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The benefits promised by ERP implementations can be enormous – but so too can the challenges of actually undergoing such an implementation. Deploying an all-new ERP system can require a substantial investment of both financial and human resources – and getting it wrong can bring the entire project crashing down.
So what are some of the most common ERP project mistakes to avoid?
Mistake 1: Inadequate planning
Any IT procurement and deployment requires careful planning to avoid waste and error, but ERP systems particularly so, because they touch every area of the organisation. The vast majority of your workers are likely to need to use the new system, and the vast majority of your existing IT applications are likely to need to integrate with it. This scale of embedding cannot be achieved without careful planning.
And ‘planning’ covers several different elements. You need to understand precisely what you are hoping to achieve with the implementation of an ERP system, and how you will measure that achievement. You need to map out the entire project, including timelines and the individuals who will be involved at each stage of the process. You need to consider the involvement of third parties, and the impact on your normal business operations. Planning an ERP implementation is a huge undertaking itself, and cannot be taken lightly.
Mistake 2: Inadequate leadership
Project leadership, that is. Because of the very scale and complexity of a typical ERP implementation, it is essential that a single figurehead within your organisation is recognised as the project leader, the one individual to and from which all decisions can cascade. This leader must, of course, be properly skilled and experienced, and recognised as such by the rest of the organisation.
Mistake 3: Inadequate senior buy-in
Whilst your ERP project manager does not need to be a member of your senior management team themselves, that senior management team needs to be absolutely supportive of and bought into the project. They should be prepared to ask challenging questions – but also to listen to the answers. They must understand the value of the project, and what success will look like. They must be prepared to bring the entire organisation with them, implementation cultural change where necessary.
Mistake 4: Inadequate supplier screening
It is easy to believe that all well-known ERP systems are created (relatively) equal. But this is not the case. Different systems are suitable for different organisations, and choosing a particular ERP system simply because you know the supplier and have been offered a good deal, or because you know it works well in a different business, is a recipe for disaster. You need to go through a proper review process with several different possible suppliers, testing out how particular features will work for you.
Mistake 5: Inadequate data migration
Any ERP system’s performance is hugely dependent on the quality of the data it is working with. Your implementation will involve migrating data from some of your existing systems to the new one – and if that data is poor – or simply poorly formatted – then the success of your implementation will be severely compromised. It is essential to meticulously prepare your data, and ensure that its import to the new system is carried out perfectly.
Mistake 6: Inadequate future planning
A particularly common mistake with ERP implementations is to fail to look beyond this deployment. For such a complex project to only have a lifespan of a year or two before you need to look at a new system counts as a failure. You need to have a properly future-proofed plan in place, which will often be best met by choosing a modular or highly scalable ERP system, one which can grow with your business.
ERP implementations can make or break your organisation. Work with Smart IT to get yours right.