Posted by [node:author:field_profile_user_display_name] on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 - 07:00
E.R.P. Those three letters can stir up mixed feelings for an IT manager. While you may be excited about the increased systems functionality enterprise resource planning (ERP) can bring to the business, you also feel some apprehension about the potential pitfalls that accompany implementation.
Realizing the full benefits of a robust ERP system requires navigating some potential roadblocks before, during and after the rollout. Here are a few tips for making everything come together smoothly:
Make sure management is on board
An ERP rollout’s ultimate success requires the support of upper management. Managers should be engaged early in the process — and not just to approve the project. They will determine ERP functionality, so they need to understand the capabilities (and limitations) of the technology. Managers also should be involved throughout implementation so they can monitor progress and know immediately of any hitches that may arise.
Plan, plan, plan … and plan some more
Once buy-in for the ERP system rollout is secured and employees are preparing for change, conduct an internal audit of processes and products before settling on a system. Encourage management to establish an ERP committee, comprised of representatives from all departments, with you or another senior-level IT professional at the helm. A range of opinions will give insight into which system will be best for all departments involved. Plus, the more support and involvement in the decision-making process, the better success you’ll have sharing the responsibility and implementing the program without as much disruption and negative feedback.
Help employees prepare for change
An ERP rollout is a major systems overhaul that can disrupt every employee’s everyday work experience. Many users will be initially resistant to change, preferring to stay in the comfort zone of the processes they already know and use. If the organization takes time to communicate to personnel why the ERP system is being implemented, what outcomes are expected, and what the overall benefits will be if the project succeeds, employees might be more inclined to embrace change. End users also should receive proper training before the ERP rollout so they can hit the ground running once the system is up. ERP systems often require staff members to increase their task load to provide the level of detail necessary for the new system to produce any useful reporting and analysis. Unless they understand the advantages of the system, and how to use the technology effectively, they will become frustrated and may resent the extra work. There’s also the consideration of user compatibility. By training staff to use the new system properly, your desktop support team will spend less time fielding calls about the new system.
Engage extra help
Consider enlisting knowledgeable and well-rounded IT consultants who know how to communicate with a nontechnical audience to help users train for and adapt to the ERP system. If they are on-site, these professionals can also explain issues in real time as they unfold and keep up morale if early wins are delayed. It’s likely your full-time IT staff will experience a heavier than usual workload until the dust settles. They’ll not only be helping end users adjust to the change, but also adapting to the change themselves. So, you may want to call for backup during this critical time. Temporary IT professionals can help prevent a motherboard meltdown for your full-time IT team throughout the ERP implementation.
Lean on the experts
The switch to ERP can take a long time and delays are costly. Bringing in ERP specialists before, during and after your rollout can help keep your project on track. A vendor-neutral ERP consultant or an Implementation Risk Management professional can help you determine if your project has an ample budget, if the implementation timeline is realistic, and if the end goals are attainable. To help ensure a successful ERP rollout, you also will want to:
- Research providers thoroughly
- Understand key features, such as SOA (service-oriented architecture) and SQL (structured query language), and how they’ll apply to day-to-day operations
- Ensure you have the time and staff to handle the implementation
Another tip: Triple-check your existing data to make sure it’s accurate and up to date. Also, take time to create easily restorable backups of critical data in old systems so you can prepare for the worst as the organization moves forward with this major IT project.
ERP professionals are in demand. Check out the Robert Half Technology Salary Guide to find out how leading employers are compensating skilled ERP talent. Do you have any helpful tips or ideas for ERP rollouts and a successful post-implementation environment? Share your ERP knowledge in the comments section.