New ERP system or overdue upgrade? Tips to get you started.
W hether your company is looking to implement a brand new business system from scratch or is considering upgrading a previous version of ERP, it can be a daunting project. Change is difficult, mainly when a system is so integral to the way your business works. Getting alignment at all levels in any company is hard. You will need to develop the business case for change, get the support of senior executives and find a project sponsor who is committed to success. You will also need to get end users to give up their comfort zone, accept the need to change, and to move to a new system.
In walking this fine line in the business, you also need to select the right system for your company going forward. If your existing ERP system has been running for more than six years already, it is by no means sure that staying with the same vendor is the logical choice. Many companies last upgraded their ERP systems more than a decade ago. Remember, this was a time before cloud-based ERP was considered viable. In the ensuing decade, there have been many shifts in the ERP software market – new vendors have emerged, acquisitions and consolidations have taken place. Even the so-called stable “Tier-1” vendors have had to make fundamental changes to their latest versions in response to significant technological change and innovation.
So are there any tips that can make this journey more manageable? I would propose the following:
1. Forget incremental upgrades if your system is over ten years old. The upgrade process is likely to be so significant that it will be in many respects, a new implementation.
2. Don’t be too attached to legacy applications that “just work” despite their age. All companies have their favourite app that they spent time developing. A more objective view might conclude that these older applications might be hindering your business and preventing transformational changes.
3. Evaluate the vendors track record with their ERP product strategy – have they delivered what they said they would provide over the past five years, and what does the product roadmap for the next five years look like?
4. How does the proposed ERP vendor provide functional fit to your industry? Vertical industry focus is critical when selecting a business system. Look for evidence that your vendor understands this and has a clear strategy for incorporating specialised industry functionality into their application. Evidence of recent strategic acquisitions is a good indicator of the intent of an ERP vendor to close functional gaps.
5. Look closely at the vendors’ partner ecosystem. In most cases, you will not be working with the vendor but with a partner. The right partner will make or break an ERP implementation. The selection of the right ERP implementation partner is arguably as important as the software itself. Unless you are a global operator with a worldwide rollout envisaged, the size of the partner will likely not matter much. Select responsive partners that demonstrate their commitment to your business and the solution by their certified consultants, customisation and integration skills. They will need to to support you for the next decade or more.
6. Customer evidence. The world of business software can be a more collaborative environment than you might imagine, even among competitors. Companies in similar industries are often willing to share experiences and their best practices. In return, they expect to learn from you. Ask your ERP vendor about other customers who have journeyed ahead of you. Be willing to spend time contacting and building a relationship with them.
7. Expect to switch on additional modules/features over time. Even though your initial requirement might seem simple, the business will change over time, and it will be necessary to switch on other functionality. Flexibility in the underlying architecture that allows additional data fields and business processes to be incorporated will be essential to enable you to customise your new solution to your exact requirements.
8. Ongoing updates to ERP need to be simple and easy to implement without being an encumbrance to the business. Look at the vendors upgrade methodologies and speak to existing customers about their experience with routine upgrades.
9. Specific updates relating to security and compliance will be mandatory. Make sure that these will work well with any envisaged customisations.
10. Look to an ERP vendor who is open to ongoing close strategic engagement with customers to help direct the development priorities in the future. How do they communicate new developments and features with customers? What user events take place, and are they two way – in other words, does the vendor show their willingness to take criticism and feedback?
11. Examine the vendor’s implementation methodology and evaluate how well it will work within your organisation. Work with your partner to understand the implementation project and ensure that you have the right level of skills and adequate resources allocated to execute accordingly.
12. End-user training and guidance in using the system are going to be critical success factors. Look at the partners’ approach in this regard. Many implementations fail after the initial consulting team leaves the site at the end of the project. How will you be supported?
13. Business systems do not end with core ERP. Examine the entire stack of technologies available to you. These include cloud-based hosting, data storage, data analysis and reporting, event management, collaboration and document management, artificial intelligence, device support, and any other relevant technology innovations that apply in your industry.
Undertaking a significant upgrade or even a new ERP implementation can be a daunting challenge. Why not start the conversation now with a proven ERP partner so that you can begin the planning. It is never too soon to start. Don’t be caught fire-fighting and rush this planning process; there is too much at stake for most companies.
If you want more information about how we can help you plan your next ERP upgrade or implementation with Microsoft Dynamics 365, please contact the team at Axnosis.
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