7 Key Considerations for ERP Implementation Success
By Natasha Engan, Senior Vice President of Global Consulting, Deltek
As the head of global consulting for Deltek, there are two things near and dear to my heart: ERP implementations and client satisfaction. In my line of business, these should go hand in hand.
My number one priority is to help Deltek clients have a successful implementation and get the most out of their solutions. While each customer and each project is unique, there is a common thread: They are all project-based businesses leveraging Deltek’s industry solutions to manage their projects.
It’s a privilege for us to support these world-class companies execute on their missions. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 presented in 2020, our team of Deltek Consultants were able to pivot and continue helping more than 500 Deltek go-lives last year—with the vast majority of those being done virtually. While the transition was abrupt and unexpected, learning to implement in a virtual environment provided our team and clients new opportunities to work effectively together. And working virtually didn’t change our goals—we continue to strive to exceed expectations 100% of the time.
Having worked with thousands of clients over the past three decades—both virtually and onsite—we’ve learned a tremendous amount. If your organization is looking to implement a new ERP solution, here are seven factors to consider to ensure a smooth and successful implementation process.
1. Consider an ERP Implementation an Investment
Implementation of your ERP is not a cost, it’s an investment that will yield profit in the long run for your business. When you purchase an ERP system, you’re purchasing a system that should improve your business operations for years to come. The return on investment (ROI) you realize will be based on the value you derive from the life of your system, usually ten to twelve years. Therefore, when you start planning and making selection decisions, it’s important to choose a system that meets your current requirements, as well as those you anticipate you’ll have in the future.
Planning and preparing for your implementation investment is critical. You need to ensure your investment planning includes the cost of business process optimization and process automation in addition to the people and technology costs.
Before making a selection, do a thorough assessment of your current and future business needs. Look at your ERP system as in investment in your company’s future; don’t focus on the short term purchase cost. The right solution may not be the cheapest solution, but it’s better to pay more now for a system that will meet your needs for the long term.
2. Leverage Experienced Project Managers
The success of an ERP implementation is directly influenced by the project manager in charge. Think of your ERP implementation as a “symphony” and your project manager as the “maestro”. To be successful, the project manager must flawlessly orchestrate all of the activities and people involved in the implementation.
Most successful ERP implementations are led by project managers that participate in both the selection and implementation. They should have the ability to get into the details of the implementation while not losing sight of the overall business goals, project scope, schedule and budget. Since ERP implementations are cross functional, the project manager needs to understand not only their department processes but how all of the other departments operate as well. Being as ERP implementations frequently require reengineering processes, they should be able to think outside the box to help define new and better processes.
When choosing a project lead for the implementation, choose one who understands the pain of the users. Enable that person – but hold them accountable. The project manager should have the most to gain or lose should the implementation succeed or fail.
3. Start With a Solid Implementation Strategy
An implementation should be done in a systematic manner to be successful. The implementation strategy should be in line with the end goals of the organization. Lack of a clear strategy, desired outcomes and precise definitions of problems you are trying to solve can lead to challenges during the ERP implementation.
A good strategy should factor in important business processes, financial benefits, scope, budget and deadlines, and ensure they are fully addressed. It must consider how distractions from day-to-day operations will be handled so that they don’t interfere with the implementation.
By remaining focused and executing on a well thought out implementation strategy, your organization can improve its competitive advantage, increase productivity and utilization, raise customer service level and reduce inventories.
4. Partner with Experienced Consultants
Experience makes a huge difference when implementing ERP. Given the long-term expected use of the system, it’s important to identify experienced leaders for your project. Ideally, key team members should have experience in implementing the specific ERP you are deploying. You may want to consider hiring new employees with ERP implementation experience before kicking off your project. When evaluating outside consultants look for those that know your industry and business processes, not just the tool itself. They should also have experience implementing it in organizations similar to yours and be able to blend the tool knowledge with your business requirements and complexities.
Assemble a core internal team that is knowledgeable and can make important decisions about methodologies, scope, go/no-go decisions, budgets, schedules and more. In addition to knowledge and experience, you want employees and external consultants that can commit for the project’s duration. Although you may need to offload major portions of their day-to-day job duties during the implementation – you want the project to be a success.
5. Do Rigorous Testing
Many implementations fail due to inadequate testing throughout the process. It’s critical not to cut testing as you work to meet aggressive ERP implementation deadlines. Testing gives you the opportunity to identify problems early on that could be far costlier later. Think through the key business scenarios and process flows of your organization and develop testing around these various scenarios. Try to make your list as comprehensive as possible.
Identify the power users across your organization that can help test these scenarios. As you run tests ensure that all of the transactions are flowing through the ERP system correctly and that data and reporting are accurate. Stress testing should be a part of this to ensure the system can support the transaction volumes you expect.
6. Prepare With Comprehensive Training
To ensure your new ERP implementation is a success your employees must be prepared for the transition to the new system and new ways of working. A solid training program will help to ensure a smooth transition. On average, successful ERP implementations dedicate 10% or more of the total budget to education, training and change management. Oftentimes software vendors offer a training package as part of their offering – so be sure to negotiate it upfront in the selection process.
Since an ERP system offers complete automation of most of the departments within your organization, the training should be in-depth and include all users that will be impacted. Knowledge of how to effectively use the system will ensure optimal usage and faster adoption. Developing in-house capabilities for the long-term is critical. A comprehensive training program should include online learning, classroom training and on the job training with experts working on your project. On the job training with your team and system experts will ensure application best practices are leveraged.
7. Be Ready for Change
Change management is an important component for ERP implementation success. Your entire organization must be engaged and ready for the change. To embrace the new system and let go of the legacy system and processes, they need to understand that the end state will be far better than the current state. Transparency and frequent communication throughout the implementation process will help move the organization more quickly through the transition.
To help speed adoption, try to decommission the legacy system in a timely manner. The longer it remains available the longer it will take to move your end users to the new system and processes.
A successful ERP implementation is critical for organizations to achieve operational excellence and optimal profitability. Unless you are working with the right partner, the process will be challenging.
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Are you considering an ERP implementation? If so, Deltek Global Consulting has options designed to meet your needs. Whether you choose Quick Launch, a low-cost offering that enables small businesses to go live quickly, or Power Launch, our pre-configured offering designed for specific market segments to accelerate their implementation process, Deltek is committed to powering your project success.
With unmatched product knowledge and decades of experience, our certified consultants are able to streamline and accelerate your product implementation, upgrade or system optimization by mapping out your unique business realities and goals.
Originally Published on November 7, 2018
About the Author
As Deltek's Senior Vice President of Global Consulting, Natasha Engan is responsible for leading the company’s services business, Deltek Global Consulting. A 20+ year veteran of the software and services business, Natasha has a strong background in managing cross-functional, customer-facing teams in a global workforce. Connect with Natasha Engan on LinkedIn.
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