Now that you have determined that an ERP implementation project is right for your business, and you have made the critical vendor & solution choice that ticks all your needs and requirements, next, you must look towards planning and executing your ERP implementation project and ensuring you have everything in place for success. (Be sure to read our articles on these topics too.)
Of course, your chosen vendor should also guide you on what a successful ERP implementation project requires, and they will have a proven project methodology honed over years of successful implementations. Here is a summary of what to think about along your business transformation journey.
ERP Implementation Project Stages
At Affinitus our expert ERP implementation team break a project down into 8 stages:
- Project Initiation
- Go Live
- Go Live Support
1. Project Initiation
Project Plan – You will have already discussed, decided, and documented your ERP implementation project goals and objectives as part of your decision process so far (see our earlier article). However, it is important to reiterate these in black and white now, along with your timeline, key milestones, desired success criteria and outcomes.
To not have a documented project plan to work towards and measure success against would be akin to starting a long journey to somewhere you have never been before, without a map or an end destination – you will never get there and how would you know when you did?
Project Team – You will need to choose your ERP implementation project team very carefully. These key project team members could make or break the outcome. For success, you will need support, buy-in, and influential voices in every part of your organisation, from top to bottom.
You team members should understand the short- and long-term implications of this ERP implementation project, able to see The Big Picture, and evangelise that vision to peers with clear, actionable communication. As a minimum your team should include:
- Experienced Project Manager (internal or external)
- Executive or C-level Sponsor
- IT Specialist/Administrator
- IT Application Developer
- Departmental Representatives (Heads of Departments or Management)
- Key User Representatives (warehouse, production, supply chain, accounts, QC, sales, etc)
Wherever possible the key project team members should be assigned to the project full time, to remove any distractions of other day-to-day responsibilities. Where this is not possible, each team member should be assigned a deputy who can take up the slack with the day-to-day responsibilities. Where you do not have talent to fill these roles, your chosen vendor will be able to fill the gap.
The vendor assigned personnel complete the team, these include:
- Executive project sponsor
- Project manager
- Solution consultants
- Solution developers
- Implementation consultants
The Project Team should review and refine the project scope, timeline, key milestones, and desired success criteria and outcomes. This document should be approved by the project team and the vendor to ensure everyone is working to the same plan and knows what is expected.
Communication – Details about the forthcoming ERP implementation project, the project team members, the timeline, the goals, the scope, its impact and the expected personnel and organisational benefits should be communicated to the whole organisation. There should be regular updates on progress and kudos given for achievements and individuals.
With your project “A” team in place, a detailed project plan approved, and everyone informed and raring to go, you are ready to start of the Diagnostics stage of the project.
This stage is where critical data and information is gathered about your current and “to-be” business processes, along with your must have and nice to have requirements. These are analysed and mapped against the functionality in your new ERP solution, identifying where any developments or specific configurations may be required. Any best practices or streamlining of processes can be recommended and included to ensure your operational processes are optimised and as efficient as possible.
During the Analysis stage, end-user workshops are held to obtain the critical input of key user representatives from each department. Listening to the end users and involving them in the project is key to obtaining their support and buy-in. Without this, the project becomes just an IT project forced upon the business, and the new solution will not be well received.
Input from the users on how they work currently, and any ideas for improvements or refinements are gathered and combined with the process mapping data from the previous stage to produce a “prototype design model”.
During this stage static data is also gathered in preparation for the simulation and go-live stages.
The prototype design model should be verified, agreed, and signed off by the Project Team before progression to the next stage.
During this stage we develop and configure the ERP solution to match the prototype design model.
Once the development is completed, further user workshops are held to “walk-through” the prototype in detail to ensure that it meets the project scope and to ensure all requirements have been understood and achieved.
This is the final stage of design. The completed solution is put through a comprehensive testing programme, with documented test scripts and results recorded.
During this stage, any interfaces and data migration set ups are configured and tested.
End user training material is developed at this stage.
This stage is where we enlist the help of the departmental representatives to undertake user acceptance testing. The aim of this exercise is to ensure that the solution fits the business, and the user requirements, as envisaged.
Once the user acceptance testing is complete, a controlled simulation of the “go-live” phase is undertaken to ensure readiness and to identify and resolve any potential issues or showstoppers. This is the final element in the preparation of the new solution for the big go live.
A timetable and plan for the go-live is formulated and agreed. It is important that the go-live plan considers the business still needs to operate as “business as usual”. Any seasonal busy periods or critical accounting events such as month- end or year-end should be avoided. Similarly, any out of hours operational requirements will need to be accommodated (particularly common in the food supply chain industry). For this reason, the go-live plan may reflect a series of planned go-live stages, usually by department or function, in controlled and managed phases, rather than a big bang, all-at-once approach.
Final end user preparations are also undertaken now, with full training on the new solution. End user training is undertaken as close to Go Live as possible so that newly acquired knowledge and how-to techniques are still fresh and clear and the end users are still enthused and keen to start using the new solution.
7. Go Live
The big day has arrived. The culmination of the Project Team’s hard work, determination, tenacity, and vision. The go live can be executed when the project team and the solution vendor agree that the business and the solution are both fully ready. All possible risks and showstoppers should have been mitigated against, or minimised.
During the go live the full project team are in attendance to oversee the procedure and the customer support team are on stand-by remotely to assist if needed. Any unforeseen issues will be identified quickly and resolved.
The project team and support teams remain in attendance to oversee the initial period of live running, taking user feedback and queries, until the business is comfortable that the new solution is running optimally and accurately.
8. Go Live Support
Support does not stop after go-live. Following the go-live stage there follows a period of intensive support. Project Managers and Solution Consultants are in close contact to ensure the solution is operating optimally before it is handed over to the remote customer support team.
So those are our 8 ERP implementation project stages. Throughout these 8 stages, a dedicated Project Manager is in constant contact, overseeing % progress against the defined project plan, and ensures any issues, or risks to success, are reported, discussed, and resolved.
Did you reach your destination?
You did it. The go live has happened – but how did you do? Did you meet goals and objectives, is the business happy? Once the jubilation and relief of achieving the go live has past, you should be reaching for that original project plan and checking the project performance against the timeline, key milestones, desired success criteria and outcomes.
It may take some time until you can effectively measure some of the efficiency improvements, but some benefits, and lessons, will be glaringly obvious too.
If the project is perceived as a success, then shout about it and make sure those that deserve the credit receive it. Similarly, if lessons were learned, these should be analysed and shared to good effect.
Take feedback from the whole project team on the journey, as well as the end users themselves. You may consider holding solution surgeries or user Q&A sessions for a few months until the new solution has completely settled.
You should also consider if you have now reached the end of your project? You may want to enter a continuous improvement cycle to ensure the solution keeps up with the requirements of the business, technology advancements and industry.
Affinitus have undertaken 100’s of ERP implementation projects in businesses like yours throughout the entire food supply chain. If you would like further information on how we can support your ERP implementation project, contact us.