Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is a software solution whose primary goal is to help companies streamline operations and increase productivity. Using the right ERP tool, software development organizations can automate their core business processes, such as accounting and finance, human resources, customer relationship management, and more. That being said, implementing and maintaining an ERP solution is an involved process and teams should take a thoughtful approach when implementing enterprise resource planning tools to ensure a successful outcome.
Strategies for Implementing Enterprise Resource Planning
In this tutorial we highlight 10 tips and strategies for incorporating Enterprise Resource Planning into your business, including:
- Identify and document your business needs
- Choose the right ERP software and tools
- Meet with stakeholders
- Create a project plan
- Train your team on the new ERP solution
- Test the ERP tools
- Monitor the ERP software
- Customize the system
- Consider cloud-based ERP solutions and other alternatives
- Evaluate and optimize the ERP software and tools
Identify and Document Business Needs
Prior to choosing ERP software or tools, project managers should analyze the needs of their company, its business processes, and identify any areas that need improvement or that could benefit from Enterprise resource planning. With this information in hand, it will be much easier to choose the right ERP solution for your business.
To do this, take a long hard look at you current business processes. Review the overall business operations, look for areas of inefficiency, and identify any pain points that may cause roadblocks or that need to be addressed.
Once you have completed your assessment, it is time to evaluate potential ERP software and tools. Seek out ERP systems that match your business goals and project objectives. Make sure the ERP options have features and integrations that meet the needs of your business.
Budget is always a key factor as well when deciding on Enterprise resource planning software. ERP tools, in general, vary greatly in price, and choosing a system within your budget is essential. Note, however, that the most cost-effective option is not always the right option, and project managers should weigh heavily the value of cost over features and needs. Keep in mind, too, that the ERP software can actually reduce costs in your business and help improve productivity and efficiency, which equate to further cost savings.
Choose the Right ERP Tools and Software
There are plenty of ERP tools on the market and choosing the one that fits your business requirements can be complicated. To make the issue even more difficult, you may find that your organization needs multiple ERP software and tools, adding to research time and investment. To help minimize the risk of choosing the wrong ERP software, create a checklist of the items you business needs based off of the business process audit we suggested you conduct in our first tip. Then, check user reviews for individual ERP tools, look at their features, and ensure they line up to your needs.
In general, you will want to consider factors including:
- Business size/number of employees
- Business processes
- Specific needs (for instance, do you need a customer relationship management feature?)
- Scalability of the software to ensure it matches your future growth plans
We have a great article that highlights some of the Best ERP Software and Tools to help you narrow down your options.
Example of ERP software, ERP Vault
Meet with Stakeholders
Implementing ERP software can be challenging and it will likely involve many stakeholders, each of whom have different backgrounds, ideas, and technical knowledge. Because of this, project managers will want to carefully choose key employees to include in the decision, and determine which vendors, customers, and partners to evaluate when implementing your ERP processes and workflows.
The benefit of involving stakeholders is that you can make certain everyone is on the same page and mitigate misunderstandings. You can also use this opportunity to set expectations, gather feedback, and review suggestions, all of which will be useful when it comes to customizing the ERP software to match your business needs.
Create a Project Plan
Incorporating ERP software requires careful planning and execution. As such, project managers should create a project plan that outlines the steps involved, timelines, resources required, and specific milestones.
A good project plan will include a contingency plan to handle unexpected issues or roadblocks that may arise during implementation as well. With a well thought out project plan, project managers can ensure that the ERP implementation process goes smooth and stays on track.
Train Employees and Stakeholders
Enterprise resource planning software and tools are only as good as the people using them. Implementing ERP solutions often involves fundamental changes to pre-existing business processes and workflows, which will likely cause some short-term turmoil. Because of this, training employees and stakeholders on the new ERP software is key to ensuring a smooth transition.
In an ideal world, employees and stakeholders will receive training that covers every aspect of the ERP tool, including its features, functionality, how to use it, and who to contact should issues arise. Plan on providing continuous training and support so that employees are better able to adapt to the new system. In addition, be sure to include a process for the onboarding of new employees so that they understand the processes and workflows as well.
