Best Practices for ERP Deployment

ERP deployment or implementation is one activity that engages the whole organization and has organization wide impact in terms of changed and more efficient processes, improved and defined ownership, better customer responsiveness etc. among many others. It is a known fact that deploying a world class ERP needs an equally good effort from the organization where it is being deployed and we have many examples in history where organizations failed in their endeavor and had to spend much more to reach their goal. Also, it is not about success or failure but it is about how efficiently, faster, smoother and cost effectively you can manage to deploy this monstrous software to get larger benefits in future. This objective of ours, drive us to find out the best practices that will help us in this initiative. Let me take a shot at listing down the best practices in this article so that enterprises can benefit from this. The list will have some of the ever known, tried and tested best practices with a blend of some new practices that are relatively less known, so have a look:

  • The executive management should endorse the project and need to be involved in key decisions, scope changes, timelines changes and reviewing important milestones. Their buy-in is extremely important for the project to be a success
  • ERP deployment project is not an IT project alone. It is a business transformation project enabled by IT so equal participation from business teams is required. We need to make sure that the required business functions allocate dedicated resources for the project. Caveat: It is a tendency of business functions sometimes to allocate weaker resources to ERP project so that their routine operations are not impacted much and this is detrimental to the project as well as whole organization
  • List down your strengths and weaknesses as an organization honestly so that proper project plan can be created – be aggressive but put a back up plan in place in case of exigencies
  • ERP projects need a dedicated project manager who should not be responsible for any day to day operations. All ERP projects need lot of co-ordination between multiple teams from business as well as IT so a dedicated project manager can make sure that everybody remains focused on the objectives and timelines
  • Training is a very important part of this project and every team member needs to be given proper training on the product and their responsibilities before launching the design phase
  • Hire a consulting organization for implementation – Though your IT department might have the required resources or you can hire a couple of experts to build a team for implementation, it is highly recommended to hire a implementation partner and leverage their experience and expertise in this regard
  • Take the requirements early and take them complete. Freeze the requirements as early as possible and communicate to business functions
  • Though everybody would like to see their requirements fulfilled and this will be their measure of success of the project but be cognizant of the fact that some requirements will not be addressed by the vanilla or greenfield ERP product and some product customization will be required to keep everyone happy. We need to make sure that we keep ERP as standard as possible however if the process efficiency is being hit due to non availability of a functionality, go ahead and customize
  • Start sending teasers and knowledge packets to the business fraternity to build excitement about the new system as soon as you close the build phase of project
  • Identify data and application owners from each legacy application and start cleaning the data right in the beginning so that the cleanest possible data goes into the new system. Also, it is important to have multiple data migration iterations before Go-Live so that there are no hiccups during the system cutover
  • Ensure all business functions to allocate testers for the new system and organize the unit testing, system integration testing and final user acceptance testing rounds till the time when you have only 10% remaining issues with no issue that is critical to business operation. Do not leave testing to the implementation partner as they will never know about the various business scenarios that need to be tested. Also, make sure to include negative testing (try to break the solution) so that all issue can be nailed down in testing phase itself
  • All legacy systems will not retire and there might be some new systems coming up simultaneously with the ERP so we need to make sure that all of them are available before the system integration testing so that a complete simulation can be achieved before going live
  • As soon as we go live, we need to ensure that the old systems that are going to retire after ERP comes into play are either shut off completely or are available only as “read only” systems as this will help bringing the users to the new system as early as possible and least change management issues will appear
  • Constant communication is the key for ERP projects. Though I have not touched the other regular project management best practices but could not stop myself talking about this very important activity. Since this is always a large size project and normally there are multiple versions of the truth that roam around the organization, it is imperative to communicate regularly with all the stakeholders and keep them abreast with the current status and future plan
  • Handle the production cutover as a separate project. Remember that you might have to shut off business (in system) for few days when you go live with the new system as the whole team will be busy in migrating the data, setting up the solution, deploying the custom components etc. and all these activities will be done with the help of multiple teams. A small gap in communication or planning will make sure that you are not able to meet the cutover timeline and lose precious business hours. This makes this activity as one of the most important activities in the ERP project and this needs to be done with ultimate precision and multiple times (practice) before doing the final one
All above best practices assume that you have selected the best suited ERP product for your organization and scope as well as timelines of the project is well defined and frozen.

1 comment:

  1. This a very useful article indeed.

    Implementation of ERP is a long and not so easy process. It involves Implementation team and Business leadership as well as key users. Any miss will lead to a faliure.

    In my opinion, eagerness and strong desire to have a good ERP (to meet business needs) by Business Leadership team is the most critical part in an ERP implementation.

    Keep on writing such nice tips Puneesh :-)


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