For many, the task of implementing a new cloud-based ERP system ranks somewhere just above a root canal. It’s been known to strike fear in the fearless and angst in the anxious. Implementation risks are real — ERP deployments are complex with many moving parts so there’s a lot that can go sideways if you’re not prepared. At the same time, cloud-based ERP solutions are capable of generating a generous return on investment (ROI). How can you mitigate the risks associated with an ERP deployment while maximizing the real ROI potential? We’ve got 9 suggestions.
1. Engage an Experienced Partner
An experienced partner can make the difference between a successful implementation and an unsuccessful one. A partner that understands your business, your industry, and the cloud-based ERP you’ve selected can best configure the software for maximum ROI. An experienced partner will also be out in front of technology developments. Their goal should be to bring the right technologies to your business – not just the latest and most trendy, but the technologies that promote efficiency and support growth and expansion.
2. Ask the Right Questions
Go into an ERP deployment with eyes wide open. Ask potential business partners about their approach to ERP implementation. Ask about the resources they will devote to your project. Ask to speak with their customers — specifically customers in the same industry. Do they recommend a phased approach (see #6)? Why or why not? How long have they worked with the cloud-based ERP you’re considering? Did the partner deliver on the promises made during the sales process?
3. Understand the Facts Surrounding Cloud-Based ERP
There’s a long-standing misconception that cloud-based ERP solutions don’t require implementation. The (false) thinking stems from the assumption that it’s plug-and-play because you don’t actually install the Cloud-based ERP applications require the same commitment to proper implementation and change management that on-premise systems do.
4. Budget Realistically
This point ties into the one above. Be certain you include professional implementation services in your budget. Some software publishers and some partners offer low-cost, low-governance, checklist-driven implementations. These engagements do not allow the implementor enough budget or time to learn your business and optimize the software and training for the way you operate.
5. Don’t get Dazzled by Features
We urge companies to refrain from buying Cloud ERP for the features alone. It’s easy to get star struck by the capabilities of today’s cloud-based ERP solutions. However, the feature sets for most mid-market ERP applications are quite similar. Be sure you look deeper and consider factors such as the solution’s technology platform and the publisher’s commitment to continual innovation.
6. Consider a Phased Approach
Cloud-based ERP implementations are ideal candidates for a phased approach where you decide to activate certain portions of the software in different phases. This allows you to focus fully on a smaller set of business processes, getting them just right while learning the software. A phased approach can also lessen the disruption of ongoing operations (i.e., you still need to run the business while you are automating it).
7. Nurture a Super User
The most successful implementations we’ve seen share something in common: a champion or “super user”. Super users know your business and are the go-to people in your organization to answer software functionality and business process questions. They understand how the software has been implemented and can provide a quick response to user requests about business processes and system navigation, as well as resolve “how to” issues. Super users may also be involved in staff training, using a train-the-trainer approach. They also typically serve as the liaison between your company and your business partner.
8. Don’t Stand Still
Work to promote an internal corporate culture of continuous improvement. Encourage employees to ask questions and challenge the existing ways—empower them to make a difference. Engage with your ERP implementation partner when you discover workflows or tasks that are redundant, inefficient or time consuming as there are likely tools we can deploy or suggestions we can offer to move you beyond those challenges.
9. Maintain a Long-Term Vision
Keep in mind that instant gratification is not a reasonable goal from any cloud-based ERP implementation. Your ERP investment is for the long-term and, when implemented by an experienced partner, will generate a lasting, long-term ROI.
There’s no denying the potential risks in an ERP implementation, so it’s important to work to mitigate those risks from the very start. When you effectively manage risks, you accelerate the ROI today’s cloud-based ERP solutions are capable of delivering. Selecting an experienced partner and choosing a modern cloud-based ERP like Sage Intacct are smart, safe first steps.