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How to prepare for ERP implementation

Large-scale IT implementation projects often require significant manpower, financial and technical resources, and several months to complete. ERP software implementation is no different, and to implement ERP systems successfully, you’ll need to lay a lot of groundwork before you even get started.

There are several steps you should plan to take before you begin a successful implementation of ERP software. Like any other activity in life, preparation and readiness are key factors that lead to implementation success.

You can perform the following ERP implementation best practices in advance of the main project in order to create a smoother road forward. Taking the initiative to follow these steps prior to the final agreement will help accelerate the project and send a positive message to all the stakeholders involved in the organization.

Click to read Increasing Excellence in IT with ERP Gated

ERP implementation phases

1. Determine your personnel requirements

One of the most important factors for the success of your ERP implementation process is the structure of your team. And it’s vital that you determine its structure – and its members – beforehand in order to create a viable ERP implementation project plan. Who’s going to be involved, and for which parts of the project will they be responsible or accountable? What obstacles will need to be removed, and who will be tasked with removing them? Who will ultimately be responsible for defining your ERP implementation phases, setting milestones, assigning duties, and ensuring the project is delivered on time? Prepare your team in advance for the effort.

2. Develop a change management strategy

Any strong ERP implementation methodology will include a robust change management plan. Change is difficult even when it’s inevitable – for both individuals and organizations. It’s important that you think about your ERP as a change management program and develop a strategy that supports change among leadership and teams. Organizational leadership should always provide the vision and momentum for change – especially as without their involvement, it’ll be difficult to drive adoption at every level and align teams to new strategic priorities. Make sure that your senior colleagues are on your side. Your IT team should also be properly engaged, as their buy-in will be essential to minimizing risk and ensuring your end users have access to the tools they need to work with properly throughout the process.

Beyond this, you’ll need to be aware that resistance to change is a natural part of the process. A part that arises because even when there’s an appetite for better tools, conditions on the ground often make their adoption difficult. Speak to your users and identify the choke points and you’ll have a much easier time overcoming them.

3. Identify your existing systems and the changes they’ll require

What systems are you using now? Which of them will need to be replaced or integrated with your new ERP system? Traditionally, this would be the time to consider how your legacy systems would integrate with your shiny new ERP. However, with more and more companies choosing to implement in the cloud, this is less of a concern. Instead, you should be identifying how a move to the cloud will change the way your people interact with the tools they rely on now, and consider how you expedite the learning curve through project planning and training schedules. The same rules that apply in all IT implementations apply in ERP - successful implementation means widespread adoption, and your teams will need to define what this looks like, and how to best facilitate it.

4. Prepare for data migration

Even the best ERP implementation strategies are nothing without a solid data migration strategy. Data migration is a key activity in any implementation. The popular phrase “garbage in – garbage out” is true for all systems. It’s thus necessary to plan how you´re going to extract and migrate your data carefully so that the new ERP system will be off to a good start. Neglecting to prepare for data migration is a common reason for ERP implementation failure.

As above, the increasing prominence of cloud solutions makes some migration challenges a thing of the past, while introducing new challenges of their own. You’ll need to devise clear policies around where your new solution warehouses data to stay on the right side of regulatory and compliance rules, for instance. You’ll also need to ensure that your new platform can comfortably collate data from a plethora of different sources.

5. Identify existing processes – and how the implementation will impact their smooth running

The implementation project is not only about IT. In fact, it’s mostly about your business processes.

In preparation for the project’s design phase, invest some time in speaking to employees on the ground, and map out the processes they rely on to get their jobs done. This will help you to identify the processes critical for operational smooth running, and plan ways to keep them online throughout the implementation timeline. Preventing lost time and revenue and helping to keep your people engaged with the change.

6. Take time to think about your vision for success

There are many things you can do before an implementation effort beyond what we’ve discussed here – from preparing training, plans and more. One often overlooked – and arguably essential – step is crafting a vision for your success – including firmly establishing what problems you hope your new ERP will solve, what the implications are of doing nothing, and, crucially, who will own the project.

A strong strategic vision for your project will help you determine how your new ERP will interact with the rest of your ecosystem, the functionality it will provide, and the total cost and benefit it will represent. This will also help you to understand the scope of the job, whether or not you’ll need outside help, and give you a realistic idea of how ready you are to flip the switch on implementation before you get started.

How can Unit4 help you successfully implement your next ERP

Unit4’s next-generation ERP software solutions can elevate your business and streamline your budget planning and analysis. And we can help you to get your new system up and running more quickly thanks to our vertical specific industry models for implementation, which make use of predefined best practices to implement your new solution twice as fast as the average with all the functionality your people need to work effectively. Find out more about our solutions today!

ERP pre-implementation FAQ

What is the most important step of ERP implementation?

As the saying goes, preparation prevents palpably poor performance. Get your ducks in a row before you even think about implementing new ERP software, considering personnel needs, data migration, a full change management plan, and a strong and specific success vision, and your project will be all the smoother for it.

How many phases does an ERP implementation typically have?

Every company is different, but implementation projects generally follow 3 broad phases - planning, implementing, and fine-tuning. Each of these 3 steps can have as many or as few steps as your organization needs to ensure success.

How difficult is a successful ERP implementation?

This depends entirely on your organization and your resources. However, if you take the time to figure out what “success” looks like - for you and your people - and lay the proper groundwork for the process, timelines will be much shorter. Companies that implement with their industry’s Unit4 ERP Industry Model usually see implementation times halved compared to their sector’s average.

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David Porras-Martin

David Porras-Martin

Senior Project Manager at GCON4, Unit4 Elite Partner

David is a project management specialist with professional experience in multinational NGOs, donor agencies and private companies. He has worked in Europe; South America; Middle East; South East Asia and Africa, and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and a Masters in Project Management and Humanitarian Aid. David has had a leading role in setting up management practices and new business processes. David believes that most of the things we do can be managed as projects, and he has special interest in business processes analysis and improvement.


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