Advisory Services

September 28, 2021

Pre-Planning for a Software Project

project plan

You already know what a top-rated ERP solution can do for your business and so you’re excited to take on the challenging but highly rewarding tech project. Like with any large transformative business project, there’s a lot to consider in order to make sure your ERP selection and implementation are a success. Our staff spent years on your side of the table before coming to work with us, and we’ve been through hundreds of digital transformations, so we have some cautionary tales on what’s been proven to work, and not to work in your project plan.

This is Part 1 in a 3-part blog series where we’ll spotlight the key steps that make the biggest difference during the pre-planning, selection, and implementation itself. To get started, we’ll dive headfirst into the critical pre-planning steps that are often skipped or sometimes not often known about, which can result in serious consequences on not only the outcome of the project but your bottom line as well. Every business knows an ERP implementation can be a mind-bender, but there are definitely steps you can take in your project plan to help alleviate a lot of the struggles.

Who’s On Board?

There are two questions we start with in the pre-planning phase. The first is checking in with how supportive the leadership team is to this project. If the project plan is originating from one department, but not a company-wide effort, that’s the first clue you’re on track for problems. On the flip side, if leadership wants a new system, but the rank and file are not on board, that also can be a big problem. The entire company needs to be 100% invested in the ERP implementation, right from the start of the pre-planning phase otherwise a major wrench is thrown into it that’ll be tough to get out of.

Push back from the team usually occurs from a lack of understanding of the requirements, as well as the reasoning behind why you need the new system. We’ve unfortunately had clients who struggled with staff resistance. Once this behavior creeps up, it doesn’t matter if it’s consciously or unconsciously, it’s hard or near impossible to reverse. You don’t want to be running into this problem after the investment has been made. This is essential during the pre-planning so you need to stop it from happening in the first place. Our clients have had success by making this a priority through getting everyone, all groups & staffing levels across the organization, on board with the project and its goals from the beginning.

Key Goals & Benefits

The second question to consider in the pre-planning phase is what are you really hoping to gain from this ERP system? You need a clear understanding of what success looks like before you go any further. Are you lacking functionality for growth initiatives? Is there a customer requirement you’re not able to meet? Are you running on a really old, outdated system and struggling to keep the new, younger demographics from embracing it? Start thinking about what’s important to you and what needs to happen for the technology & project as a whole to be seen as a success.

This could be the system requirements, but also the deployment method. If you have a strong preference with moving to a multi-tenant cloud solution, then there’s no point looking at on-premise solutions. This is the time to start educating yourself. Begin with learning what the definitions are and understanding them. For example, multi-tenancy terminology. Although multi-tenancy terminology can be confusing, you still need to fully grasp and comprehend its meanings. Learn what it really means to go through a system implementation as this isn’t something to be taken lightly.

Clarify Your Requirements – Ask the Right Questions

When poor software fit is listed as the #1 reason ERP projects fail, you want to make sure you choose the right product for your company. We sometimes come across clients who miss this critical system requirements step in their project plan and head straight into purchasing their ERP solution. These clients fail to ask the right questions, and it throws a wrench into their ERP implementation. Todd Perlman, President of BT Partners, recalls a particular client that had misunderstood and failed to convey a key requirement that only came to light during implementation and they were getting a lot of push back from the team. The push back created such difficult times during rollout that it almost derailed the project. Instead of having this clarified during pre-selection, it took extra time & effort to overcome the objections and get the team to the point of understanding and embracing the solution.

This illustrates the importance of identifying requirements and understanding processes beforehand. As Todd stated, “In this case, we were able to resolve the issue and still have a successful implementation, but what if the issue couldn’t be resolved? Now you’ve made the investment in the software, you’re already in the middle of the implementation – this is not a good time to find those things out,” Looking at the big picture, if you don’t identify your business issues ahead of time, before investing in the ERP system, how can you expect anything to change? How will your end goals be achieved? Even the greatest, most top-of-the-line ERP solution can’t help you if the system requirements step is skipped in the project plan.

The USA Process

Another client of ours used what’s referred to as the USA Process (Understand, Simplify, Automate) to help them build their requirements before starting the system selection process. We were extremely impressed by it and recommend it be done by every business considering embarking upon a system selection process.

The process starts with first, understanding the requirements so you can define needs. If your company needs warehouse management, field service or CPQ software, identify this as a requirement in advance and make sure the solution you buy has these capabilities. Second, simplify processes because you can’t build an efficient system around an unnecessary or complex process. Finally, automate your processes. As Todd put it, “If you skip from Understand to Automate, all you’ll do is automate additional complexity and additional costs”, which obviously is not ideal. Following these 3 steps ensures you choose the appropriate and best ERP for your needs to that drive business growth.

Choosing the Right Partner

This is a key part of the process, which we’ll also dive into more in Part 2 & 3 of this blog series, and there are a few things to consider. The first is to decide whether you want to hire an outside consultant to Project Manage the selection or implementation or if you will be managing it internally.

Next is to choose the right partner for your implementation and ongoing support. A trusted partner like BT Partners should give you the business expertise and experience that leads an ERP solution to be a meaningful change in your organization. They should guide you through some of the more complicated decisions ensuring your new technology gets you ahead and sets you apart from competitors. However, it doesn’t just end at working with the right partner.

Now that we’ve dug deep into how to set yourself up for a successful software selection process (say that 3 times fast!), in the next blog we’ll dive into that Selection Process in detail, and then finally into the implementation in Part 3.

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