In our previous blog, we discussed five ways you can take control of your enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation. When you take the time to properly prepare for the implementation, it is more likely to go smoothly compared to when you’re not prepared. In addition, it’s important to consider all other activities going on in your business to avoid going live during a busy season. For example, a client of ours was implementing new ERP software and coordinating the logistics for a move to a new location. The two activities didn’t interfere with each other until the move happened to fall during the week scheduled for go-live. They had no computers installed or available and the go-live had to be pushed back until they were up and running in their new location.
It’s important to be realistic and understand that your Microsoft Dynamics GP (formerly Great Plains) implementation process might not be a perfect transition. Here are some common pitfalls that can come with the implementation of a new system and ways to avoid them.
1. Waiting to Make Critical Business Decisions Late in the Implementation Process
Avoid stalling the progress of implementation by determining any new processes, changes to processes or significant business decisions before or in the early stages of the implementation project. As soon as you start considering new ERP software, evaluate your current business processes. Many times we find that a client’s current business processes have been dictated by the capabilities of their current ERP software. Mapping out changes to your business processes ahead of time or early in the planning and configuration phase, will allow your implementation team to help you set up the software around your processes rather than defining your processes around the software. Decisions made late in the implementation process may cause re work of the configuration, re training, re testing and possibly a delay of the go live.
2. Discounting Testing
It’s important to test during the implementation process. If you ignore or short cut testing during implementation, you will essentially be testing when you go live and may have to back track. Issues found after go-live are generally more difficult, time consuming, and/or costly to address than issues found during testing prior to go live. Take any issues and ideas discussed in the internal user group meetings and put them to the test. Don’t forget to test unique transactions. During the testing phase of the project, it may be difficult to think of all the unusual situations that need to be tested. To prepare in the months prior to the testing phase, keep a running list of unusual transactions that you encounter during your normal daily work in your current ERP system.
3. Dwelling on Mistakes and Misunderstandings
Misunderstandings and mistakes are bound to happen, and things will get lost in translation on both sides. The implementation team is trying to understand your business and processes, and you are trying to understand the functionality of the software. No one is perfect, so be realistic and expect that mistakes may occur, and instead focus on understanding the issue and how you can avoid it from happening again. If a misunderstanding or mistake does happen, brainstorm ideas to address it in a timely manner so it does not impact future work and possibly delay go-live.
4. Not Being Open to Change
The implementation of a new system may make some skeptical, but coming into implementation project meetings with the “this is how our old software does it, so we need the new software to do exactly the same thing” attitude will be ineffective. It’s important to kick off the implementation process on the right foot, so come in with an open mind. You may not know what other options you have for business processes, so take the time to understand the functionality of your new ERP system and get fresh ideas from your implementation team. This is a huge value that you get when working with an experienced implementation team; pick their brains and find out what they’ve seen with other clients.
5. Not Removing Responsibilities from the Project Lead and Key Users
Understand how much time and effort will be involved during the implementation and go-live for the project lead and key users, and allow them to use their time during the workday to complete implementation tasks accordingly. That may mean bringing in temporary assistance, including former employees who already have an understanding of the normal daily tasks. If feasible, your temporary hires can help keep up with ongoing activities that the project lead and key users may not be able to complete. It’s important to make sure those employees who will use the system going forward have the dedicated time to assist with the implementation.
6. Being a Yes Man
It’s important to challenge suggestions in order to understand results and consequences. The implementation team may provide options and suggestions based on the way they see the system being used successfully by other clients, however be sure to make your own decisions and base those decisions on sound factors. Listen to the suggestions, then together brainstorm a list of pros and cons to determine what decisions should be made. While the implementation team has significant experience with the system, every client is different and what worked for one might not work for another. You will be the one using your new system for many years to come and you need to be happy with the way it works for you.