Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is by far the most commonly used financial system in North America. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of U.S. organizations and 90 percent in Canada rely on an ERP system as their primary financial system, according to Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function from Robert Half and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF).
Popular and integral though they may be, upgrading these tools can cause headaches for finance executives and their staff. Often this is due to companies failing to ask themselves and their staff essential questions before choosing and designing the system.
Before you invest a cent in an ERP upgrade, ask these five critical questions.
1. What’s the goal?
Discuss with your financial managers what you want to accomplish with the new system. Which processes are you attempting to streamline? Are there any steps in your current system you want to eliminate?
Keep in mind the ultimate goal is to simplify and automate the work while removing unnecessary or repetitive processes.
2. What training is necessary?
Determine what type and how much training will be needed. Also identify which employees will receive the initial training and then train the rest of the staff.
3. Who will be involved with the product selection?
Consider which staff members will need to take time away from their normal duties to compare vendors, analyze various products and make the final decision on the product design. The members of this committee should ask for input from the rest of the staff about what features the system should include.
4. Should we choose a cloud-based solution?
Before you settle for a traditional ERP system, consider the viability of a cloud-based option. State-of-the-art solutions offer real-time upgrades and often cost much less than maintaining your own system in-house.
If you are hesitant to move such an important function into the cloud, you also could look at a hybrid approach. This option allows users to extract certain data from the cloud for reporting in other applications such as Microsoft Excel.
5. Do we have the staff needed to handle the transition?
If you want an ERP upgrade to be successful, it’s important to designate and prepare a team of experienced and committed staff members to handle the transition. If you don’t have personnel with the requisite expertise or enough staff to handle this daunting task, you can bring in consultants with ERP experience.
ERP upgrades often fall flat because financial executives did not address critical concerns pre-implementation. Before you commit to and invest in this major initiative, be sure you have all the answers you need.
What else should managers consider before upgrading financial systems? Share your comments below.
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