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By Ralph Hess • January 31, 2020

Four Secrets for a Faster ERP Rollout

There’s a quiet business process revolution taking place.

Ecommerce, mobile usage trends, software-as-a-service and artificial intelligence are dramatically accelerating the speed of business, and the rules around how to run a successful company are changing. Automation, lean staffing and analytics are becoming critical for operations.

Thankfully, businesses also have new tools for making the transition. Enterprise resource planning software (ERP) has existed for decades, but the cloud had turbocharged its utility and made these systems accessible to even small companies. There’s no longer the need for massive ERP system investment and rollout, and specialized cloud ERP solutions have emerged that are almost turn-key.

This doesn’t mean that modernization has become painless. Businesses that upgrade their businesses processes with a new ERP system still have a hefty task ahead of them since any ERP upgrade represents a complete system and process overhaul. This overhaul is a move toward the better, but it still is a large and necessarily involved transformation.

“We had buy-in from the founders and the leadership very early about needing to invest in a strong foundation in the infrastructure to support the customer experience and growth,” says Ulion Riebe, head of finance at woven shoes maker, Rothy’s, explaining why the company began its business process transformation in 2018. “We wanted to make sure we didn’t get too far out over our skis; that the wheels didn’t fall off later [as we grew].”

Some businesses spend years rolling out a new ERP system. Having helped businesses implement more than 500 ERP rollouts over the past 25 years, however, we know from firsthand experience that it doesn’t have to take that long. It can take a year or less, and be successfully completed even without dedicated project staffing.

Here are four secrets for a faster ERP rollout.

Secret #1: Avoid Custom Code

 

There’s the temptation to make an ERP system fit all existing business processes through the use of custom code. Avoid this temptation, because it adds complexity, maintenance and headaches both during rollout—and down the line.

“Every time we did one of those modifications, we'd have to pay for [our ERP vendor] to study and make sure it wouldn't interfere with anything, and then pay for all the programming time,” says Eric Johnson, vice president of operations for Countrywide Tire.

By choosing a flexible cloud ERP solution on its most recent ERP rollout, however, and tailoring businesses processes to the system instead of opting for custom code, Countrywide rolled out its latest ERP upgrade in a fraction of the time it would otherwise have taken.

“You hear all these horror stories about one year, two years, three years,” he says. “I believe it took us around 6 months, which was impressive to me.”

Secret #2: Automate Testing

 

Testing a new ERP system before go-live is important for making sure that all processes perform as expected.

“We were doing a day-in-the-life months before [rollout], flowing through all the orders, making sure everything did the full circle,” says Heather Howard, vice president of operations at Rothy’s, and part of the internal team that rolled out its ERP system.

This process of testing doesn’t need to be manual, however.

“Automated testing is a must, as manual testing is often too time-consuming,” advises Christian Pedersen, who has served as a chief product officer both for ERP vendors SAP and IFS. “Test automation helps to upgrade application quality, and saves time and cost. It has the potential to radically improve any ERP upgrade.”

Secret #3: Lean on Your Vendors and Consultants

 

ERP rollout is not the place to cut corners with a DIY project. Because of the complexity involved in ERP implementation, experience and best practices from an implementation partner can have a huge impact on rollout times. Getting a helping hand from consultants also ensures that the new system will truly meet the needs of a business.

When we helped Rothy’s roll out their ERP system, they would constantly reach out for advice and guidance.

“We had a really strong relationship with Navigator. We would go to them and say, ‘Hey, you guys are the experts. Help us,’” says Howard.

“I think we got really great advice,” adds Riebe. “They didn't let us gloss over any details that we needed to focus on.”

Secret #4: Get Your Planning in Order

 

A fourth secret for a better, faster ERP rollout is coming into the process with a clear sense of the goals, resources and capabilities of your company. Because ERP touches all corners of an organization, and often represents a significant business process upgrade, a clear picture of the business today and where it wants to go is essential for an efficient rollout without project creep or delays.

Solid planning from the onset is critical for an efficient ERP rollout. We’ve developed a free, comprehensive workbook for helping businesses define these resources, goals and processes that will lead to a smooth rollout. You can get the workbook for free here.

For more on the ERP implementation process, you also will want to check out our free ERP Implementation Guide, which clearly outlines all the steps in the rollout process for a better rollout.

It is easier than ever to drive efficient operations through the use of an ERP system. Rollout still takes time, but these four implementation secrets can significantly reduce the work involved.