5 Steps To Follow When Selecting a New ERP
Often, the decision to move on from an outdated and unproductive business management system is delayed or abandoned due to confusion around what the heck am I going to replace it with and where do I start!
Add to this, the time and effort required to define what you require from a new solution and the many hours spent hovering over our screens researching the market to identify which ERP solution will be best for your business NOW, and most importantly, as you GROW, adds to the complexity of this journey.
Whilst reflecting on the many enjoyable years I have spent working alongside businesses of all sizes, helping them transform their processes and technology to provide growth and new opportunities, I have decided to compile my personal experiences into a how-to-guide to kick-start your journey of replacing non-integrated platforms, multiple legacy systems and in turn, increase productivity, save money and build a robust platform for business growth.
My guide to finding the right ERP solution for your needs
Based on 30 years of working closely with SMBs, covering everything from pre-sales, business scoping, solution design, implementation and the all important pre and post 'Go-Live' support, I know I have often experienced the ebb and flow of this intense and often challenging change management decision.
Therefore, I see the following business processes as key indicators that it is time to explore a new solution:
Overuse of Excel spreadsheets for critical business functions
Use of several non-integrated 3rd party applications to fulfil requirement gaps
Reliance on key people who hold “special” knowledge in their heads
Any expansion in the business requires a proportional increase in staff
Difficulty managing stock across several locations
5 steps to finding a new ERP
Step 1: Determine your requirements
Appoint an internal Project Manager.
Don’t think too much about how your present system (or systems) do things or the workflows.
Describe how you would like things to be. This exercise is good for your thinking process.
Map out broad requirements including specific must-haves that may be unique to your business. Then identify 3-4 critical factors, e.g. browser-based, phone and tablet friendly, custom order quotations, etc.
Unless you are a large organisation, keep your requirements document to 3-4 pages.
Talk to your business associates for recommendations and do your own research.
Call for initial responses to requirements and get up front, recurring costs and broad implementation costs, as well as site references.
Note the professionalism of the responses from ERP vendors and note that quantity does not equal quality.
Step 2: Selecting your new ERP solution and supplier
Narrow your searches to your preferred 3-6 solution providers.
Key Project Manager attends a 1-2 hour demo of the contenders.
Get a broad understanding of the product and its basic workflows.
Cover 3-4 critical factors.
Cover as many remaining requirements as time permits.
Note the depth of knowledge of the salesperson as it is an indication of the quality of the company’s work.
Organise 3-4 hour presentation of a maximum of 3 products to your company’s decision makers and stakeholders.
Quality and reputation of the company responsible for the implementation
Step 3: Implementation
Assign an internal Project Champion and expect them to be working around 50% of their time on the project during implementation.
With support and advice from your ERP solution supplier:
Limit the initial implementation to “must-have” features - keep it a small and achievable as possible and avoid “feature-creep”. The selected system may have all the features you require but attempting to implement them all at once can lead to overruns, cost-blowouts and staff training issues.
Document your important daily, weekly and monthly workflows - sales, purchasing, procurement, finances, projects and jobs, etc.
Set achievable milestones.
Load up a minimal set of recognisable data and test as many workflows above as possible.
Customise any customer-facing reports like invoices, etc.
Review and report to management and make any adjustments to either timetable or feature-set.
Now you have a clear picture of exactly what you will be implementing and will be able to lock-in the Go-Live dates.
Again, in close consultation and support from your new ERP solution supplier:
If possible, automate the extraction of data from legacy systems and importing to the new system. This is especially true for opening customer and supplier balances as these will need to be done quickly over 1 or two days max.
Organise training in key operational areas - especially the finances.
Based on your documented workflows, design a set of user acceptance tests (UAT’s) with the supplier and make sure you diligently ensure the system passes each one. Check, as much as possible, that the results match as expected to your current system.
Change management: Identify staff that will have the most difficulty adapting to the new system and give them special attention. If you think they will only “knock” the new system and will be a negative influence consider redeploying them. Make sure management is 100% behind the new system so that any problems encountered will be dealt with positively and not critically.
Step 4: Go-Live with your new system
When you are confident organise a Go-Live date. This will generally be at the end of the month and over a weekend. Don’t get too concerned about this happening at the start of a new financial year - it is generally easy to bring across monthly summary GL transactions from the old system.
Do a dry run importing/opening customer and supplier opening balances so that on the day this will run smoothly. Make sure you balance the opening balances on the new system with the closing balance of the old system. Clean up any unapplied or “messy” accounts in the old system before exporting.
No need to do a parallel run as this should have already been done during UAT. Parallel running will place an unachievable workload expectation on staff.
The first days/weeks will be periods of very high support intensity and many previously unconsidered aspects of the new system will emerge. It is important that these are handled as quickly as possible and to triage those that are genuinely business stoppers and those that can wait.
After 2-4 weeks of running the new system, organise a review and prioritise any outstanding tasks,
Negotiate ongoing support with your supplier (SLA).
After 3 months of running, review and schedule remaining milestones.
Step 5: The after-glow
You should now be enjoying the benefits of replacing a redundant business management solution that has been holding back business growth. Productivity will have improved, cost savings have been achieved and you are planning for the future.
As Chief Sales and Innovation Executive at WilldooIT, a member of the PNORS Technology Group, of course, I am an advocate for Odoo, our cloud-based, ERP and eCommerce solution – one-stop and perfectly integrated. However, whatever path you follow, tread carefully, choose your supplier wisely and I offer my advice to ensure the journey is as enjoyable and successful as possible.
Jonathan Wilson – Chief Sales and Innovation Executive, WilldooIT
If you are a CFO, MD or CEO of an innovative and forward-thinking organisation seeking a simpler and more effective method of tracking your business performance via integrated ERP and eCommerce software solutions, perhaps I can help.
With over 40 years of verifiable success in the IT industry, including roles as Director of Sales – Odoo and Chief Sales and Innovation Executive at WilldooIT, Managing Director of WillowIT and CTO at Nexus Business Software, I understand the importance of an integrated ERP and eCommerce solution that has the potential to meet the functional processes and financial requirements across all the departments of your organisation.
My skills include partnering with senior leaders of a business to determine business needs, risks and functionality and aligning solutions in support of strategic and tactical objectives to satisfy cost-effective business requirements and deliverables.
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