Type the phrase “ERP implementation” into Google’s search bar and “ERP implementation failures” automatically pops up. Unfortunately, for companies investing in ERP systems, this is indicative of the challenges ahead. A system implementation requires changes in multiple business processes, an overhaul of data management and reporting functionality, and an enormous change management effort.
While systems integrators are good at configuring software, additional consulting help will be required to ensure that ERP go-live is on time, the project is on budget, business requirements are met, and your team is properly trained and supported to move forward in a new environment. When making an ERP investment, change management and ERP expertise are critical to project success.
The right consultant will guide an organization to ERP success by amplifying:
A successful ERP implementation requires dedicated resources. Resources can be full or part-time, but there can be no mistake as to their priorities. If workload distribution is mismanaged, project responsibilities can easily overwhelm staff and lead to burnout of key personnel.
At the outset of a system implementation, all master data must be validated and organized. Data accuracy is a critical and nonnegotiable step in preparing for configuration. The cleanup process begins with defining and documenting the data model. Weeks of work go into confirming the data structure for vendor and employee files, charts of account, and bin locations.
Major errors are likely during cleansing and validating of master data, especially when the master data comes from systems that are not integrated. Merging master data requires experienced oversight and coordination, especially when different business functions own the systems being merged.
A good consulting firm will augment capacity the right way by combining their ERP-specific expertise with the project team’s company knowledge to execute a comprehensive implementation plan.
A common misconception is that a system integrator is capable of setting up an ERP that is technically sound and meets an organization’s business requirements. This misconception stems from the belief that a technically correct system is the always the right one. In reality, the two are often quite different.
The proper third party helps close the gap between a system’s base configuration and an organization’s desired future state. Third party consultants define requirements so the system is tailored to the organization, not vice versa. Consultants will guide implementation teams through a series of testing cycles designed to conform the system configuration to process changes.
System integrators have a tendency to solve issues in a silo. However, changes in one area often have far-reaching impacts on reports and add-ons. An experienced third party will understand the end-to-end process and ask important questions about the effects of system alterations. Without proper oversight, changes to the configuration can result in inadequate reports and difficulty integrating add-ons.
The ideal consulting firm works with many systems and configurations. Extensive knowledge of technical capabilities and limitations helps organizations prioritize additional work.
3. Change Management
A new, fully functional ERP system is only as effective as the people using it. Change management and training are crucial to a successful ERP implementation.
Employees will be concerned about how a new system impacts their roles. They may not like the resulting changes in their jobs. Effective training will bridge the gap between how things are done today and how they will be done in the future.
Expert change management consultants will create training specifically designed for the organization. Standard technical documentation isn’t enough. It will leave employees confused and frustrated. Third-party consultants who make communication a priority will work side-by-side with struggling employees and develop a network of subject matter experts who can be used as long-term support.
4. Return on Investment
Without expert help in selection, planning, and execution, an ERP project can easily exceed budget targets by 50-80% or overrun projected completion dates by months.
Installing a new system is not enough. People must embrace the new processes and tools in order to work more efficiently and use data more effectively. Third-party consultants should decrease the time required to realize your investment. Effective consultants will provide short-term support to ensure long-term success.
Further reading: Boiling the Frog: How ERP Implementations Go Wrong!