The web is filled with articles, videos, white papers and even full-length books about ERP selection and implementation. Many ERP experts have spelled out the steps to ERP success in detail, and those businesses that have been successful at it have shared their success stories. Nevertheless, we have not seen a decline in ERP failures. Instead, many of the same mistakes that have plagued ERP's past continue to arise.
One of the most probable reasons for this widespread ERP failure is that no two businesses are alike. Therefore, simply mimicking the selection process of another business, even if that company was successful, is not sufficient. Instead, there are general measures you can take to strengthen your selection process and universal pitfalls you should avoid.
1) Start with a Stable Foundation
The strongest buildings have a stable foundation, and the strongest trees grow from strong roots. I could go on with the metaphors, but you get the point. Starting strong with ERP is all about planning and preparation. Begin with a body of knowledge, as nothing is worse than ignorance, especially when it comes to major business decisions.
Building a solid foundation means that your CEO is not the first person you should expect to support you. He or she wants to see practical results: the numbers. Start at the bottom and work your way up, gathering support from people who actually do the hands-on work. They are the ones who will use your ERP system every day, and they are the ones best qualified to determine if an ERP system is a good fit for your organization. You can then go to executives with data you have gathered and present a viable solution.
2) Know Your Business
It is easy to think up some key features that a generic business might need from ERP software, and the aforementioned articles are ripe with suggestions. But this is about your company, which has its own unique quirks and necessities. Rather than attempting to apply a cookie-cutter solution, find out exactly what your business does and what it needs to do better. ERP software should help your business achieve those goals. If you find glaring gaps or other problems that need fixing, make them right before you apply ERP on top of them.
3) Be Prepared
You must do your homework. Make sure you know what you are getting into before it is too late. As you should know by now, not all ERP software systems are created equal, and some are better for your particular business needs than others. Ask around, and focus particularly on those companies in your industry who have implemented ERP successfully. Look for as many similarities as possible, such as company size, sales processes, etc. Do not be afraid to ask the tough questions or dig deeper into areas of concern. In most other cases, you service the customer's needs, but when shopping for ERP, you are the customer and deserve to be treated as such.
In part 2 of this series, we will examine 5 more ways to avoid failure in the implementation phase.