In today’s constantly evolving IT space, organisations are often faced with the challenge of keeping up with new technology developments. Updates, enhancements and new versions of hardware and software are released on a regular basis, and promise to deliver many benefits to organisations should they choose to spend the time and money upgrading their systems, writes Jaroslav Cerny, CEO at RDB Consulting.
When it comes to enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions, new technology and developments can help to deliver enhanced functionality, which can enable companies to improve efficiency and operate more effectively. However, these solutions can be highly complex, and as a result upgrading an ERP solution requires careful thought and planning.
For any organisation contemplating an ERP upgrade, there are five important and interlinked factors that need to be considered before the project has even begun, to ensure that the upgraded solution delivers as expected and provides the required return on investment and functionality.
Understand why the business wants to upgrade
At the outset it is important to engage with the database and ERP provider for advice on whether or not an upgrade is really necessary. It is vital to understand the underlying reasons for the upgrade, as overhauling an expensive solution for the sake of having the latest technology can cause disappointment with the overall result and the money spent to achieve this.
Organisations need to investigate the functionality offered by the upgrade and how this will benefit them. Often this requires the feedback of the ERP service provider who understands the organisation’s ERP and database environments, the requirements of the organisation, and how to actually go about conducting the upgrade to ensure business continuity.
If an upgrade or patch is incorrectly applied, the entire environment may require reconfiguration and reinstallation, which will extend the implementation time and raise the cost.
Ensure the database can handle the upgrade
Once an organisation has ascertained that an upgrade will provide the required functionality, and has selected the appropriate modules or patches to deliver this functionality, it is necessary to ensure that the database has the capacity and capability to handle the upgrade.
Updated software generally takes up more disk space than previous versions, and in order to ensure optimal performance with an upgraded solution this aspect must be examined up front. Data also needs to be structured correctly and may need to be remodelled for the upgraded implementation.
When looking to upgrade ERP solutions it is always important to remember that building something new on unstable or outdated foundations can weaken the entire structure. If the hardware is not capable of supporting the upgraded solution and the data is not optimised, performance can be severely affected which can have a negative impact on business.
Have realistic expectations around functionality and performance gain
One of the core reasons for conducting an upgrade is to access new functionality and to improve performance. However these expectations need to be realistic, which comes back to previous the points. Understanding what functionality an upgrade will provide helps to set realistic expectations around functionality gain and how this will help to improve business processes.
When it comes to performance gain, the database is of vital importance. The data needs to be structured so that it is easily accessible, and hardware itself needs to be technologically advanced enough to handle the upgrade and deal with the data efficiently.
As data is constantly growing, improving performance to conduct transactions faster is important, and the database must support this and performance optimised in line with the upgraded ERP tool.
Check the configuration of hardware and operating systems
As important as the hardware is to the success of an ERP upgrade, the configuration of this as well as servers and operating systems also proves vital. Ensuring that the configuration is correct before embarking on the upgrade can save time, money and headaches down the line.
Once the ERP upgrade has been implemented, if the configuration proves to be incorrect, the organisation will experience unacceptable levels of downtime and time outs on servers because the hardware will not be able to handle the volumes of transactions required. This can not only slow down a business, it can also cost money due to lost business and lost productivity.
Future-proof the environment
Upgrades, updates and patches are constantly being released, and hardware needs to be able to cope with the upgrades an organisation chooses to implement. When upgrading an ERP solution along with hardware, it is wise to ensure that the new hardware does not simply meet the needs of the current upgrade, but can take the business at least five years into the future.
Servers should also be scalable so that additional resources can be easily added if necessary. If this is not done, it will be necessary to purchase new hardware with each upgrade, which is costly and inefficient.
To conclude
Improving functionality, increasing performance and boosting business productivity are all achievable goals around upgrading an ERP solution.
However, if such an upgrade is not carefully considered and planned before implementation begins, the exercise can be a costly one and may fail to deliver expected benefits.
The complexity of an ERP solution and subsequent updates makes it vital to engage the services of a trusted partner who is an expert in the field, to ensure the process runs smoothly, the upgrade performs as expected and results deliver a return on investment (ROI).