Enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs) have taken over the market.
Businesses today want to work smarter and more efficiently by keeping data and processes aligned in one centralized system. No longer resorting to archaic means of implementing multiple systems, with the added pain of integration costs, to meet the objectives and requirements of different branches in a business.
The first step in a centralized approach to aligning customer’s processes with an ERP, occurs during the implementation phase – gathering requirements and designing the ERP system to conform to the customer’s business processes.
Here are some key factors to consider during the Implementation Phase of an ERP system:
1 – Gather the base set of requirements
The base set of requirements acts as the blueprint for all entities and covers the basis of all processes for each entity in the umbrella company. The base set of requirements is at least a fit for 80% of each entity’s (separate branch) requirements and processes. This allows for the centralized approach to take shape and gain an understanding of the customer’s day-to-day business procedures and operations.
2 – Demo the standard environment
Arrange a demo for key stakeholders based on the blueprint requirements collected. I would suggest a demo of the system to the key stakeholders. The key stakeholders consist of top-level executives and mid-level stakeholders. It is important to take the mid-level and low-level stakeholders into account as these are the system users that perform the daily functions (capturing data, invoicing and any other functions that conform to the customer’s processes) in the system.
The top-level executives focus on running the business and are generally concerned with operational reporting functions and not the daily system functions that feed the ERP the necessary information to run an entity and create the necessary reports to make important decisions. A demo allows the customer to understand how the ERP operates in a standard way and what it would take for the ERP/ their business processes to conform/work. Consultants also gain more insight into how all the relevant stakeholders perform their daily functions; this allows for further refinement of the initial blueprint requirements.
How often do consultants go into a requirements session and ask the client what they need and get the reply: “How does the system do it?”. Business processes must be defined and put in place by the client. If the client is unsure about their business processes, the consultant can guide them from a system point of view and clearly define the process with them to ensure the process follows Best Practice guidelines.
3 – Perform show and tell sessions
These should be set up per module during the design configuration phase. This is the best approach for the project. Mid-level and lower-level employees need the most involvement as these are the first-line employees who work in these modules on a daily basis. The crux of an ERP implementation is that these users are not involved until User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
Involving end users only in UAT can cause project delays due to scope creep and the blueprint requirements not covering the exact basis needed to perform the functions of these users. The end user usually tests and agrees, but they have no background of what it is they are testing and why. I have seen this frequently in UAT sessions, requirements change because the correct people who work with the processes daily are not involved from the beginning. Having the buy in from the correct users, ensures a successful UAT.
4 – Set up UAT sessions per process stream
UAT sessions need to be set up per process stream and not per module. It is best to have smaller groups and test per process stream with the relevant users and not the entire function. An example of a process stream would be vendor onboarding (process stream to be tested with the relevant users) in the Accounts payable module. If the correct users are involved in the UAT session, then proper testing per process stream is conducted and actual issues can be zoomed in on. Thereafter fixes are applied; requirements are double checked with follow-up sessions arranged to ensure the process stream being tested is correct (that is, all the requirements gathered are met) and in accordance with Best Practice rules.
5 – Enforce early user involvement and assign ownership to the correct users
Early user involvement and assigning ownership to the correct user’s aids in system adoption and change management. The involvement of users from all levels ensures user adoption and ownership of the business processes. Users get a sense of belonging and will take ownership freely and seriously (this aids with change management and system acceptance by the users). Users will further feel that the ERP improves day-to-day processes that make their functions easier and, in my experience, will start to make suggestions to further improve their own processes and functions in the ERP.
In my experience as a consultant, I found that key users involved for the first time during a UAT session often struggle to adopt the system and take ownership.
Late user involvement during an implementation makes it difficult to properly validate the requirements collected per process stream, get proper sign-off and further correctly document the business processes in accordance with the ERP. Loss in user confidence further intensifies the negative feeling of a process change. Users tend to keep doing the things they have done before, “as the old way worked and was better”. ERPs are implemented to make the day-to-day processes more efficient and provide a view of all the procedures and tasks in a centralized and secure space. If your users are not using the system efficiently, your system will never be able to provide accurate data.
6 – Take a hands-on approach during the training sessions
A hands-on approach during the training sessions is key. After UAT has been signed off, the next step is training the key users. At this point, all the requirements gathered and system configurations set up conform 100% to the customer’s defined business processes and requirements – it is important that there is a collective buy-in from all the users during UAT sign-off. Training is a crucial part of the implementation phase of an ERP. This ensures that users are able to replicate the steps showcased to them and fully adopt the process stream in the new ERP. With the aid of work instructions, users are able to follow you each step of the way.
Don’t rush training sessions and leave adequate time to spend with users, especially users that are struggling. Users that are not yet confident in the system need some time to get used to the new system. It is critical that you make them feel comfortable and want to use the system. Ensure that they understand the process and point out how this will make their day-to-day easier. User adoption can make or break the project. Build good relationships with the users to ensure that they feel comfortable reaching out to you should they have a question about a process.
Implementing an ERP is a collaboration between the partner and the client. The end goal is to ensure that you have delivered a working system that simplifies the client’s day-to-day processes whilst following Best Practice guidelines. The buy-in from the correct users in each project phase ensures you can build a system that caters for each part of the business. Teamwork makes the dream work!