For a company in the midst of an ERP implementation, a go-live date becomes the holy grail of project milestones. The culmination of months of preparation, go-live represents the end of an arduous struggle towards improved processes and systems as well as the attainment of a well-deserved respite . . . or so many believe.
While an undeniably important milestone, go-live is but a step in a successful ERP implementation. Too many organizations focus entirely on meeting a go-live date and are woefully unprepared for what comes after. An ERP system go-live is much like graduating from school – a lot of hard work goes into it but the real work is just starting.
A critical element of success after go-live is found in the setting of goals. Goals provide direction and drive, which are particularly important for an organization undergoing a change as pervasive as an ERP implementation. Even with this in mind, not all goals are created equal. Knowing which goals are appropriate to set can be a daunting task unto itself and while no two ERP implementations will be exactly the same, we have found that successful implementations have a few high-level commonalities when it comes to post go-live goals.
- Use Those Baselines! Expected efficiency gains, ROI estimates and key performance indicators (KPIs) are crucial aspects of measuring success in an ERP implementation and are ideal components of justifying an ERP implementation in the early stages of the project. Baseline measurements of these figures are a must when it comes to setting relevant goals after go-live. Without baseline metrics established, determining success thresholds becomes far more difficult to achieve and increases the likelihood that arbitrary goals and targets are established.
- Keep It Attainable. Though ERP systems have the potential to provide organizations with streamlined processes and efficiency gains that were un-achievable with their legacy systems, it cannot be stressed enough that full realization of business benefits does not occur the day after a system go-live. In fact, it is not uncommon for full realization of projected benefits to take years to achieve. Understanding this key concept is fundamental to setting realistic goals in a manageable time frame.
- Don’t Forget The People. Overemphasis on “hard” metrics, like ROI and payback period, is a common misstep in setting effective goals following an ERP system go-live. Many companies fail to remember that it is ultimately the end-users that will make or break an ERP system. This guideline evokes a simple yet powerful truth that ERP failures rarely occur due to faulty technology but are instead caused by human mismanagement. This remains true after go-live as well. End-user training, system acceptance and literacy should all be managed through metrics and goals. Attending to end-user training and system acceptance ensures that the potential benefits provided by an ERP system have the greatest chance to be attained, which will in turn lead to financial and efficiency goals being met.
Although every organization undergoing an ERP implementation will have nuanced and specific goals after system go-live, these guidelines are universally applicable and should be fundamentals of any ERP implementation strategy. Remember, go-live is the beginning, not the end.