Congratulations – you’ve decided to implement a cloud-based ERP system for your job shop. Now what?
ERP implementation – the process of selecting, installing and beginning to work in your enterprise resource planning system – isn’t what anyone would call “simple,” but it’s not rocket science, either, when you know what to expect. Let’s take a look at your next few steps and how they’ll play a part in ensuring that you’ll get the greatest value from your ERP system.
1. Choose the Right Vendor Partner
The first thing to do when you reach the “now what?” stage is to find the right business consultant – some of the most important people in the implementation process. The importance of an implementation partner can’t be overstated; it can make or break the success of your project. These professionals will help you navigate the sometimes complex ERP implementation process, answer your questions, and provide valuable input that will ensure you end up with a system with functionality that’s finely tuned to your needs and helps you grow profitably.
One of the most important things consultants do is a business analysis – a detailed look at how you do business, across all areas within your organization. Using their experience, they’ll evaluate your processes and determine where and how you can improve using your ERP system.
The right partner will also help you choose the right software. There are a number of ERP solutions on the market, each with unique features, benefits, user experiences, costs…so choosing the one that’s right for your job shop is a bit of a science. Along with your consultant you can compare products and choose the one that delivers the greatest value and has the most potential to help you grow.
Finally, the right partner will help you establish the scope of the project. Without a clear plan and boundaries, implementations tend to see “scope creep,” with needs and wants being added until the scope has exploded in terms of both time and money. Defining your real needs and sticking to a plan (with some flexibility, of course), you’ll keep things on track, limit surprises, reduce overspends and ensure that you have the resources (people and money) to complete it on time. In other words, your consultant can help you avoid costly mistakes.
2. Set the Tone
As the boss or owner, if you don’t demonstrate to your entire organization that you’re fully behind the change involved in a new ERP system, no one else will feel the need to get on board either. Change is tough, particularly if people don’t fully understand the potential benefits: Will it streamline processes that are cumbersome? Will it reduce inventory and, in turn, save the company money? Will it reduce the number of calls to Customer Service? These are all things people can and will get excited about, so upper management and ownership should outline the benefits clearly, to all stakeholders and users. In our industry we call this “change management” and it’s about making sure people are fully informed and prepared for a big undertaking like ERP implementation.
3. Put Together a Strong, Engaged Team
Smaller job shops – even some of the larger ones – might be challenged to find people internally who have the time to be on your implementation team, but it’s important that you get at least one person for each of the critical areas in the shop (transportation, customer service, purchasing, etc.) to be involved throughout the implementation. The team’s job will be to keep work on schedule, to help resolve internal issues, to provide answers to the consultant, and to ask those consultants the questions that come from employees. In a nutshell, they’ll work directly with upper management and/or ownership and consultants to get the implementation done.
4. Be Prepared For Change!
If you asked your employees today, “Could we be doing things better or more efficiently?” most would recognize that there’s room for improvement. What they don’t know, though, is what improvements will require in terms of change: change in processes, in how things are evaluated, in how “success” is defined, in how growth is defined, and dozens of other measures. One of the first mistakes companies make when they set out to implement an ERP system is to downplay the changes that will occur throughout the office and plant. Old processes are comfortable, to be sure – you’ve been doing things a certain way and everyone understands how and why. But only with new approaches can you break free from current constraints and take advantage of opportunities to expand into new and changing markets; with the help of your consultant you’ll want to prepare your team for the type and magnitude of change to help you implement with greater ease.
These are just some of the things to be thinking about as you get ready to take that first step of choosing the right implementation partner. What happens after that, you ask? In our next post we’ll outline the process going forward: what work is done by the consultant, including scoping, needs assessment, process review and others, and how each impacts the implementation.