5 Tips for a Successful ERP Implementation

When it comes to a successful ERP implementation, there’s a lot to take into account. Unfortunately, for many companies those considerations come in the selection process and by the time the project is in implementation planning and execution, everyone’s too exhausted to fully work through all the changes, processes, and assignments needed to ensure the platform is successfully implemented.

After more than a decade of implementing, customizing, and consulting on ERP platforms—both on-premise and cloud applications—I’ve learned a thing or two about where an ERP implementation can go awry. The good news is that with some planning and forethought, any ERP implementation can be a successful one. Here are my top five tips for a successful ERP implementation.

1. The importance of change management and business process reengineering cannot be underestimated–especially if you’re moving from a legacy on-premise ERP to a cloud-based ERP. Although logical that this is a critical part of implementing a new system, particularly one as significant to the business as ERP, I’m always surprised when organizations want to rush through discussions of change management and business process review. Unfortunately, this mostly is due to the fact that very few businesses fully understand every facet of their current processes. This typically becomes apparent when the consulting team gets in a room with project stakeholders and starts going down a list of processes to consider. If you don’t read any more of this blog post, I hope that you remember this tip for your ERP implementation because it is the key to your project’s success.

Pro Tip: Take the time to document your business processes, especially those that take place within your ERP platform. If you can do this before you enter an ERP selection cycle, you’ll be able to ask even better questions of your potential vendors and ultimately make a better software decision on top of enjoying a much smoother implementation. At the very least, however, do it before you begin an ERP implementation.

2. Test, test, and then test some more. It’s natural (and necessary!) to test the processes that will be different on a new platform because there’s so much that’s unknown and foreign, but many times I see that customers fail to test the things that end up mattering the most—the everyday processes and functions that users will use over and over. For example, the financial close process is one I frequently see overlooked. A customer team may go through some of the motions of testing, but they don’t always thoroughly complete each step. When the accounting team goes to close the first month on the new platform, they suddenly discover that there’s an issue with how the new process was setup and it takes longer to fix and leads to a lot of internal grumbling. From the consultant’s perspective, if the software is implemented correctly and is working as expected, we may not catch something that’s a major change for your user or business, so testing before a user gets to it is critical.

Pro Tip: Don’t skimp on testing your new platform. Go through every mundane test and query just as a user would. Even better, invite an actual user to sit through a test with you and see where they get stumped.

3. Embrace change. Because implementing a new ERP platform is a huge change, there’s a strong desire for organizations to keep as much as they can the same. The usual result of this is trying to build workarounds or complex processes into the new system rather than embracing the new ERP platform’s default processes. While there will certainly be a level of customization and process-fitting to make your ERP work with your business, you may miss out on new efficiencies by sticking to an old way of doing things just because it’s familiar.

ERP implementation success

Bring everyone to the table to ensure buy-in beyond the buying process.

Pro Tip: Remember you’re moving to a new system because it’s going to make your life easier and your company run more smoothly. Keep an open mind about the system’s processes and be open with your implementation partner about which processes you think need the most thought when it comes to potentially changing them within the new system.

4. Buy-in goes beyond the buying. Of course you bring your executive team into the conversation about a new ERP purchase, but what happens during implementation? Time and again I see upper management move out of the way when the implementation process begins and this is a mistake. Not only can they help give strategic insights into where the company is going and how the platform can be best implemented to support that vision, their investment in the implementation will keep them on-board with the project and ultimately bring you more internal support as changes are rolled out.

Pro Tip: Setup recurring status meetings throughout the implementation that involve your executive team. Invite them to see the product while it’s being implemented and don’t be shy in sharing what you’re excited about and what needs some finessing to get just right.

5. Work with a partner that knows your industry and business. Obviously I work for a company that implements solutions for manufacturers and distributors, but we don’t always work with our customers from the very beginning of their projects. Why? Because they’ve initially started their implementations with a partner that doesn’t really know their business and they got stuck halfway through (or worse, went live on a new platform that had major issues). Take the time to find the right partner and you’ll have a faster, smoother implementation that gets you to ROI sooner. Here’s a great blog post from the archives that talks more about why this is so important.

Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to ask for references from vendors you’re considering. Talking to a peer business that went through what you’re about to embark on will help you feel confident you’re getting the team you need.

Hopefully these tips help you keep your ERP implementation on track and successful. If you have specific questions, reach out below or contact our team directly or learn more about NetSuite services here.