The process of automating one’s business with an ERP solution can be a daunting one, whether it’s your company’s very first system or there was a compelling reason to take on a new one. Maybe you need to keep up with the latest and greatest advancements in technology or your previous ERP vendor went out of business. Whatever the reason, switching platforms after building up information for so many years presents additional challenges.  

This may oversimplify the process, but when starting up a new system, you’ll generally meet with a sales and analysis team and process the system off the shelf for a while before you decide that you may want to customize it to fine-tune it to your exact requirements.

However, when migrating to a new system, another whole level of analysis is required in order to enable the transition of data between the two solutions. This brings in the added bonus of involving software developers and other IT department members, a rare breed of professionals whose interpersonal skills and affinity for teamwork are known to be legendary in the industry (insert eye-roll emoji here). 

But seriously, it does take someone with very detailed knowledge of the database structures to determine the similarities and differences between the two systems in order to communicate the requirements for smooth data conversions. Will the original customer or item IDs need to be renumbered to adhere to size limits in the new system? What underlying maintenance fields are required to create a sales transaction and what defaults need to be set, in the event that information wasn’t available?

Perhaps the most complicated scenario is the one I happen to be implementing now, and that’s the acquisition of one company by another highly customized one, where there actually exists the staggering coincidence that they’ve used many of the same 6-digit numbers in their item sequence.  So, not only the exporting company need to use their simple export procedure to dump their data to an Excel spreadsheet, but they then also need to make up a new sequence of item numbers which is not being utilized in the destination company. And this is just one data table. A conversion of this magnitude requires the ability to look a few moves ahead at the big picture, anticipating the need to audit these cross-references for multiple reasons, the most important of which is to have a mechanism by which the converted records (and only the converted records) can be blown away in the inevitable instance where the data conversions need to be redone when new information comes in.

This requires constant communication as both companies nervously approach that looming “go-live date”. Unfortunately, as I write this, that date has not yet arrived, so even I don’t know how this story ends.