On behalf of everyone here at Blue Link ERP, we wish you a happy new year and all the success and prosperity in 2019! The advent of a new year presents a sea of new possibilities and is the optimal time to fulfill your ERP software resolutions for your wholesale distribution business. Employees are better engaged and more flexible to change which means they are more willing to embrace new projects — take advantage of this frame of mind before the year gets into full swing and time runs out to make the switch to new software.
Here are a few tips to help you stick to your resolution to implement new ERP software this year.
Define Your Technology Change Management Plan
Implementing a new ERP system is so much more than just swapping out old technology — it impacts your entire wholesale distribution business. With the right new technology comes improvements to inventory and warehouse management, picking/packing/shipping, customer management etc. However, this also means that current processes and your employees' day-to-day tasks will change. The objective of creating a technology change management plan is to address the people that are impacted by the transition and to help them and the teams and departments they belong to within the organization, to adopt the new software in the most efficient manner possible.
In order for this to occur, first, you need to get buy-in from stakeholders and employees right from the very beginning, even before you start speaking with ERP software vendors. The more people you have supporting the project, the less likely that it will fall off the radar come Q2. However, prepare to receive some push back as some people are reluctant to change - to some, the thought of swapping their current, familiar and comfortable processes with new ones is daunting.
Here are a few things to consider in your change management plan:
- Create a compelling and common vision for the future
- Address employee questions - technology can affect the relationships between management and employees, it is up to the leadership of the company to address any employee questions and concerns such as "Am I going to lose my job?", "How complicated will the change be?" etc.
- Present the benefits that will occur with new software to stakeholders and employees such as improved processes, automated tasks and workflows, improved inventory and warehouse management, opportunities for growth with eCommerce integration, industry-specific functionality, etc.
- Educate staff on what types of changes to expect in their day-to-day tasks to create a more digestible vision. How will the new software impact accounting, your warehouse workers or your sales team? Speak with individual departments and collect feedback on the specific tasks they expect to improve with new software and set realistic expectations.
- Training - reassure employees that they will receive the necessary training to be a successful user in the software and that it will be a learning process. Never shortchange the training period as unsuccessful implementations commonly happen when training gets brushed over. It is also important to keep track of who received training so no one is missed.
- Identify a project manager, search team and any key stakeholders
- Address differing skill sets and competencies of your employees to assign roles for the project.
- This allows these specific individuals to plan ahead and dedicate the necessary time to complete project tasks.
- It also clearly defines who is responsible for what and holds individuals accountable to set goals and meet deadlines to ensure that the project stays on track and top of mind.
To make any type of new year's resolution a success, it's critical to create a timeframe and stick to it. Having an idea of the project completion date is useful when speaking with vendors to ensure that both parties are on the same page. Consult with the key stakeholders in the company on when the software implementation should take place taking into account peak seasons. Keep in mind that implementation is not an overnight process and the time it takes to get set up with the software depends on several factors such as the amount of data to be migrated, software training, etc. Furthermore, change management also requires time. No matter how user-friendly the software is, implementing a new inventory accounting solution requires significant change as employees learn to integrate the new software into their everyday processes and across departments - this should be accounted for when setting a timeframe.
Think of the timeframe as the overall deadline for project completion - specific deadlines must be created for individual tasks of the project. By creating deadlines for each task, you’re measuring out your time and making it easier to track your progress towards meeting that overall timeframe. These tasks cover the project from start to end - from creating a search team and establishing functionality and budget requirements to choosing vendors to speak with and shortlisting candidates. Consider having weekly or bi-weekly check-in meetings to ensure the team doesn't fall behind with the tasks.
Along with your deadlines, choose a few milestones that will let you know you’ve made progress. Make the most important events your ERP software project milestones such as:
- Completion of major project tasks such as completing the research phase, setting a budget, setting a timeframe, shortlisting top vendors, etc.
- Go/no-go decisions and other key decision points
- Implementation of the new ERP system
- Completion of testing and final sign-off
Preserve Employee Buy-in
To avoid the project from dropping lower on the priority list as the months pass, it’s important to continuously communicate to stakeholders and employees how the business will change with new technology. Communicate any important milestones that are reached and updates throughout the process and be sure to listen to any feedback. It's important to keep the momentum going even after the vendor has been selected. Have a company meeting to share information to preview the system and share information on the vendor. Use videos, posters, and other methods to create excitement and a buzz around the office to create a positive atmosphere about the upcoming changes.