Best Practices for Successful ERP System Deployments

Key success factors for rolling out an enterprise resource planning system


Comprehensive End User Training and Ensuring Continued Use — ERP applications are typically pretty sophisticated and can overwhelm business users to the point of inspiring a phobia. Thus user training has to be contextualized and comprehensive for each and every user group to increase their system adoption and continued use. Training sessions should be planned and executed with user input at all times. And training must be repeated and should include hands-on testing as well for the learning to really sink in.

Avoid ERP Deployment in Parallel to Enterprise Major Re-org or Business Event — Even though any ERP deployment can be managed in parallel to a major re-organization through appropriate change management, doing so increases the risks associated with the deployment due to the uncertain business environment and the availability of key users and managers.

Technology/Product Considerations

Diligent Selection of the ERP Product and Systems Integrator (SI) — Enough due diligence must be done while selecting the ERP product and the ERP SI, even it if means a delay in launching the ERP deployment. Short-term goals as well as long-term objectives must be kept in mind while selecting the ERP product. And sufficient time must be spent with the SI in the ERP proof of concept and selection phase before awarding the contract to the SI.

Proof of Concept (POC)-driven, Robust Enterprise IT Architecture — ERP deployments typically lend themselves to highly sophisticated IT architecture and middleware. Due to the widespread use of ERP and comparison with legacy applications, system performance also becomes key for user satisfaction. The ERP IT team must do a detailed POC before finalizing the IT architecture so it can scale up as time passes and data volumes grow.

Minimizing Customization of ERP Out-of-the-box Functionalities — The true advantages of using a commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), packaged application like an ERP system will accrue only if the enterprise keeps any customizations to a minimum and leverages the embedded out-of-the-box functionalities provided by the ERP. Customizing an ERP application introduces instability into the application — something that even the ERP product vendor will not own up to. ERP applications require frequent patching and regular upgrades, a process that can become more complex when customizations have been made to the system.

Reporting Cannot Be a Second Thought or an After-deployment Phenomenon — Even the best ERP system deployment will be considered a failure if the system does not provide all the necessary reports to business users. Always plan ahead for how critical reports are to be delivered to business users.

Deployment Type/Scope Considerations

Manage Risk and Cost Using the Appropriate ERP Deployment Approach — Any ERP deployment timelines, budget, risk and comprehensiveness are dictated by the type and nature of the implementation approach selected. Before initiating any ERP program, the enterprise has to choose among various critical options for how to approach the implementation: “big-bang” versus “region-based phased rollouts,” geographies to be grouped together, “single instance” versus “hub-and-spoke” instance model, “full-cycle implementation” versus “solution rollouts,” and so on. The company must evaluate these options in the context of its scale of business revenue, number of users and their demographics, in-scope geographies and languages, allocated budgets and desired timelines for planned ERP deployment, and then select the most appropriate option.

Adequate Due Diligence while ERP Program Scoping, Sizing and Resource Planning — Before taking the final plunge and getting into the nuts and bolts of an ERP deployment, the ERP team should do careful and detailed phase-by-phase project and resource planning for all the groups from the organization, system integrators and B2B trading partners affected or involved in the project. Various dimensions of the scope of work should be detailed out, such as geographical coverage, process coverage, user base, lines of business, etc. The deployment methodology should have clear entry and exit criteria for each phase of execution.

Well Thought-out and Well-rehearsed Mock Conversions and Cutover Planning — There is no better recipe for success than continued practice. Rich data quality and complete data conversion, minimum business downtime and smooth transition to a new ERP system are the hallmarks of successful ERP execution. Thus the ERP deployment project managers need to plan for multiple mock runs for data conversions and cutover, with the minutest of activities and dependencies documented and rehearsed.

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