Few things impact a company’s ability to meet customer needs, compete efficiently, and maintain a steady growth like enterprise resource planning (ERP) system selection and implementation. Your ERP system is one place where you cannot afford to cut corners. It’s been said that replacing an ERP system is like performing open heart surgery on a patient while the patient is not only awake, but on the job. We’re here to tell you that it’s not quite that dramatic. A successful ERP implementation is not only feasible, but actually quite common.

Whether you’re a small shop, or a multinational corporation, any company implementing a new ERP system is faced with similar challenges and opportunities.

Get it Right or Pay the Price: A 5-Step Process for ERP Selection and Implementation

Step 1: Preliminaries

Before you can implement a new ERP, there are a few things you need to address that will set you up for success once you move into the implementation phase of your ERP project:

  • Ask the Question: Why do you need a new ERP system? Maybe your current system is not supporting your business’ needs, or won’t in the future as you grow and expand. Or, maybe your system costs too much to maintain, is unreliable or is not secure. There can be a myriad of reasons why you need a new ERP system.
  • Secure your team: Your main users need to be involved right from the start, and should lead the effort in selecting the system and planning/carrying out the implementation. By involving all key stakeholders from the very beginning, you take any surprises out of the end result.
  • Outline the project strategy: In this step, you will only need to outline the general shape and scope of your ERP. This is also a good time to take a look at your current systems and data.
  • Take a good look at the current state of business: One thing that is often neglected is baseline measurements like inventory levels by type, production lead time, and inventory accuracy, to name a few.

Step 2: Get everyone on the same page

You can’t expect to accomplish any kind of successful ERP selection and implementation without having your whole team on board. Make sure to schedule some ERP training very early on in the project, not specific to any particular software, but focused on general principles.

Step 3: Choose a solution provider and implementation partner

ERP has been around for decades and there are a wide range of systems you can choose from. Make sure to keep these three things in mind as you go through your selection process:

  • Functionality: Match the specific functionality that you need today (per your requirements definition) with the ability to adapt the system to change when your needs change.
  • Ease of use: Evaluate the design of the user interface to see how familiar and intuitive it is – it must be simple to learn and easy to use.
  • Support: Finally, the system developer and/or implementation partner must be reliable, trustworthy, and compatible with your needs and company culture.

Step 4: Implement

Your ERP implementation doesn’t have to be traumatic or overwhelming, but it will take some work. Here are some of the most basic things that successful implementations have in common.

  • Use standard tracking tools like MS Project to manage the effort.
  • Keep the project and its progress highly visible to the entire group of stakeholders throughout the whole process.
  • Don’t skimp on training.

Step 5: We went “live”…now what?

Implementation doesn’t end once you go live. It’s important to stay up to date on new features, releases, and trainings. Consider advanced functionality, and keep your employees educated. Your people will change, your applications will change, and you want to make sure that you’re staying up to speed with all that is happening in the world of ERP.

Implementing a new ERP doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience. With the right support, and the right partnerships, you can take an ERP implementation from a nightmare to a seamless experience.