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Successful ERP Systems 7 (not so) Secrets to Successful ERP Systems

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By Rick Cook

Implementing Enterprise Resource Planning software is a major commitment, and a major risk. Fundamentally ERP involves restructuring major parts of the business to integrate the various pieces seamlessly. It’s a lot of work and often a lot of money. That means ERP failure comes at a big process, and can be a career limiting move.

Fortunately, after more than 30 years of putting ERP to work in business, there’s a pretty good understanding of how to manage the process. Here are seven key lessons that have emerged from implementing ERP over several decades.

  1. Have A Clear Goal and Strategy
    Enterprise Resource Planning isn’t, or shouldn’t be, something you go into just because it sounds like a good idea. Implementing ERP software is a means to an end. You need to understand your desired end goals very clearly in order to reach them. Likewise before you implement ERP software you need a clear and specific business strategy and a clear understanding of how ERP is going to advance that strategy.

  2. Get Expert Help
    Very few organizations have the internal expertise to implement mission critical ERP systems. You’re going to need outside expertise to succeed. There are many sources of help in putting ERP to work in your organization. Most ERP vendors have teams of consultants available to help their customers. Many ERP VARs specialize in providing this service. There are also a lot of independent consultancies devoted to helping companies implement ERP software in a sound and predictable fashion. In picking the right source for help, experience in implementing ERP, experience with your industry and fit with your business are a lot more important than what the help calls itself. However keep in mind that your help is just that, help. You still have to take the primary responsibility for putting that help into action in your organization. Your implementation team needs to take an active, controlling role in making ERP software successful in your company.

  3. Plan Carefully
    Next to getting buy-in, the major factor in successful ERP implementation is careful planning. Spend the time and resources to plan out your ERP system in exquisite detail. Of course you won’t be able to think of absolutely everything and the things you don’t think of will come back to bite you in the butt. Plan for that as well, and understand you’ll be making modifications to your ERP system for some time as you discover things you didn't allow for.

  4. Understand ERP Is Not An IT Project
    Because ERP is implemented with software, there’s a tendency to think of ERP as a computer project. It is not. ERP involves the entire enterprise at every step from goal setting to final testing. If that isn’t reflected in your organization’s sponsorship and implementation effort, you’re in for a lot of trouble.

  5. Get Early Input and Buy-In
    Because ERP application software is so far-reaching it's especially important to have everyone on board and contributing to enterprise-wide processes. At the very least you should have input from every department and wide backing. Needless to say, the input and buy in have to start at the very top. If you don’t have firm support at the highest levels in the company you’re going to have a great deal of difficulty solving the inevitable snarls in the process. At the top, buy in means that the people there have a clear understanding of the enterprise goals and how ERP supports the business strategy.

  6. Take a Phased Approach
    Modern ERP systems are broken up into functional modules. That makes it easier to deploy ERP software in phases as well as helps to customize each ERP installation. You can implement the modules your business needs and not worry about the others. Trying to implement an entire ERP system at once is a recipe for big trouble. Instead you should carefully plan to bring your ERP system up in phases, one module, or even part of a module, at a time.

  7. Go For The Low Hanging Fruit
    As the saying goes, nothing succeeds like success. That's why you want your ERP project to show early, tangible results. As you analyze your current business processes, you'll undoubtedly find areas which are ripe for immediate improvement. Plan to phase those changes in first to show everyone what ERP can do. Choose the first phases of your implementation to solve immediate, obvious problems. They don’t have to be your biggest problems, but their success should be clear to everyone. It’s also important to make people aware of these successes. That helps reinforce support for ERP strategy and build momentum for continued success. ERP implementation is not the time to hide your light under a bushel. As pieces of the ERP implementation are successful, keep trumpeting those successes, the more of them the better.

Enterprise Resource Planning strategies and supporting systems can be a success for your organization, as thousands of businesses have proved by successfully and profitably implementing ERP systems over the years. Plan carefully, act methodically and keep these points in mind and you too can be successful. End

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Because ERP is implemented with software, there’s a tendency to think of ERP as a computer project. It is not.






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