How to Prepare for Your First ERP Implementation

By Robert Half January 15, 2015 at 5:00pm

Nothing is certain except for death and taxes — and going through at least one ERP implementation!

Picture this: You’ve just come from a staff meeting where there was much “to-do” about management’s announcement the company is moving forward with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation. As you walk back to your cubicle, you feel excited about the opportunity to learn a new, cutting-edge software, but you are still left with one big concern: "How will my day-to-day work flow change, and what will be expected of me?"

Having been a business process owner and a “super user” during a few ERP implementations, I can share some things I've learned that may help you prepare for what’s to come.

Plan to work double duty

Here’s a subject no one wants to accept — but it’s almost always a reality — so let’s get this matter on the table first. During certain phases of the implementation, there will be times when you’ll be doing all of your expected job responsibilities PLUS answering requests from the implementation team.

You’ll need extra time for information gathering, training, testing, ensuring data integrity and troubleshooting. Keep a positive outlook, stay enthusiastic and try to see the bigger picture. This is more than an ERP implementation; it’s also an opportunity for personal and professional growth.

Do you have the staff to handle an ERP implementation? Consider bringing in professionals to help on an interim basis.

Expect the unexpected

Psych yourself up for learning, growing, and being challenged by new experiences that may be out of your control. Think about how you can be an effective influencer as the implementation progresses. Plan with a vision of success in mind and let the games begin!

Keep flowcharts

Every process and all the tasks associated with it will have to be documented on a flowchart. Research business process flowchart samples online to see how they work. The more you know about the implementation steps in advance, the better prepared you will be to handle whatever task is required.

Prepare for meetings

Get ready for cross-departmental collaboration and lots of meetings. People from all departments will need to come together in teams to discuss the interdependencies of their respective processes. Each team’s goal is to develop procedures and agree on best practices for process automation.

Test and re-test

Here’s your chance to make sure the new system does what it is supposed to do. You’ll provide samples of common transactions (aka test scenarios) to enter in the system, either by copying source documents or writing out the required steps along with the expected results.

Some examples are entering a new customer record, entering their purchase order, shipping the order, invoicing the shipped order, and entering the invoice payment. Did everything post in all the different modules as expected? If not, you’ll need to log each error for the programmers to fix before the new system goes live.

If you’re a proponent of the test phase, you’ll enjoy the glory of a successful implementation.

Try process re-engineering

You’ll be asked to provide an outline of your job duties with step-by-step details to the business process owner, who is responsible for overseeing the new system’s work flow functionality. Be prepared to think of ways to improve your processes with basic automation.

By doing so, you’ll add value to the planning phase and gain higher visibility as a key contributor. Remember, your skilled input will be critical for ensuring the new system is configured properly.

Consider custom functionality

How much, if any, customization is done to the system is a key consideration. Keep the costs in mind.

For non-core tasks you believe are still critical, think creatively about how to achieve a custom result within the given functionality. Your manager will appreciate your cost consciousness!

Determine impacts on others

When you cross something off your typical to-do list, how many people did you depend upon throughout that process in order to finalize it? In planning for automating each of your processes, think about how realistic your ideas are for others involved and whose buy-in you’ll need.

Clean up your data

All or most of your historic data will be migrated to the new system. How clean are your customer, vendor and product lists?

Try to clean up your current system to avoid transferring any duplicate or outdated data to the new system. Identify standard naming conventions and abbreviations, such as spelling out “Company” versus entering “Co.”

Remember, the idea is to IMPROVE process via automation. If you move bad process to a shiny new system, you won’t reap the expected benefits.

Reconcile differences

Once you know how much of the historic data will be used, you’ll need reports from the old system that show the associated dollar amounts. After the data is migrated, you’ll run the same reports in the new system to make sure they match and reconcile any differences.

Take ownership

This is YOUR system — so own it! Make sure you have a say in how it’s configured so you can do your absolute best during the implementation, stand out as a valued team player and, at some point, help out with an ERP upgrade.

This is a great opportunity to acquire new skills and improve the quality of your work. Be the change you want to see!

— Irene Hackett

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