While we would like to say that the choice to upgrade an ERP software is always a good one, often, it’s not. From concerns about the right fit to making a shortsighted decision to dealing with competing priorities within the organization, the move to select and implement a new ERP software is a challenge and the path to getting the job done is often painful. Today, we would like to share with you resources and tips that you should consider before and during the move.
Considering Whether or Not it’s the Right Time to Make the Move
Before you develop a shortlist, before you start speaking with implementation partners, the most important aspect is to select the right time.
In this, the goal is to find a point when your current accounting system or ERP is viable but could do better. Notably, moving too early could present you with high costs, growing pains, and delayed benefits as your company grows into the new ERP System, but pales in comparison to the business-crippling decision to hold on to an underperforming platform for too long.
Timing your move to new ERP software requires a balance of risk and reward, taking into consideration costs, current functionality, access to information, the system’s ability to handle standards and regulations, the time and money it will take to implement software and train users—simply put, choosing when you need to make a move is a challenge in itself. How can you know when it’s time? Start with These two guides from our friends at Acumatica: “When is it time to replace your ERP system?” And “Should I Move my ERP to the Cloud?”
Convincing Others on the Value of an ERP Upgrade
While you may have realized that it’s time that you make a move, many in your organization may not be on the same page. Whether they feel that it’s not in the books at the time, disagree with you on the deployment method, or feel that the current way of doing business is just fine, you will need to sell a lot of people on an ERP project.
From your own finance people to the IT department to the C-Suite, convincing people that now is the right time to make an ERP investment may pose challenging, and as you work to sell people on such a project, it’s important to have a plan in place to convince people that it’s a worthwhile venture that will benefit your company for years to come.
Recently, we discussed some of the best practices for selling your C-Suite on an IT investment, discussing the strategic value of a project, the innovation aspect of a technology investment, and talking about how to make a business case for such a project. For even more information, we invite you to read the Acumatica blog on becoming an ERP Project Champion and The Cost of Doing Nothing: Why You Can’t Afford to Sit on an ERP Software Decision.
Comparing Your Options
With buy-in secured, the ERP journey is just beginning. Enterprise resource planning software is complex, and the differences between product A and product B may seem nuanced. However, since each company has unique processes and in turn unique needs, a small difference in functionality could cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost productivity over the life of the product.
Throughout the process, your goal is to whittle down your options to a shortlist of potential candidates, starting with a list of 8-12 potential vendors by comparing the features offered with the needs of your team. At this point of the decision phase, communication is imperative, as you will need to understand the different needs of each department and determine how important each need is in the overall scope of the project. After researching the needs of the end users, develop a scorecard to compare potential vendors, cutting off a few that can’t match your expectations.
In order to finalize your shortlist, we invite you to download the ERP Comparison Checklist, a guide designed to stack ERP systems against each other and evaluate them in five key areas:
- Productivity: How will it increase your productivity?
- Functionality: What features does it offer?
- Technology: How does it leverage technology?
- Value: How does the product’s lifetime cost compare to what you’re getting?
- Risk: How does it minimize risk and facilitate security?
Calculating Return on Investment
As you go from your shortlist to your final choice, one of the most important factors is money. How much will the product save you? How much money will it bring back to your organization? To calculate this, companies looking at ERP should complete an ROI analysis to compare the expected cost of the system to the benefits over a 5-to-10 year period, taking into consideration the direct and indirect costs and benefits—both tangible and intangible.
In a recent Acumatica blog, the company discussed some of the things you will need to consider when measuring the true ROI of a solution and found that while some benefits were measurable:
- Reducing overall operating expenses
- Increasing inventory turns or billable hours
- Accelerating response time for returns or recalls
- Minimizing Accounts Receivable days outstanding
Others are not so easily calculated:
- Improving staff retention through ease-of-use and productivity
- Effectively fixing errors in a timely and economical manner
- Centralizing documentation online for constant availability of a single source of truth
- Making faster decisions due to increased visibility
Ready to see how much an ERP solution will truly cost? Check out the ERP ‘True Cost’ Calculator from Acumatica.
Choosing the Right Partner
So you’ve sold your team on the importance of an ERP upgrade, you’ve found one that will help you grow comfortably and reduce the strain on your people, and you’ve selected a software that will provide ROI now and in the future. Now comes the hardest part: Finding the partner who will take you there.
There are tens of thousands of channel partners, hundreds who implement, train, and support the software you select, and dozens serving your region. However, there are very few with the size, industry knowledge, and ability to handle your unique needs.
As we’ve discussed, even if you select the perfect product, the wrong partner can completely derail an implementation. From mismanaged expectations to false hope to a cultural mismatch, there are many issues that could arise during the implementation process that inexperienced or mismatched partners fail to address.
