Author: Kätlin Piiskop, Business Manager at BCS Itera
Implementation of an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) project requires serious input and careful consideration from the employees, regardless of the IT partner or methodology.
From the outset, it is very important to consider how the project will affect day-to-day business operations. Failure to recognise this can have serious financial repercussions during this time. There are seven steps to be taken in advance in order to ensure seamless implementation.
1. START MANAGING THE CHANGES AND TEAM MORALE
The management does not decide to start the project overnight. Rather, it is a carefully considered and reasoned endeavour. Each project has specific objectives. However, often this important information is not relayed within the company, which in turn creates reluctance and resistance among employees and the project becomes stalled. Also, core business activities must not suffer during this time, and as participation in the project is an extra burden for the team, it is worth considering additional motivators for people (personal recognition, extra time off after successful completion of the project, bonuses, etc.). This means that people are acknowledged based on their input and they understand how the IT project can help them with their work.
2. DEFINE ROLES AND TASKS AT THE START OF THE PROJECT
Just as every company has defined tasks for each position, activities within the implementation project are assigned to specific roles. In general, customers understand that, owing to the methodology, the IT partner assumes the responsibilities of project manager, consultant, and developer. However, the project also requires that the customer assigns areas of responsibility along with specific tasks (decision maker, project manager, main user, key users). Sometimes it is reasonable to combine roles with tasks, for example, the project manager and main user can be the same person. It is essential to acknowledge that the owner of the solution is always the customer who implements ERP in their company with the help of the chosen IT partner.
3. STRONG PROJECT MANAGEMENT LEADS TO REAL-LIFE RESULTS
A business software implementation project has at least two project managers: one on the partner’s side and one on the customer’s side. The success of a project depends on cooperation between the project managers, as it cannot be managed alone. The following questions need to be clearly answered before the project starts:
- Where is the documentation stored and who has access to it? Which documents are used and how regularly are they updated? Who is responsible for them?
- Following and monitoring the project plan, including budget and schedule. NB! The seasonality of business activities must also be taken into account, so that realistic deadlines can be set accordingly.
- Teamwork and accountability, or resource management – in other words, who does what and in what order, and the interdependencies between work segments (for example, process tests must be completed before training).
- Risk management – a description of several factors that may lead to a change in the schedule or team input. Sometimes a project may have a strict end date, however, any changes to deadlines affect this. If there is a need for additional training, it is principally due to user uncertainty or system glitches – in this case, the start date should be changed immediately to avoid setting unrealistic goals and to give users more time to get used to the system.
- The scope and changes should be managed throughout the project. In the beginning, the scope of the solution will be agreed on in negotiations (what will and will not be implemented). These definitions should not be cast aside until the end of the project, but they should rather be observed constantly and any changes should be recorded. Often, the need for additional functionalities arises or needs that are not a priority are postponed in the course of a project.
- Maintaining communication and defining the communication chain are the basis for the flow of information. In addition to documentation, information exchange between roles (e.g. arranging meetings, training schedule, communicating test results) also needs to be defined.
4. IN-DEPTH NEEDS ANALYSIS ABOVE ALL ELSE!
The aim of the analysis is to map all the needs of the business. However, an even bigger challenge is to distinguish between habits that have been formed in the course of work and needs that are actually critical to business. The more detailed the analysis, the better the solution will be in the future, covering all business processes, and the fewer changes will be needed for the project.
5. HIGH-QUALITY DATA SHOULD BE ADDED TO THE NEW SOLUTION
An invaluable, albeit time-consuming, part of the project is the cleansing, correction, and structuring of existing data to enter it into the new ERP solution. Agreements will be reached with the IT partner on which data are needed and not needed in the new solution. Entry and import are not really an issue, as the partner has the necessary tools and know-how. A more important matter is the consolidation and cleansing of data from legacy systems – this takes a great deal of time away from the core business and the people responsible for this need to be assigned. The data will not only determine the actual performance after launch, but also the test results and the effectiveness of training.
6. TEST RESULTS GIVE THE GREEN LIGHT
Only thorough testing can ensure that all business processes are working as they should be from day one after launch. Results are recorded in the course of this and tests will be repeated after any defects have been rectified. Testing by all the parties involved is necessary in order that the IT partner could test the design and the customer representatives can make sure that their day-to-day process works for all possible scenarios. Without testing, a company is taking very high risks and the first days or months after launch can have a negative impact on its business activities.
7. HOLD REGULAR IN-HOUSE MEETINGS
The most accurate information on the progress can be obtained through discussions with the team. Sharing information provides an overview of problems that may have arisen, enabling the possibility to communicate them to your partner in a timely manner before it is too late to make changes. This is also the basis for communication – information forwarded by mail is not operational and you cannot be sure that it was received.