Back to basics: ensure your business’s successful ERP implementations

With the drive to move ERP solutions to the cloud coupled with an increased focus on a clean core with innovation at the edges, it seems that old school ERP principles are almost forgotten. What happens around the edges is taking centre stage and whilst that’s not a bad thing, perhaps it’s easy to lose sight of what exactly core ERP solutions are: the integrated management of foundational business functions such as finance, HR and supply chain operations. As we know, the relationships between ERP vendors and their customers can be difficult with a long history of implementations taking months or years to complete, and sometimes never being completed at all. Often what you see on the box isn’t what is in the box and that can lead to frustrations and ERP solutions that simply don’t suit the business, cost a shed load of money and leave customers and users wanting. However, it is possible to stand up successful ERP solutions and CIOs, along with their teams, are completely in control of ensuring digital transformation success. 

In saying that, here are the 10 worst practises in ERP implementation that all CIOs who are looking to digitally transform their businesses should be mindful of. Sometimes it really is best to go back to basics. 

  1. Failure to define critical business processes

Just because it looks nice and everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean you should be doing it. Before embarking on any digital transformation or ERP implementation, it’s imperative to determine what the mission-critical processes are in your business and what would happen should they fail. These processes have the biggest impact on your business and should be defined properly before looking for a shiny new ERP solution. 

2. Thinking that ERP implementation is a one-off event

With the advancement of the cloud and AI in business processes, your chosen solution will need to be agile. The arrival of the pandemic has taught us that hard lesson. With ever-changing economic and business landscapes, along with upgrades and latest version developments of products and services, your chosen solution, at the very least, will need constant upgrading and evolution, or risk being left with useless, out-of-date business processes. 

3. Lack of dedicated implementation 

If you don’t have buy-in from the top, you’re set up to fail. The leaders of the business (CIOs and CXOs) have to be emotionally and financially invested in the transformation. A solid partnership with a trusted ERP vendor is also of paramount importance, so it’s best to partner with a vendor who has been around the block a few times and has a solid reputation in the industry for standing up the kind of ERP solution that is best for your business.  

4. Inaccurate estimates of the ERP project 

In so many cases, the ERP schedule and budget are not worth the paper they’re written on. So many project managers shoot themselves in the foot by committing to a plan that only sets the wrong expectations. Others use the magic 8 ball to come up with a go-live dates, or wrongly assume the costing from the vendor is set in stone. The problem is once unrealistic expectations are set, they are not going away. Do solid research and use an agile approach when implementing digital transformation. 

5. Ineffective communication between departments 

In any relationship, poor communication contributes profoundly to its demise. Change in the workplace is unsettling for everyone and best practise is to ensure open and regular communication and change management plans, up and down the ladder as well as with your chosen vendor. If you don’t gel with your chosen supplier off the bat, chances are the relationship won’t work out. 

6. Prioritising ERP features over business needs 

My husband always tell me there’s a difference between wanting the new, shiny and expensive running trainers, and needing them. Do I need them? Probably not. Do I want them, of course, but I know I’ll end up with buyer’s remorse because they won’t improve my running time or style. The same goes for fancy features in an ERP solution. You need to ask yourself if they’re fit for purpose or just nice to have without a defined purpose in your business. 

7. Implementing an ineffectual ERP solution 

Again, just because it looks nice, doesn’t mean it meets your business requirements. It is imperative that the definitions of your enterprise’s critical business processes are clear and concise and that the ERP solution you choose, meets and exceeds those needs. If you don’t marry the ERP solution to your business needs, you’re just setting yourself up to fail and will waste a lot of time and money in the process. 

8. Understanding the importance of user training 

A simple user experience should be a no brainer. Employees don’t like change on a good day, but when being introduced to new, difficult and impractical software, it will be impossible for staff to do their jobs optimally. Comprehensive training of staff is critical in any digital transformation and should form part of the process. The expectation is for consumer-grade experiences in business applications.

9. Not taking data migration seriously enough

A few years ago, my mobile phone was stolen. Feeling jaded by the cost of a new iPhone, I bought a Samsung, which is a highly regarded handset. Obviously, the transition from Apple to Android was a disaster and I lost all the contacts, photos and documents that I had stored in iCloud. Never underestimate that the data you have stored in your current system may not reach your new mode of storage, whether its cloud or on-premise. Not taking data migration seriously could cost you your business. The single biggest cause of a sub-optimal ERP project is lack of preparation for data migration. Data cleansing at source, an embedded DM strategy as a key tenet of your project, and the appropriate tools to ensure efficiency and efficacy is of paramount importance.

10. Excessive customisation due to business requirements 

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the correct answer. Why complicate an already complicated and stressful process by over-customising the digital transformation you’ve chosen for your business. Less is more – always. ERP solutions are offered with a high degree of best practice functionality right out of the box. It may take a little cajoling to encourage teams that have ‘always done it a certain way’ to change – but following best practice principles that have been designed on the back of years of experience and thousands of reference points is a must.