Tips for When You're Starting an ERP Implementation

Ray Wilson, Executive Director of Technology, Sports Endeavors
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Ray Wilson, Executive Director of Technology, Sports Endeavors

If you’re about to ride on the rollercoaster of an ERP implementation, I’ve got a few helpful tips for you. Many of these were learned the hard way. If you’ve made this journey before, you may have written a similar article and how I wish I had read it.  

Know that You’re not Actually Buying Software Yes, you will sign a lengthy contract for a software package consisting of thousands of tables and millions of lines of code. However, what you are really buying is business transformation. This is not another IT led software implementation.

You are actually buying a robust new set of business processes. All of those lines of code have been refined over many years to deliver integrated, repeatable business processes. Your software package knows the best ways to do all of the fundamentals for your industry. Let it!

Document the two to four things that your leadership team agrees to create the company’s competitive advantage. Commit that you will not customize anything in your software package that isn’t related to those things. Whenever faced with a choice, adopt change rather than customize. Do this over and over and you will save pain, time and likely millions of dollars.

Your choice of implementation partner is as important as the software selection. You will spend months documenting requirements, evaluating proposals and selecting your software package. That’s important but what’s critical is to find a partner who has experience in your industry, is a good fit for your culture and is trustworthy.

   The unfortunate truth is that a large team of talented people can work very hard for days, weeks or months without making the necessary progress against your plan   

You’re about to swim with sharks which is risky but it could be  worse. There are partners who are all too happy to put your business at risk because they think they can do your project even if they haven’t done one like it before. Find a partner with deep experience in your industry. Talk to people who have worked with them before and find out what their flaws are, they all have warts. Know what they are and how you will prevent them from derailing your project.

Did we accomplish what we expected to accomplish this week? Throughout a project of this magnitude you must have a firm understanding of the project’s status. You will spend a lot of money every hour of every day. The unfortunate truth is that a large team of talented people can work very hard for days, weeks or months without making the necessary progress according to your plan.

Adopt the mantra of “Did we accomplish what we expected to accomplish this week?” Each work stream should document their weekly activities that contribute to meeting the next milestone. At least once a week, have them provide a detailed, honest assessment of what was, and was not, accomplished. You will need to have some flexibility, but ultimately if multiple work streams are missing tasks for multiple weeks, your project is not on track. This is probably going to happen. The key is to recognize it quickly and to adjust before months and millions of dollars have slipped by. If you’re not on track, adopt a proactive approach in letting everyone know about what has gone wrong and what corrective action has been taken. Transparency between you, your partner and the business stakeholders is paramount for success.

I hope this article hasn’t scared you away from an ERP implementation. It is a transformative experience that will create a platform for future success of your company. After reading this article, you’re better prepared than your competitors to start down this path. Continue your education by finding people who have done it before and get their advice. Good luck!

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