One article cannot cover all there is to know about ERP implementations, but I would like to highlight some of the important lessons about choosing the right partners and the right software that myself and others have learned through experience.
Choose the right partners
Eric Kimberling, a respected ERP implementer who sometimes serves as an expert witness in high profile court cases for failed ERP projects, had this to say in April 2016: “The “people” side of the project will make or break your project.”
This choice is almost as important as choosing the right spouse – its a longterm commitment. A typical ERP implementation takes months or possibly more than a year depending on the size of your business. You are going to see a lot of each other and you want it to be partners with a shared vision and similar values. Depending on the scope of the implementation there would be one or more partner involved throughout the implementation:
- The project manager: The first partner that I would recommend in this process is an implementation project manager. I have had the privilege of working with the South African company, IPlan, on two different occasions and I would never approach an ERP implementation without the help and assistance of another party that has been through the process before. The fact is that as humans we learn through experience. As a business owner and manager, if you are lucky you will be involved in one ERP software implementation. So, partner with a consultant that does these kinds of implementations continuously. Questions to ask:
- What implementation methodology do they use? Implementation methodology warrants a whole article on its own.
- How would they define the role that they could play during the implementation? This could include project management, the training plan, assistance with the change management plan and a quality assurance role.
- The software partner: This would be the local company licensed to sell and implement the software. Questions to ask:
- Do they have enough resources to be able to implement in the time-frame given?
- How many similar implementations have they done in your business industry? Go and visit one or more successful implementation sites and ask what this partner was like during those implementations.
- Ask yourself if they seem honest and trustworthy. You want a software partner that will tell you what the software can and cannot do. If they try to convince you that the ERP software will also be able to make your cappuccinos, it is not the right partner. All ERP software has limitations – be sure to ask what the limitations are.
- What would their role be in terms of support after the implementation?
- Do they have a helpdesk or call centre during and after business hours and how are support queries managed? Will there be additional charges for support post-implementation?
- A hardware partner: A hardware partner will not always be required, but if you need hardware such as bar-code scanners, you may need another partner to give you the best advice about that. This could be your existing IT hardware service provider in town since they may be able to help sort out issues after implementation.
- A training partner: You may want to take your staff off-site for some of the training in which case you may need another training location.
Finding the right ERP software for your business needs
Choosing a software product is hard. It is an investment decision. You will invest in time, yours and your employees, and money, not only for the software but also the cost of failure if you make the wrong choice.
Here you can once again turn to the professionals. Companies with ERP implementation experience, like IPlan, know that one product does not fit all. You can use a partner like IPlan or an internal dedicated project manager to do the following:
- Step 1: Draw up system requirements: Map out your system and the requirements that you will have for ERP software. A very clear picture is needed of what problems and issues the software needs to fix for the business – what is your current pain points? Involve all executive managers in this process to ensure buy-in from the start.
- Step 2: Request for Information Phase (RFI): Send out correspondence to possible software providers to send you information about their product.
- Step 3: Request for Proposal phase (RFP): Choose the ERP software providers that responded to the RFI and match your requirements in broad terms. Ask them to respond to a request for proposal. If they are interested, provide them with your needs and requirement specifications. Allow them to submit a proposal to you about how their software fulfills those requirements.
- Step 4: Selection phase: From the proposals received, create a shortlist of the software for which you would like to see a demonstration (demo). Arrange demos within a short period (one week) and involve all executive managers in your business in these sessions. Take a decision on which software, as well as a partner, would work best for the business.
Choosing the right software can take two to six months. If you give the process too little time, you could limit your options and make the wrong choice.
Keep in eye out for my next articles on ERP implementation.