Test the ERP Tools
Before setting your ERP solution into the wild, be sure to test it thoroughly and make sure it meets your business needs, is free of errors, and functions correctly.
ERP testing should cover all aspects of the software, including its modules, interfaces, and third-party integrations. Conduct user experience testing as well to ensure it meets the needs of your employees and key stakeholders. The last thing you want is to unleash a clunky tool to your team after investing money and time choosing an option.
Other tests to consider include:
- Unit Testing: Unit Testing is where you test individual modules or components (or units) to ensure they work as expected.
- Integration Testing: Integration testing is used to evaluate the actual integration of the ERP software with other systems, tools, third-party integrations, and applications you rely on to ensure they work together seamlessly.
- User Acceptance Testing (UAT): UAT is a process where you allow real users to use the ERP system to make sure it meets their needs, has all of the features they require to do their job, and is easy to use.
- Performance Testing: Performance testing involves monitoring the applications performance under different scenarios to ensure it can handle anticipated workloads. Using an application performance monitoring (APM) tool can be used to get a better insight into ho the software functions.
- Security Testing: Lastly, security testing looks at the security features (such as role-based access and user authentication) to see if they are robust enough and are able to protect your business and customer data from unauthorized use or access.
Once your ERP platform is live, it is essential to monitor its performance and make sure it is functioning as anticipated and that it is meeting the needs of your company. Create performance metrics and report on them regularly so you can identify issues or bottlenecks in performance. As with any software, routine maintenance and upgrades are a best practice to keep your system running smoothly and take advantage of the latest features, as well as keep security up-to-date.
Part of the benefit of good ERP software is the fact that it can be customized to meet your company’s unique needs. Be certain to create custom reporting, forms, workflows, and functionality that match your business processes.
Customizing an ERP tool is achieved through the addition or modification of features, third-party integrations and functionalities. A caveat, however: make sure the customizations and add-ons you incorporate do not negatively affect the overall performance or stability of the system.
Typically an ERP vendor will work with you or your development team to customize the software based on your criteria. This customization may require configuring the system settings, purchasing new equipment or equipment upgrades, or coding custom modules or integrations – all of which comes at a further investment.
Consider Alternative ERP Tools
As the world continues to embrace remote work – and remote software development especially – cloud-based ERP solutions are becoming more popular. Cloud-based ERP software has many benefits to consider as these remote teams become more common, including scalability, flexibility, and accessibility.
Cloud-based ERP tools allow teams to access business data and applications from anywhere, at any time, using most popular architecture options (Windows, Mac, Linux. Tablets, Mobile devices) so long as it has an Internet connection. Project managers can also scale system resources up or down as business needs change, making it more cost-effective than traditional on-premise solutions.
Evaluate and Optimize
Implementing Enterprise resource planning is an on-going process. Because of this, project managers need to periodically evaluate and optimize their ERP software and tools.
Regular audits of the ERP software should be conducted to identify areas that can be improved. Tweaking system settings, optimizing workflows, and upgrading system modules or add-ins are all art of this auditing and optimization process.
Evaluating and optimizing your ERP system on a scheduled basis helps ensure that it continues to meet your needs and performs optimally.
Final Thoughts on Enterprise Resource Planning Tips
Implementing a new ERP solution can be a complex and challenging process; however, following the tips in this project management tutorial can help project managers ensure a successful outcome. Identifying your unique business needs, choosing the right ERP software and tools, getting feedback from stakeholders, creating a project plan, training stakeholders, testing the system, monitoring its performance, adding customizations and optimizations, and never ruling out ERP alternatives are some of the essential ERP tips that can help you make the most out of your new ERP software.
Finally, never forget that implementing ERP is not a one-time process; it requires ongoing effort to ensure that the system continues to deliver the desired results. Project managers should work with their ERP vendor to optimize any ERP software and keep it up-to-date with the latest features, updates, and integrations. Using the right ERP tools and Enterprise resource planning approach, you can streamline business processes and workflows, increase productivity, and drive down costs within your organization.
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