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Some practicalities of implementing an ERP software package

So you’ve decided that ERP is going to improve your business,save you money, let you grow, give you confidence in the figures you use to drive the business and selected your ERP software package and chosen the team (in-house and external) to implement it so now what?

How best to implement your ERP software?

Assuming you have chosen a comprehensive package with a rich range of applications and options that suits your type of business there are a number of subsidiary questions.

Should I throw away all current software?

Must you replace all your existing software with the new ERP package? Don’t be driven into discarding software that genuinely offers you a competitive advantage but on the other hand don’t retain an application merely because it’s familiar or because change demands some alteration in your current business processes. Think carefully before deciding what to do about all your existing software and mark each as a) to be replaced b) definitely to be kept (maybe the ERP solution doesn’t include such an application) or c) unsure whether the relevant ERP module is sufficient.

Do I implement all new applications at once?

It all depends! The factors that will influence this decision are:

• How much resource (of the appropriate experience) can you release to work with your ERP implementor? You can’t expect the implentor to make decisions about how to implement the system, they don’t know your business in enough detail nor do they have the authority to make such decisions. Therefore you need to free up experienced, authorised resources to tell the implementor how you work and any changes you are prepared to make.
• How many people will need to be retrained? And how long will it take to train them?
• Are you planning to re-engineer your business processes along with implementing a new ERP solution? This may seem an attractive thing to do but will extend the time taken to implement the system as well as adding to the risk of the project causing too much disruption to your business. You don’t want to kill the patient with

In what order should I implement modules?

Of course if your decision to install an ERP system was based on the need to replace or implement a new module e.g. CRM, then it’s clear you should start with that module. If your decision was based on the long term need to have an integrated ERP system rather than separate software modules then the decision is harder. In most cases the answer would be to go for the financials first as the other modules all connect into it and follow this with whichever business area is most important to you: possibly sales order processing or inventory management.

This approach will mean that there will be a time when you may be running two systems at the same time and find a way to ‘integrate’ them. One option could be to build software to link the old system with the new but if the old system is planned to be replaced within a few months this may be an unnecessary cost, in terms of money, time and risk. Instead consider a manual link, that is have someone enter data daily, weekly or monthly between the systems. Then try to replace those old systems as quickly as possible

Using all the new features

A key reason why you will have decided to implement a new ERP system and why you chose the software package that you did is because of all the new features it offers. It is tempting to try using them from the start, but beware. Your staff will need to understand those new features to make best use of them and you may need your implementation team to help in their utilisation. This will inevitably slow down the process of getting the system installed. The best approach is probably to get each application module bedded in and the users familiar with it before extending into using the additional features. The project will then move forward more quickly and the users have more confidence in it as they investigate the bells and whistles. Don’t try to run before you can walk!