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ERP Implementation: Tips for a successful project

ERP implementations are projects involving large investments in financial resources, people and time. On the other hand, this type of project brings expectations of ensuring high return, based on deploying best practices and expertise to transform the company. However, studies indicate that the vast majority of ERP implementation projects does not achieve the benefits set in the business case, and more than a third don't even reach 50% of expected results.

Usually unsuccessful projects have similar stories. The project begins with the realization that the current system is obsolete or does not have support from the manufacturer, therefore, it needs to be replaced. During software selection, software vendors present success stories and robust business cases of past implementations and credit much of the success to the software, not mentioning changes in processes or people. During the design phase, users with low understanding of concepts and models in the new system will try to decide whether or not to customize the system, without having clarity of the future process or change impacts. The construction phase drags with multiple reworks and the test phase is squeezed between the end of construction and the go-live date.

In this context, change management and training become less important activities and are compromised. At the end of a traumatic deployment, the organization doesn't even assess the implementation results, to compare them with what was originally planned. According to studies, the main reasons for project failures are:

  • Unrealistic project expectations;
  • Ineffective project management;
  • Low quality in the design of new processes based on new ERP;
  • Low involvement of key stakeholders;
  • Flaws in the organizational change;
  • Unrealistic project schedule;
  • Low quality of tests;
  • Excessive system customization.

The key issue is how to avoid such failures and ensure a success story. We believe in the synergetic vision between Technology and Business, sharing visions, responsibilities and roles throughout the project. We list some guidelines acquired over our experiences in ERP implementations:

1. Software selection

  • Set the project goals and benefits from the beginning. If the project is transformational, the business situation or problem to be solved must be set in advance;
  • Assess how will be the journey from the current model to the future model in all aspects (systems, people and processes), validate with all stakeholders and use this information to create the business case;
  • Understand the background of the success stories, talk to companies that have implemented the same tool and understand the challenges they had to face;
  • Every organization has its own peculiarities and/or needs. Do not fall into the trap of the "We will deploy the "Vanilla" strategy. Carefully assess the pros and cons of customizing the system before deciding whether it will become adherent to the current process or it will shape it.

 

2. Project planning and management

  • The project is much larger than just deploying the ERP. The organization needs to change legacy systems, migrate data, design processes, train employees and many other activities.
    Identify all work fronts, roles and responsibilities, scaling and external support needs;
  • Divide the project into measurable components, evaluate effort, time and resources required for completing each component, managing based on the delivery of each component;
  • Keep the wheels turning. Set work and communication dynamics that are appropriate to the project group and audiences. Making information flow, ensuring better decision making, avoiding rework and leading the teams are key issues;
  • Assess project progress and the resolution of pending items every day. Don't wait for the status meeting to do this;
  • Establish a rollback plan, if a problem occurs during the deployment stage.
  • Establish a rollback plan, if a problem occurs during the deployment stage.


3. Design

  • The best customization decision comes from a simultaneous assessment of processes and systems, identifying the operational impact of changing processes and customization cost/effort in the implementation;
  • If the project is implemented in steps, design the solution and the processes for each step;
  • Do not neglect the step of "gathering requirements with stakeholders". Although it requires time, hard work and many discussions, it is essential to ensure that the solution meets the business needs and the project will not have to manage numerous change requests;
  • Synthesize from end-to-end the solution's systemic view and processes, so they are clear and easy to communicate.

 

4. Change Management

  • Set an engaging purpose that is aligned with goals and challenges of the company and its impacted areas;
  • Identify impacts on concepts, processes, organization and systems, as well as the best time to treat each item;
  • Share with business areas the definition and implementation of the action plan to mitigate impacts;
  • Communicate in the most appropriate manner, taking into account the profile of each audience;
  • Train change agents throughout the project;
  • Use learning techniques to develop and implement training;
  • Carry out training focused on user activities and changes, not just on the new tool, using learning techniques;
  • Establish mechanisms to support the established change through governance of the new model, or even review of HR processes and policies.

5. Tests

  • Plan test scenarios exhaustively, considering the largest number of possibilities and test combinations;
  • Run tests as thoroughly as possible. Do what was planned and make sure the test passes before going to the next phase;
  • Consider performance test phases to ensure system stability, robustness and availability;
  • Consider regression test phases to ensure that non-customized features have not been impacted;
  • Manage tests daily, hourly, with efficient reporting and work dynamics.

6. Deployment

  • Prepare for deployment from a systemic (deployment plan) and business point of view (cutover plan);
  • Assess options for phasing the deployment or resuming operations gradually;
  • Monitor all deployment activities and communicate effectively to everyone involved;
  • Set an efficient service model, with resources at business areas and war room;
  • Do not demobilize the team until the project is stabilized;
  • Ensure the transition to IT support teams (application) and business areas (processes);
  • Avoid critical deployments in holiday periods (Christmas/New Year).

We have great experience in ERP implementation projects, working in the fronts of project management, processes and change management. We can help transforming the challenge of ERP implementation into a great success story.

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