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Successful Implementations Take More than Just Software
So you’ve made a decision to license a new ERP system. Contracts have been signed and the installation of the software is scheduled. If you haven’t already awakened in a cold sweat…you soon will. Now the real work begins. Here are some keys to ensure that your ERP implementation is heralded as a success.
Remember the goals
If you didn’t create goals and objectives before you set out on selecting a new system, do it now! You don’t need dozens of goals, just a few focused, measurable goals to keep everyone’s eyes on the ball. The question “Why are we working so hard to get this system implemented” will be quickly answered by the established goals. It is important to note that some goals will not be achieved the minute you flip the switch on the new system. Some will not be fully realized until you have been live on your new system for many months. Every distributor is different, so your goals will be, too.
The team does matter
A highly functional team will move your implementation forward with the precision of a well-trained championship athletic team. On the contrary, if your team has a high level of dysfunction then prepare yourself for over-runs of both time and money. The team members should heed the advice in Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. You want people that can have honest conversations with each other in a professional manner, understanding that there are times that you will disagree. Those disagreements must stay within the team and not leach out to the rest of the company.
A new ERP system is one of the best opportunities for positive change within your distribution company, but it can also be a time that you see heels digging in for the status quo. Having a well thought out change management process will be important to not only move the implementation forward, but to help get a high-level of user adoption of improved processes. Mapping out your current processes and re-engineering them to leverage the new technology capabilities is a valuable exercise. As the project moves forward make sure that there are small wins that can be celebrated with the entire team and others within the organization. Holding frequent sessions with some of the user community to show them the progress that the implementation team has made will be a benefit to the entire organization. This will help reinforce the value that the new system will be bringing to the company once it is live. Allowing the implementation team and key users the ability to be “evangelists” about the new system will help the entire organization embrace the important changes that the new system will bring.
There isn’t a software firm out there that doesn’t answer “management support” when asked why implementations succeed or fail. This simply means that management needs to be supportive and offer to remove roadblocks that may come in the way of the project. Management doesn’t need to be in every meeting or involved with every decision, but they do need to be engaged. The best implementations have supportive, but not overly bearing management. This allows the implementation team to make decisions and know that they have the full support of their managers. Management should highly consider creating a technology steering committee that meets regularly to discuss the progress of this project and other technology projects that may need to be considered as the implementation progresses. This is an excellent way for management to stay connected to the project.
Don’t be distracted by shiny objects
We cannot tell you how many stories we hear and some that we have witnessed where the implementation project plan has been blown out of the water by the attraction of the next shiny object. Sometimes this occurs as the implementation team learns more about the ERP solution and discovers a new “want” that they just have to have…now! Other times it is caused by the most vocal team member. They start by asking for something that is out of scope and when it gets moved to phase 2 or later, they become louder and more demanding about the new functionality until finally the team gives in. Resist the temptation unless the majority of the team can see the great value that this new functionality will bring to the business. Build a project plan and do your best to stick to the plan. This will help to insure that your project will come in on-time and under-budget.
As you assemble your implementation team and create your detailed project plan, be realistic about the implementation timeframe based on your team’s time and their ability to either backfill their regular work commitments or add additional hours to their work week. This is an important project and one that often is laden with potholes and detours that have to be carefully navigated. Allow your team the time to do it right and not do it faster that is reasonably possible.
Since this is a “once in a decade” type of project, it is highly likely that you don’t have project managers waiting in the wings to guide this project. If that is the case, feel free to reach out to us. We have outstanding project managers that can help you from day one to make your implementation a success.
If you follow the guidelines in this article you will have a strong chance for success. If you have any questions specific to your particular situation, please feel free to reach out to us at The Distributor Board. We are always happy to help move you in the right direction.