You should take into consideration many factors when selecting your implementation partner and in turn, should judge each one on the following factors:
- History: The easiest way to narrow down your list of candidates is to look at their history with companies like yours. While there is nothing wrong with a generalist for simple and straightforward projects, most companies need to find a partner who either focuses or specializes in a specific industry.
- Success Rate: In line with your implementation partner’s history, you need to look at their overall track record. How long have they been in business? How successful have they been? Many companies could have a ‘hot streak’ of successful implementation projects, but only the best can provide a long, documented history of success over years or decades.
- Cultural Fit: The implementation process takes months or even years to complete and will impact nearly every facet of your business operations. On top of this, the training process often requires an implementation partner to work closely with many of your employees. Knowing this, a cultural fit between your company and that of the company implementing your software needs to align.
- Size: Implementation partners vary in size, ranging from a few people who decided to open a reseller business to multinational Big 4 accounting firms. Therefore, it’s imperative to find a partner who has enough people to get the job done on time and on budget, but also one who isn’t so big that you are just ‘another project’ to whom they can send their B-team.
- Honesty: You are entrusting your implementation partner with your most important business data and it goes without saying that they should be reliable, trustworthy, and honest. With mismanaged expectations being one of the top reasons for ERP implementation failure, your implementation partner needs to provide you with accurate and realistic plans, quotes, and timelines.
For even more information on finding the right ERP implementation partner, we invite you to read out blog on the importance of expectation management when you work with a reseller, and download the Acumatica guide to choosing an ERP partner.
Communicating with Your Team
While communication is necessary up to this point, now is the time that it could make or break your project. Everyone needs to be on board by this point, and your entire organization needs to understand the challenge that lies ahead. Knowing this, communication hiccups are still very common, cited as one of the 11 most common ERP mistakes by CIO.com.
As you progress from selection to implementation, your team expects leadership and guidance, and your executives expect results throughout the process. In order to tackle some of the communication challenges, we offered a few tips in our ERP communication blog, and offered even more helpful advice in our blog, 5 Tips to Prepare Employees for a First-Time ERP Implementation.
Charting Your Course
With vendor and implementation partner selected your team briefed, and your company ready to make the move, now comes the fun part of an implementation—the implementation itself.
Similar to any journey, you can expect the occasional pothole, and while some implementations go more smoothly than others, it’s important to keep the end goal in mind while preparing for the occasional hiccup. As you chart your course, you should start working with your implementation partner to set goals, timelines and expectations while building your own project team who will guide your company through the implementation process and keep everyone moving forward.
A recent guide titled Building the Best ERP Project Team looks into the challenges and opportunities that exist throughout the ERP implementation process, and offers tips on building an internal team that can handle the issues as they arise. An ERP project team isn’t exactly like any other project team. Most of the members should actually come from the user community. These are the people who are going to use the system day in and day out—and who are really invested in making good things happen.
Completing the Implementation
Now the moment you’ve been waiting for, ever since the moment you realized that your current software just wasn’t cutting it. It hasn’t been easy and you likely have a few more grey hairs than when you began, but if you followed the advice above, you can rest assured that it’s been easier than most implementations.
With the implementation being finalized, the data being migrated, and the end users ready for this project to be done, it’s time to get ready for the last step: Going Live.
“Going live” is the thing you’ve been planning for—the time when you bring your new system online and use it every day in your business. Figuring out ahead of time which approach to going live is best for your business will help you make your system’s first steps smooth and confident. A recent guide from our friends at Acumatica looked at the three most common methods of “going live,” comparing the advantages and disadvantages of each and helping you select which method is best for you:
- The “Big Bang” or all-at-once transition can be good and bad. Good because it’s quick and clean, bad because potential errors in data conversion and other obstacles have to be overcome right away.
- The phased roll-out transition also has pros and cons. It’s good because going live in steps mitigates some of the risk, but it’s bad because users can be confused by using pieces of two systems simultaneously.
- The parallel operation transition method is the least recommended. In it, both systems are active at once so it has almost no risk, but it requires users to duplicate their work until the legacy system is phased out.
Ready to Learn More? Get to Know MIBAR
We’ve been in this business long enough to know that ERP implementations don’t happen by accident. At MIBAR, we understand the hard work that goes into making an implementation program go off without a hitch and have spent nearly three decades perfecting the implementation process in order to reduce risk and increase the likelihood that a project is completed on time and on budget.
In our nearly three decades in business, it’s likely that we have helped companies just like yours to select, implement, and operate an ERP solution that not only suits them, but will make everyone’s life easier for years to come.
In this, we know that every implementation project is unique, and have designed multiple implementation paths that match with our clients’ specific needs. Whether you need hands-on support throughout the process, can handle most of the project yourself, or need something customized for your unique software, we have the skills and experience to make it happen.
If you would like to learn more about our multiple implementation methodologies, the products we work with, or would just like to chat more about your options as you make the move to a new ERP solution, we welcome you to contact us for a free consultation.