The potential pitfalls of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system implementations are nearly countless. They are covered extensively in the current literature. Less often we look at it the other way around: how to succeed.
Here are 20 factors that help public sector organizations achieve their ERP implementation goals:
- Ensure executive sponsor(s) are engaged, interested, supportive and willing to champion the ERP implementation through thick and thin times. If that level of sponsorship is not available, the project will be more vulnerable to resistance, conflict and possibly even sabotage.
- Before focusing on the new system, assess the current system, its processes and technology, and identify its pros and cons. These will help shape some of the goals and objectives for the ERP project.
- Research and explore the marketplace of ERP products to learn about potential solutions and important differentiators. Then, using that information, develop a vision of the desired future of specific processes and technology and express the details from the outset. This will not only inform providers of your expectations, it will also begin to establish a foundation for design.
- When choosing to hire a systems integrator (SI) consulting partner, closely evaluate the proposed teams, experience, level of expertise and cultural fit in an in-person oral presentation. This will help you avoid signing up a junior team that lacks seasoned implementation consultants.
- When engaging the SI partner, focus on mutual trust and make sure the selected partner shares your interest and criteria for success.
- Develop a plan that sets a brisk pace. Do not rush the project to the point of risking quality, but do set aggressive deadlines, meaningful milestones, and get done as quickly as you can. Elongated schedules introduce and exacerbate potential risks to the project.
- Simplify the project plan and the communications used to share the plan. The information needs to be easily understandable and actionable.
- Select, assign and dedicate team members who know their subjects, are cooperative, and want to achieve change.
- Create and enforce guiding principles that foster openness to change. The tier-one ERP competitors have evolved to offer solutions to business processing that support government operations throughout the country and can be readily adopted in most cases.
- Simplify business processes, workflows and interfaces wherever possible. This will make it a more efficient system to implement, maintain and explain to users.
- Establish a vision early that is based on research and that outlines how processes will work will help create a design foundation. This will help avoid confusion and analysis-paralysis and expedite the design work.
- Design and communicate the new chart of accounts early in the project. Inform the stakeholders throughout the enterprise that the data will be changing in its form and values. Upstream and downstream interfaces, systems and reports will need to adapt.
- Be on guard for siloed activities getting far down the road before integration challenges are discovered. Require teams to collaborate cross-functionally on designs to increase awareness and understanding of integrated processes. Develop a cross-functional glossary and require teams to review and update it. This will prevent confusion as teams focus on their respective functions.
- Recognize the importance of data conversion activities with dedicated resources from the outset. This will prevent unwelcome surprises that can cause rework, delays and risks to quality.
- Adopt an agile approach to configuration and development. This will produce results more quickly and provide management with insights to potential issues earlier that traditional waterfall approaches.
- Closely monitor and actively manage interface development efforts. The existing programmatic system must be successfully integrated with the new ERP system to achieve project success.Require interfaces testing in each testing cycle and in the later test cycles, the testing should use production quality data.
- Do not attempt to replicate all existing reports. Set criteria for producing traditional reports and replicating legacy report(s). Focus attention on the multiple new ways users can readily obtain the information they need via “drill down” functions and query capabilities. This will avoid wasted effort and the potential for a massive backlog in report development.
- Instead of relying solely on functional and technical teams to perform testing, dedicate full-time resources with subject matter knowledge to test planning, design and execution. This should ensure comprehensive testing and preserve functional/technical team resources to focus on higher order testing. Use cross-functional collaboration, including peer reviews, to organize tests that exercise the end-to-end business processes.
- Build a multi-channel approach to training. Include instructor-led classroom training, self-directed online video training, and a robust online “sandbox” environment that includes data refreshes for users to explore and reinforce their training. Maintain the training apparatus for a period following implementation to support remedial training and serve as a contingency site where departments that struggle to get business done can go for guided execution. Apply functional expertise to training development activities to ensure accuracy and give materials appropriate context to help users understand how the screens, fields and data fit into the business and policy context.
- Lastly, assign a cutover manager well before the time of implementation to develop and share the plan, organize mock cutover(s) and serve as a single point of control during cutover.
Conducting ERP implementations well can be exceptionally challenging. By being mindful of these 20 critical steps, your organization can successfully navigate the challenges of implementing a new ERP system and get the most out of the investment. Since 1997, ISG Public Sector has helped government clients succeed at selecting and acquiring ERP solutions and improve the oversight and quality assurance of the implementations.
About the author
Mark Fairbank is an accomplished consultant who has led large-scale public and private sector projects implementing ERP functions including HR, employees benefits administration, payroll, financial functions, and procurement; business process analysis and design; organizational change management; and shared services design, development and management.