ERP has had a bad rep in the past for being costly, complex and unwieldy. But manufacturers and other companies considering installing or updating their ERP software system need to know that now is the time to do it.

“ERP software has improved dramatically in recent years,” says Lyall O’Carroll, technical account manager at Seidor Africa. “It is no longer an enormous expense, nor does it take an age to implement. ERP has also become much easier to use.”

O’Carroll outlines seven ways to ensure a successful ERP implementation:

Collaboration and joint responsibility

Today, both the service provider and client take joint responsibility for driving a successful project. A cohesive team is built on a strong level of trust between team members with people working co-operatively to reach common project goals.

Open and clear communication is the foundation for success. Often, thanks to clearly defined goals and roles, the project is even more successful than the project manager and customer could have imagined. That is why it is important to get buy in from each member from the get-go.

Accountability and focus in regular meetings

Project status meetings that fail are a direct contributor to failed projects. Poorly developed agendas, ill-prepared or absent team members, lack of accountability, bad time-keeping, veering off topic and not getting input from all team members are sure ways to fail any project.

Experienced project managers are able to avoid these pitfalls by running efficient meetings that encourage team members to participate. They invite only those team members absolutely necessary for the meeting and purposefully get feedback from each participant whilst keeping everyone accountable.

They also foster a culture of accountability from the outset of the project, keeping track of project status, potential risks and timely issue resolution. Productive project meetings boost morale, and encourage relevant information sharing.

Scope compliance

A strong project management team includes someone with the role of monitoring the ERP project scope. They can identify the signs of scope creep early and decide if changes are justified.

With a project plan and project governance in place, scope expansion need not become an issue. If the ERP system requires a substantial change, the dedicated scope monitor will communicate that change to project leaders and seek their approval before there is any impact on the budget.

Choose wisely

Selecting the right ERP solution is as important as choosing the right partner. Customers derive value from the right service provider who will help them get the best out of the software. It is about finding a partner that can help define what customer experience (CX) the client ultimately wants to deliver, both to their customers and to their employees, and then putting an intelligent suite of technology solutions in place to enable that.

An experienced and knowledgeable service provider will be able to offer a wide range of specialised extensions and add-on functionality, to enhance the capabilities of the ERP solution and cater for industry-specific requirements or manage niche operational challenges.

Plan, map, evaluate, repeat

Crafting a realistic, efficient and useful implementation timeline is crucial and understanding its potential impacts will help smooth the process.

By mapping all elements involved in the process, it’s easier for the team to keep effective track of progress and pay attention to small but important considerations that may cause issues.

Implementing major reassessment points throughout the process will make timelines flexible and continually effective.

Users determine success

Employee training and education are critical for the success of ERP implementation. With a proper set of methodologies, tools and experience, organisations can effectively create the employee engagement and buy-in necessary for ERP implementation success.

In addition to understanding what’s in it for them, employees need to understand why the changes are happening, how the ERP project fits into the organisation’s strategic direction, and how it will affect their day-to-day jobs. That is why it is critical to first map the difference between the “as-is” and “to-be” business processes.

Ongoing multichannel communication will help to retain attention and engagement. The same messaging should span different vehicles to reach people with diverse ways of retaining information. This includes newsletters, blogs, vlogs, change discussion meetings, company meetings, manager meetings, and other available platforms.

Business resilience

With the use of technology, companies can build business resilience through reducing costs, ensuring a competitive edge, improving profitability and realising new opportunities.

“Solutions today are far more technology-enabled, easier to implement and use,” O’Carroll says. “Equally important is management support of the project and change management initiatives, and of course, an implementation partner who has the experience and expertise to make it happen.”