When a business tales the step up from an entry-level accounting system like QuickBooks, into a more robust and scalable ERP Software system, proper software implementation is key to successful deployment. So what does “implementation” include?
For the small / medium-sized business, there are four distinct facets to an implementation, and ignoring or short-cutting any of them can lead to a very unhappy user when all is said and done:
- Data migration
- Business Consulting
- User Training
You don’t want to manually key in your customers and part numbers. You also want your new ERP system to have all your sales history in place. The good news is that, from a technology perspective, migrating this information is usually not a problem. The bad news is that it can usually be done quickly or correctly, but not both. To migrate data into a new system optimally, allowing you to use the new system to it’s potential, will usually entail some data cleansing (or “massaging”) activities by both the software vendor and the end user.
Data migration is not a single-stage activity. You’d want to migrate data ahead of time, to sanity check and for training purposes (see later), and then again at point of go-live.
The business processes and procedures that you’ve developed while working with your entry-level system (and probably some Excel spreadsheets to supplement it) may work well for you at present – and of course you have a comfort level with familiar processes. But this may not be the best way to operate once you have a more powerful business software tool at your disposal. A good ERP Software Vendor will assist you in optimizing your processes to take maximum advantage of the system, and eliminate procedural bottlenecks and / or duplication.
Your new ERP system will be much more configurable than perhaps you’re accustomed to. The same system can behave quite differently (and even look and feel different) depending on how it’s set up. Getting the initial setup right is crucial to a smooth implementation. While you should be guided by the vendor, you need to actively participate in this process to ensure that what you ant to get out of the system is taken into account during setup. While many configuration options can be changed / reversed even after you are live on the ERP system, by that time your hands will be full, and you may never get to making those changes. Do it right the first time.
No matter how user-friendly a system is, users need training. I believe that in the small / medium-sized business, there is no point training most end users until just a few days before go-live. Otherwise most of the training is forgotten / wasted. A “power user” or two should be trained ahead of time, but most users should experience training and go-live as a single, contiguous exercise. Users should only ever be trained on their actual (migrated) data, and should be trained on any changes to business processes at the same time.
You can do it cheap and quick, or you can do it right. If you want a successful ERP software implementation, do it right. Oh, and if your vendor’s cost estimate for implementation services looks too good to be true…..it is!