ERP Implementation Plan: Phases & Best Practices for Success
August 14, 2023
If your organization has decided to adopt a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, it’s essential to follow a carefully designed implementation plan. Approaching ERP implementation with a strategic and realistic plan that has clear objectives and goals increases the likelihood of success and decreases the change of significant problems in the future.
ERP Implementation Phases
Most ERP implementation plans can be divided into phases, with each phase focusing on different project objectives. Keep in mind that there is a lot of overlap between these stages and that they may differ based on the unique needs of your organization.
The Discovery & Planning Phase
The first phase of the ERP implementation plan involves building a project team, researching and finding an ERP system, identifying system requirements, and creating a project plan.
Start by developing an ERP implementation project team. This team will be responsible for a broad range of tasks and roles throughout the entire implementation process. Although the exact roles necessary will depend on your unique business needs, the project team will typically include the following roles:
- A project manager
- A representative from each department that will use the ERP system
- IT department consultant
- Documentation writer
- Integration specialist or ERP implementation consultant
Selecting the right ERP system for your organization requires careful research. Do you want software installed on the premises, or are you looking for a cloud-based solution? What features and capabilities should the system have? What is your budget? The implementation project team works to discover the system requirements and choose an ERP solution.
The project team will also construct a detailed project plan, which will guide the rest of the ERP implementation process. This plan should include project goals, such as what issues you want the ERP system to solve, as well as logistical information like a project timeline and budget.
The Design Phase
During the design phase, the implementation project team will determine what the ERP system will look like, how it will be used in the organization, and what configurations are required for successful integration.
To make these decisions, the project team should work with end-users to get a full picture of business processes and challenges as well as perform a gap analysis to determine what customizations the ERP system will need to undergo so it can seamlessly integrate into existing workflows.
The implementation team will also document new workflows and standard procedures that will be necessary in order for employees to correctly use and take full advantage of the ERP system.
The Development & Testing Phase
Based on the project plan and design requirements, the implementation team will start customizing and configuring the ERP software. This process may also include figuring out how to integrate the new system with any existing business platforms that will not be replaced by the ERP system.
Additionally, the project team should plan the data migration process, which must include a detailed plan for how to back up current data and maintain data integrity.
While developing the ERP system and transferring data, it’s important to regularly test the software. An initial test may involve reviewing the basic system functions, but as more and more of the system is configured, your team must rigorously test its full capabilities and ensure everything is working smoothly—not just in theory, but also in practice.
During the development and testing phase, the implementation project team should also develop training materials and documentation to help end users learn how to interface with the new system.
The Deployment Phase
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: The deployment phase.
Your implementation project team will decide when the ERP system is ready to go live, and they should share the date and time with the entire organization so everyone is aware of the major changes ahead. Then, prior to launch, they need to make sure data has been transferred correctly and that other employees are trained in how to work with the new system.
Some organizations launch the entire new ERP system at once, and other businesses prefer to deploy high-priority modules first and then add others later.
The day the ERP system goes live, it’s all hands on deck. There are a lot of moving parts, some employees could make mistakes, and system errors may pop up. Your team should be prepared for potential issues and be available to answer questions.
Keep in mind that it will likely take some time to see the major benefits from the new ERP system.
The Ongoing Support Phase
Once the ERP system has been launched and the project team has addressed immediate issues, the focus will change from implementation to ongoing support. The team may need to make system improvements or changes based on user feedback, configure modules to better fit organizational workflows, or add new features into the software.
By providing ongoing support, you will ensure the long-term success of the ERP implementation process.
5 ERP Implementation Best Practices
Follow these ERP implementation best practices throughout each phase to ensure you set your organization up for success.
1. Dedicate Time & Resources to Planning
Don’t rush the initial planning phase of the ERP implementation process. Your project timeline, budget, team selection, and plan create a foundation that will determine the success of your overall implementation. Dedicate the time and resources it takes to start off on the right foot.
2. Gather User Feedback
End users are a valuable resource. Throughout the ERP implementation process, gather feedback from the people who will be interfacing with the system. You can learn about their work processes, challenges, pain points, and interactions with other employees. These insights will help you ensure you design and develop an ERP system that addresses the concerns and needs of its users.
Additionally, after the ERP system is live, keep communicating with users and getting feedback as they use the system. They can identify problems and share ideas for improvements.
3. Prioritize Communication
Throughout the ERP implementation process, communication is key. Your implementation project team members should communicate the goals and benefits of the ERP implementation plan to employees, leadership, and other stakeholders as well as keep everyone up to date on the project timeline and expectations.
When everyone is in the know, they can not only be prepared for changes the system will bring about but also understand the value of ERP software for the organization.
4. Backup & Migrate Data Carefully
The last thing you want to do is lose your organization or customer data during implementation, so make sure to have multiple backups of essential data. This system transition is also a good time to clean up existing data, clear out historical or inaccurate information, and update data maintenance workflows to optimize organizational data.
When it comes to the ERP implementation process, carefully develop a plan to migrate your existing data to the new ERP system. Work with your implementation project team to determine what data needs to be migrated and how to do so efficiently.
5. Offer Support & Training to Users
It may seem like implementation is complete after the ERP system is deployed, but for your users, it’s just the beginning—and you shouldn’t leave them on their own. Offering support and training opportunities to employees is critical to the long-term success of the project.
Plan and allocate resources to develop a knowledge base, provide technical support, troubleshoot issues, answer user questions, and create ongoing opportunities for further training for end users.
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