What does it take to successfully implement a new ERP system? Even if this is your first ERP implementation, it should come as no surprise that success depends on an infinite number of variables, a lot of moving parts, and numerous company-specific situations. But there are steps you can take early on to mitigate risk. The first may seem counterproductive, but we’ll reveal why it is an essential first step in ERP implementation.
ERP Implementation Step 1: Get to know your current ERP system.
It is obvious (or should be) that poor planning can doom your ERP implementation for failure right from the very start. Planning can be thought of as a continuum from no planning to thorough planning. “Good” planning is thorough planning, and starts with an understanding of all your business processes. The emphasis here is on all of your business processes. It’s unlikely that anyone at your company knows every detail about your current system and how it’s used. However, there are likely a select few with the tribal knowledge needed to glean a thorough understanding of all business processes currently taking place within the system. These people should make up your “requirements team.”
Mapping Out Your Current System
Putting in the time to inventory and map out your business processes early on will save you time in the long run. This map will serve as a blueprint against which you can check off the essential requirements for your new ERP. Keep in mind that no system is perfect. The ultimate goal is to come as close to a fully integrated solution where all processes flow together and work in unison. The more in sync your solution, the greater the likelihood that everything will run smoothly. The better grasp you have on your system as a whole, the better you will be able to make sure nothing gets lost in transition (or translation).
Individual systems need to run in unison in order for your data to be consistent and accurate throughout your operations. But that doesn’t mean the systems have to run from the same platform. Further breaking down your inventory into “Essential,” “Nice-to-have” and “Flexible” processes will reveal what requirements to focus on when choosing the software.
“Best of Breed” vs. Fully Integrated Solutions
You can also use your inventory to weigh the pros and cons of a separate “best-of-breed” software solution versus a “fully integrated” ERP platform. Best-of-breed solutions are ideal when one or more departments has very specific business requirements that cannot be addressed with a single solution. However, disparate systems can cause issues interfacing and scalability. Fully integrated solutions promote streamlining of processes because all components within the system “play well” together. However, rarely can a single system address all core business functions, and customizations to fully integrated solutions can be difficult. Using your inventory will help you decide which path is best for your unique situation.
A Word of Advice…
Focus on implementing an ERP that aims to optimize the value chain and trace costs, rather than one that most closely resembles your current-day solution. Be open to the idea that the new ERP could streamline existing business processes. Rather than trying to recreate a modernized version of your current system, be aware that the new system gives you the opportunity to critically analyze, alter or reinvent functions. What may appear to be a limitation in replication might actually be an opportunity to pivot or streamline.
In summary, take the time to fully understand your current system and the business functions it executes. Spending adequate time doing careful requirements gathering will set the stage for smooth ERP implementation.
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