solely to the C-suite or a few select departments. Your new ERP software will impact your entire company, so it’s important to include employees from across the organization and ask them about any pain points they’re experiencing.

The processes related to these pain points are those you’ll want to map in greater detail. This will help you identify root causes.

To keep track of all inputs, we recommend organizing pain points into three categories:

  • Process-related
  • Systems-related
  • People-related

3. Keep Process Improvements High-level

Once you’ve understood your pain points, it’s time to begin process improvement. At this early stage, you simply need to define high-level improvements. In other words, don’t define at a level of detail where you’re talking about what the ERP system is doing. Otherwise, you may end up having to customize your chosen ERP system when you find that it doesn’t meet the exact details of your processes.

4. Be Flexible with Process Standardization

Standardized processes can help an organization function like a well-oiled machine. However, when standardizing processes, it’s important to allow for some degree of flexibility. This is especially true if your business is widespread and encompasses multiple locations.

While processes across locations might seem standardized, there can be nuanced differences in terms of the details. For instance, one warehouse might follow a specific pulling process, while another warehouse may have a different layout requiring a different pulling process.

You should standardize as much as you can, but there are always limitations. These limitations will become more apparent through process mapping. 

5. Understand the “Why”

How many processes is your business using with no idea why they were instituted in the first place? “That’s the way it’s always been done” isn’t exactly an answer.

We recommend taking the time to discuss the “why” behind each of your current business processes. Why does it make sense to do it this way? 

You’ll find that ERP vendors rarely ask for these explanations, but it’s one of the first items you’ll discuss with an ERP consultant. Through this exercise, you may find that you can standardize and simplify a process that has always been performed a certain way but with no good reason as to why. 

6. Gather ERP Requirements

The findings from your process documentation can help you create a list of ERP requirements. When creating this list, you can mostly stick to high-level capabilities (e.g., CRM functionality). However, if there is any area that you’re differentiating to provide a competitive advantage, you can go into more detail when documenting this requirement.

Mapping Your Current State and Envisioning Your Future Success

An ERP implementation has the potential to radically transform the way your employees work and the way your customers interact with your organization. While ERP can simplify and streamline even the most complex business processes, the first step is understanding those processes in full.

ERP process documentation allows you to take a close look at the mechanisms that keep your organization running. It helps you decide what to keep, remove and change, so you know exactly what to look for in an ERP system.

We can help you through every stage of the ERP selection process. Contact us below for a free consultation. 

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