Author: Tim Ryley
Imagine being in a situation where you see the same mistakes being made over and over again. Sounds like insanity, doesn’t it? But at Endeavour that’s what we see so often when one business after another repeats the same ERP implementation errors.
The problem is that ERP systems have become victims of their own success. Organisations see the potential to drive business, increase efficiency and help people work faster and smarter – but in their haste to take that leap forward, they often fall at the very first hurdle: implementation. Fortunately, with Endeavour’s years of experience, we’re perfectly positioned to help you recognise and avoid the biggest implementation errors. So here’s our list of the 7 most common pitfalls waiting to trip you up on the road to ERP success.
1. Shopping Without A List
You’ve heard what great things ERP systems can do, so you look for the best product available without first qualifying what that ‘best’ actually means for your business. In effect, you go product-shopping rather than benefit shopping, trying to size up products without understanding exactly what they should or could do for your business. It’s like going to buy a car with no idea of what type of vehicle you need - and as a result, looking at everything from sporty coupés to people carriers.
Before you start trying to compare the merits of various ERP solutions, stop and ask why your business might need one in the first place. What problems or issues are you trying to resolve? What benefits are you looking to realise? Who will be using the new system and how will you measure its success? It’s all about knowing where your business is now and understanding where the right ERP solution could take it in the future - and that brings us nicely to number 2.
2. Failing To Talk To The Experts
When word gets out that you’re contemplating a new software solution, colleagues in other companies will eagerly talk about their experiences and offer their recommendations. You might even have been driven to seek out an ERP solution in the first place because so many people were talking to you about it. But the problem with looking over the fence is that you only get to see what your neighbours have done – and that’s a very narrow perspective. Good ERP solutions are typically tailored to the needs of the customer, so your business peers are only likely to know what their chosen system can do for their company.
But there are people that have spent their working lives getting to know different ERP systems and who have an enormous well of knowledge to share. These are ERP experts (like the team at Endeavour) with a big-picture view of the options available and a comprehensive understanding of each solution’s full potential. Implementing a new software solution is a big step, so don’t rely on word-of-mouth – make sure you engage the experts. And don’t miss out on informed advice because you’re wary of being sold to when it comes to ERP specialists, our reputations are built upon our ability to listen and to discern whether or not we have the right solution for you.
3. Underestimating The Effort
So, you’ve accurately assessed your needs, talked to the experts and made the decision to implement an ERP solution: now it’s just a matter of sitting back and watching the implementation roll out….right? Wrong! This is where the work really begins. ERP has the potential to revolutionise your business, but it’s not a magic wand. It’s a solution that will only be effective if it’s implemented correctly, and that requires effort on your part.
At Endeavour, we work incredibly closely with our clients. We call it ‘being smart as together’ and a big part of that partnership approach is helping clients understand exactly what they’ll be required to do for each project. So if your ERP partner hasn’t talked to you about the effort your company needs to put into the implementation process, then you need to take ownership and start asking some big questions yourself. Think about the scale of effort required. How many people will need to be involved? How will the process be resourced? Do you have the right infrastructure or capabilities in place? And if not, how long will that ‘readiness work’ take? It might even be worth considering outsourcing some of your key people’s core roles while they’re involved in the implementation project, to minimise disruption and ensure work still gets done.
4. Leaving User-Involvement To The End
When preparing their implementation plan, businesses typically allocate a suitable amount of time for user training, acceptance and uptake - but they invariably leave this user-involvement until very late in the process. So why is this a problem? Well, as a team, we regularly see the earlier implementation tasks exceeding the amount of time that clients expected them to take. And the effect tends to snowball as the process progresses.
Each delay impacts each subsequent task until the amount of time left for later activities gets squeezed up against the go-live date. Nobody ever wants to push the project back, so those final tasks (usually user training) end up being horribly rushed. As a result, successful uptake is undermined and the effectiveness of your brand new ERP system is severely diminished. So do give serious thought to the order in which your implementation tasks will be completed - and consider prioritising user-involvement activities so that they take place earlier, rather than later.
5. Not Saying No!
When different people within your organisation learn that they will soon have access to one of these smart business software solutions, they’re likely to start compiling their own lists of requirements. If you’re in charge of the implementation process, it can be gratifying to see people excited about the new system – so gratifying, that you might be tempted to say ‘yes’ to them all from the outset. But in our experience, this is one of the last things that you should do!
As you say yes to one group, others will start to wonder what this shiny new system can do for them, and before you know it, you’ll be sliding down the slippery slopes of scope-creep (i.e. spiralling changes to your original project plan). In the majority of cases, the extra effort put into meeting all those additional requirements is wasted anyway: once people understand how their new ERP solutions work, they often realise that the changes they requested simply weren’t necessary. So, don’t be afraid to stick to your plan and say no – at least in the early stages of the process. Get the system live first, get people using it and then see whether those requirements are really required at all.
6. Overkilling The Project!
This is the flipside of number 5, and just as common a pitfall. The people leading the ERP implementation process often try to cover off far too much, attempting to cram everything they can into the project at the very beginning. But this is an incredibly risky approach. Implementing any new piece of software is a big undertaking, but when you start adding in more and more customisation, you risk overloading the process and ultimately jeopardising the success of your system.
The real cost of implementing any ERP solution is the risk of it going wrong. And the easiest way to minimise that risk, reduce disruption, and save your business valuable time and money - is to do the bare minimum to get the system up and running at the beginning. Get it functioning well first, and only then start to think about introducing all the bells and whistles (if you think you still need them).
7. Losing Sight of The ‘Why’!
When you’re caught up in the middle of the implementation process, it can be easy to forget why you started in the first place and to lose sight of the very benefits your ERP project was intended to deliver. Or worse, perhaps you didn’t establish what those benefits were at the beginning? This is when the whole project can start to feel like one long, hard slog. Rather than focusing on the end game, people start to focus on ‘getting through the project’ and by the time the system goes live, there’s no celebration, just all-round sighs of relief.
That’s not an environment that encourages successful uptake. With that sense of deflation, benefits can go unnoticed or unmeasured, while the system itself can get devalued, underused and ultimately deemed a failure. So make sure you establish and communicate the benefits you expect to see from the outset – and continue communicating and reminding people of those benefits for the duration of the implementation process.
For more expert advice about making Enterprise Resource Planning work for your business, contact Yong-Keat Wong phone 09 0308 0034 or 0800 422 272
More about author:
Tim Ryley, Chief Executive Officer
A skilful business strategist with a deep understanding of technology. Tim leads the Endeavour team, driving strategic initiatives and engaging with clients to ensure they experience the full benefits of Endeavour’s business software solutions.