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In order for any ERP project to be successful, you first have to define what you mean by “implementation.” If your definition is a technology implementation, then yes, it is relatively easy. However, if by “implementation” you mean true business transformation with full employee adoption, improved business processes and tangible business benefits, then it’s going to require a bit more effort.

When assessing your ERP project plan, it is important to ensure you have included key elements that will make your project successful. Below are seven key items not to overlook during ERP implementation:

  1. Project management. Managing the installation, configuration and testing of ERP software is the easy part. Managing the business and organizational aspects of the digital transformation is much more difficult. It requires strong project management, governance and controls.
  2. Business process definition and improvement. On the surface, it may make sense just to adopt the business processes and workflows built into the software and hope for the best. For those of us that have been through dozens of ERP implementations, however, it just isn’t realistic. Today’s ERP systems are so robust, flexible and powerful that processes still need to be defined in detail. Business process improvements within and outside the system as well as employee roles within the system all need to be defined before the system can be fully adopted.
  3. Organizational change management and communications. For most organizations, an ERP implementation involves massive change. Employees at all levels are impacted significantly, which creates anxiety and resistance to change. A robust change management plan is crucial to gaining employee adoption and business benefits from the system. Organizational change management is much more than software training. It includes targeted communication, business process training, organizational impact assessments and a host of other key activities.
  4. Business and technical integration. A single ERP system with no integration to other systems or business processes is an urban legend. Every implementation that we see involves some type of integration to systems and business processes outside the system. This integration needs to be managed from a technical and business design and testing perspective. Otherwise, the system will be fragmented and disjointed, which defeats the whole purpose of ERP.
  5. Globalization and localization. Our larger, multi-national clients often ask us to implement their ERP solutions in a way that will help them standardize business processes across multiple locations and countries. This is a noble goal that might be realistic for 90% of your business, but some level of localization needs to take place. Whether we’re talking local regulatory needs, reporting requirements or shipping and customs processes, some aspects of the global rollout may require localization and can delay a project if these aspects aren’t defined early on.
  6. Independent oversight of technical resources. One of the top reasons that clients hire us to manage their ERP implementations is to help manage the scope, efforts and costs of functional and technical software consultants. Without clear direction, it is easy to fall into a spiral of unnecessary customization that doesn’t meet key business requirements.
  7. ERP benefits realization. Too many companies spend millions of dollars but fail to realize expected business benefits. A key reason for this is a lack of a robust ERP benefits realization plan. This is an area that most ERP consultants and ERP vendors fail to address, usually because they don’t know how.

While it may be possible to implement ERP systems quickly when defined in the narrow technical sense, it is more important to focus on the big picture. ERP implementations are usually expensive, but they are even more expensive when they’re not done right the first time. When developing your implement plan, it is important to keep these success factors in mind.