These summer months provide many of us with good reasons to slow down and relax. Whether it be summer vacations, time at the beach, or enjoying the longer days, many of us find the time to enjoy a slightly slower pace whenever possible.
When it comes to ERP implementations, a leisurely pace is the exact opposite of what we tend to pursue. Most of us want to select and implement new software as quickly as possible to minimize budget and avoid disruptions to our day-to-day processes. In fact, I have yet to meet a CIO, CFO, CEO or project manager with the stated objective of “slowing down” their ERP implementation.
As counter-intuitive as it may sound, there is something to be said for an ERP implementation that doesn’t operate at a breakneck speed. Many of our must-know tips for executives about to begin an ERP project can be achieved by operating at a more measured and deliberate pace (see our video below for the complete list of 20 tips). As our hundreds of implementation clients and ERP consultants can attest, faster is not always better when it comes to rolling out new ERP software.
Here are five important examples of how more measured – yet counterintuitive – tactics can benefit your project and actually help you implement new software in less time than if you were to rush:
1. Take time to develop a solid implementation plan. Once you have completed your ERP software selection, it can be tempting to jump right in and start implementing. After all, this is usually the most exciting point in the project, so it’s tempting to keep the momentum going. Moving ahead without a solid plan is ill-advised and typically results in plenty of wasted time and budget along the way. For example, expensive technical resources and consultants start the meter running the minute they hit the ground – regardless of whether or not their project roles and responsibilities are clearly defined or whether or not they are being productive. Taking the extra time to create a clear project strategy, plan and charter will save you a great deal of time later on.
2. Define business processes before you start implementing ERP software. It’s common for less experienced CIOs and project managers to view ERP software as a silver bullet that will define business processes going forward. While this may be true for specific transactional details within the software, most ERP systems are flexible and robust enough to handle high-level business processes in a number of ways. With this in mind, it is important that you define your general workflows and business process reengineering initiatives before you begin implementing and configuring your software. This will ensure effective use of your technical resources once they begin designing, configuring and testing the software, while at the same time ensuring that your new system delivers tangible business improvements rather than simply “paving the cow paths.”
3. Get the right resources in place. Moving forward without the right project resources in place can create even more delays than not moving forward at all. Again, it may be tempting to rush into implementation, but it is counterproductive to do so without involvement of the right resources. For example, beginning implementation planning without stakeholder input may cause the project team to overlook operational limitations to key project milestones. Similarly, defining business processes without internal stakeholder commitment can undermine organizational buy-in and create misalignment between the software and operational needs. It may be difficult, but ensuring the right resources will save you time and money later in the project. This challenge should be addressed as part of a comprehensive organizational change management plan.
4. Quantify expected business benefits. As the old saying goes, you can’t achieve what you don’t measure. With a majority of ERP implementations failing to realize expected business benefits (according to our 2014 ERP Report), this rule of thumb is certainly true with ERP implementations in general. Even if you are 100% certain that your ERP investment is justified and that you “need” a new system regardless of the potential benefits and ROI, you still need to quantify specific business benefits if you want any chance of actually achieving them. Just as importantly, quantified business benefits will provide a framework to make key decisions throughout the project – such as whether to customize certain functions or invest in additional modules. A quantifiable business case is critical for these project governance and benefits realization purposes.
5. Remember that your ERP implementation is a marathon, not a sprint. As much as I would like to tell you that ERP implementations can be done quickly and easily, I can’t in good conscience suggest that. Even our own clients, who implement faster and less expensively than most organizations, have to prepare to be in it for the long haul. Business decisions, resource constraints, day-to-day operations, budgetary constraints and limitations of your ERP software all contribute to the “marathon” nature of ERP implementations. You are about to overhaul your entire organization, which takes time no matter how well you plan and execute. This is an important point to keep in mind when developing and executing your ERP implementation plan.
While summer vacation may be a brief, annual reprieve from the usual day-to-day bustle, there is a lot to be learned from the summer, if we take a step back and look at what really makes ERP implementations succeed. The end of summer does not mean the end of “slowing down.”
As soon as summer ends, we are hosting an ERP Boot Camp, which despite its name, is actually all about slowing down and planning before implementing ERP software. Join us September 23-26 in Vail, CO for this comprehensive, interactive training provided by top ERP experts.