How an ERP implementation can be driven without a hitch
“Do it once, right at the source.” — Ronald Ross
· 6 min read
“Do it once, right at the source.” — Ronald Ross
ERP is one of the powerful trends in enterprise software but the compelling impact a failed implementation can have on the growth of an organisation is abysmal. This happens due to a commonly held belief related to ERP software, that it is both, a type of software as well as a way of doing business. Contrary to popular belief, not all companies have implemented an ERP, it doesn’t have to be essential infrastructure, or does it?
It is important to differentiate between the commercial success of ERP and benefit analysis of what an ERP does for a company. It is necessary to build on the value that successful implementation can bring. Alexis Leon, the author of ERP Demystified, states “The logic is inexorable — the better the training, the faster you will see the business metrics move in the direction you are looking for.”
Primarily, ERP software vendors follow an on-premise model. At Frappe, we believe in breaking boundaries to an extent where we have single-handedly driven ERP implementations for businesses based out of Germany, Spain, UAE, Papua New Guinea, and so on. The key is to go at a pace that suits the organization’s readiness.
The physical distance becomes irrelevant, as long as there is an online medium of communication and the will to drive the implementation. In Craig Sullivan words, “As the web increasingly becomes the medium for information exchange, your on-premise ERP is increasingly a disconnected silo from the rest of the world.”
For me, it was my first implementation project, unparalleled excitement and diligence, for them, it was an escape from the decentralized architecture with obscure bottlenecks. A sudden change in the style of working after 20+ years is deemed lethal, especially when the mindset of users who will be using the product is dicey.
However, identifying an implementer (In Frappe terms, “ERPNextChampion”) who will drive the process at the site tends to make the process of change management from legacy system easier. It’s not about a careful, meticulous approach, rather a purpose-driven, actionable approach that makes the cut. Broadly, the focus of an ERP implementation should be to bring organisational value. There are 2 paths that lie ahead:
- Standard: Users will proceed with the traditional model, beginning with Requirements gathering call, Data Migration, Process Mapping and configurations, Training sessions scheduled sequentially (Accounts, CRM, Selling, Buying, HRMS,..etc), UAT (user acceptance test), Go Live only after every module has been configured and tested.
- Delivery-oriented: In this strategy, we take up a burning problem that the user has with their current system, and eliminate its existence — be it a particular department’s dilemma or any other operational bottleneck. Data migration, configurations for solving this problem becomes pertinent and decides the flow of the implementation. Say, in my project, the Procurement process wasn’t upto the mark — right from approvals, cost-benefit analysis to invoicing and payments.
We decided to target this bottleneck as the initial milestone of the project. Consecutively, the data migration, process mapping, configurations were done with one goal in mind — getting the Buying cycle live. After master data migration, we proceeded with mapping the process and configuring the system accordingly with User roles & permissions, and Workflow. After 2 weeks of UAT, the Buying module was live in parallel to the legacy system and had reduced operational costs already. This elevated the progress of implementation because users became self-motivated to seek resolutions to such bottlenecks.
Getting the users to accept a system is the most challenging aspect of implementation…usually reluctance exists when there is a lack of confidence in the product or its ability to resolve and provide for the issues with the legacy system. When the Procurement team went live with ERPNext, the probability of the product failing to provide desired results dropped low instantly, and the rejection slowly converted to appreciation, and further into accordance. Not that I believe in the term coined as “best practices”, but here’s something to note:
1) Be direct and concise: The course of actions that follow should be accurately defined. Specific, clearly drafted milestones and quantifiable activities are keys to succeed in getting things kickstarted quickly for a sustainable model of deployment. A kick-off meeting becomes a must — to identify project champion, define phases, design implementation plan, tasks, and activities, discuss terms of progress, etc.
Poor planning and thereby, delayed execution is one of the reasons for a failed ERP implementation. 33% of organisations view their implementation projects as failed attempts to add value to their organization because of poorly defined plans and substandard project management. (Source: The Robbins-Gioia Survey) You should never hurry, stay composed, do multiple upgrades for the final cut.
2) Set realistic timelines: It is possible that you may (and most certainly, will) hit a few speedbumps in the way, most common ones being data not available by the user, incorrect data, dirty data, personal agendas, reluctant users, and so on. An implementation timeline must be approved and followed to ascertain that the implementation won’t be delayed even if such roadblocks occur.
There should be a buffer period agreed upon by both parties to avoid any conflicts later. Usually, the mutual engagement ensures that things don’t escalate, but if needed, if the work has been pending for unforeseen reasons which have no explanations, taking that as a sign for escalating would be the best shot. Don’t stick to the schedule if it's not working out, basically.
3) Calling out: Escalating above the hierarchy, to call out in order for seeking solutions to persistent problems may look unappealing, but its what works wonders. At times, it so happens that due to unavoidable situations, the enterprise loses its interest to pursue the ERP implementation…be it lack of knowledge, timezone differences, personal work agendas.
Calls go unanswered. Stale emails. Post initial payment, if the project champion stays disconnected, take it as a sign to escalate. Going at a pace of the organisation suits well, yes, but it shouldn’t happen that you exhaust your resources for getting the bare minimum done.
4) Delegate and monitor: Once tasks are designed, the course of actions is set: Delegation. Say, if we refer to the Procurement (Buying) delivery-based implementation, it was imperative to have:
- Data import of Item, Supplier masters
- Setting a Workflow for approvals
- User Training sessions
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT)
- Go Live.
Each became a responsibility of concerned persons, say getting data and importing it would be the actionable items on project champion at the user’s end. Training the implementer to clean data as per ERPNext data import template, import data, configurations, assisting with queries and functional gaps as they appear, would be the work of consultant responsible for this implementation.
Just delegating the tasks won’t make the process any easier — monitoring this process, adjusting to changes occurring in business goals & updating the process accordingly, extensive testing schedule, engaging with users to take feedback and make necessary upgrades (if any), and mainly, encouraging users to keep trying until they get it right.
For us, successful implementation is deemed incomplete if users aren’t independent in the end. We aim to keep the implementation as zero-touch as much as possible. A self-driven implementation, with minimal human intervention, is going to be the next big thing. Needless to say, our support team is always up for additional information or assistance with anything, whatsoever.
Every ERP implementation is different but some things remain standard. These tips more or less capture the aspects of ERP implementation that should be focused on – prepping, formulating a work plan, abiding by timelines, delivering value at every step, accepting and providing feedback, monitoring delegations, all the little things matter. Every step counts. Be persistent, and even unprecedented problems will cease to matter.