A Practical Guide to Planning and Executing the Right ERP Implementation

06/25/2015 04:12 pm ET | Updated Jun 25, 2016

While Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) deployment may be a hot topic among businesses today, there seems to be a disconnect between the ideals pushed by ERP vendors and integrators with the actual and practical needs of a business. According to recent scientific and business literature, 25 percent of ERP implementations fail, and at least 80 percent go over budget or over planned development time, which is hardly good for any business launching or maintaining an ERP deployment.

ERP consultants and experts largely follow the model set and established by ERP vendors in ERP deployments and maintenance for their customers. As such, there is a need to revisit the inner workings of the industry, and perhaps do a bit of re-learning, to ensure that ERP deployments are actually useful and practical for a business.

Plan Properly
The planning and analysis phase is critical, as this is the time you consider your business needs and what your ideal ERP solution includes. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Meet with consultants from a few companies that can offer assistance with planning, implementation, and support.

Implementing an ERP solution is a huge undertaking as it involves spending money, time, and effort, as well as changing some business processes. To minimize the effect of these changes on your employees, everyone needs to work together. From employees in leadership positions to the back-office workers, cooperation and teamwork is key to success.

The implementation time will vary on a number of factors including: business size, number of modules, customizations, the scope of the process changes, and more. The more time you spend in the planning phase, the better equipped you'll be to move through the implementation process.

Create a Scalable Solution
Your ideal ERP solution will grow and scale with your needs. Think about what your business needs now, but also where you'll be over the long term. Your ERP platform requires a commitment, and it's not easy to switch solutions.

When business is booming, scale the ERP up to handle it. When it's down, save money and resources by scaling the ERP down with it. Not using a scalable solution could cost you thousands of dollars a year. A cloud-based solution can increase scalability in your ERP deployment.

Be Smart with Maintenance and Lifecycle Management
Treat your ERP as if it's a living, breathing, thing. Letting it stagnate could be costly. Update regularly, and upgrade it as needed to ensure it stays with the times. If you run into bugs, patch them as soon as possible. Lifecycle management is key. Your ERP needs to grow and evolve as your business does. Keep your implementation team around and have them shift into maintenance mode whenever necessary.

You will need to be prepared to make changes to your ERP when you have new product lines, new lines of business, or changes within the organization such as mergers and acquisitions. Automation can facilitate collaborative testing for ERP updates, and big data tools like Panaya will automate the testing process for upgrades, patches and new functionality. This will help you find and address potential pain points without the need for tedious manual intervention, making maintenance even easier to manage.

Choose Between Outsourcing vs. In-House IT Department
What is your business capable of? Do you have an in-house IT team or department who can handle your ERP deployment and maintenance? If so, talk with them and find out what they need. If not, have you found consultants to hire to manage the deployment and maintenance for you?

Find the Right Tools
ERPs are often extensible and customizable, allowing you to plug in modules to add functionality and integration with other applications and platforms. Think about functionality and features your business needs.

Do you need customer relationship management (CRM) software, to help track where customers are in your sales funnel? Do you need help with inventory tracking or supply chain management? How about help with project management and lifecycle management? Accounting, finance and human resource management modules are popular across all business sizes.

You also need to decide between implementing plug-in modules and the do-it-yourself route of customizing your ERP. It's a question of capability: can your team customize your way through the functionality? Or, will you require expert assistance from ERP consultants in implementing these changes?

There are tools designed to work with any business, of any size. There are countless options that can be integrated into your platform to increase productivity and ensure business processes run smoothly.

Shop Around
When all else fails, if you're burdened by a legacy ERP deployment that no longer meets your needs or is inflexible, it's a good idea to shop for either a new consultant or a new solution. While changing solutions isn't an easy task, in the end, it's better for your business over the long term to convert to an ERP that will foster simplicity and growth.

Choosing an ERP solution for your business will take time. To avoid ending up with an inadequate system that just won't stand up to what you need, be sure to involve stakeholders in the decision-making process. These include executives, the IT department, and even outsourced consultants. Working together, you can build a solution that will promote, rather than hinder, your success.