9 tips for selecting and implementing an ERP system

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff

"Generally speaking, many companies' basic business processes are virtually the same (like paying invoices, collecting revenue and procuring supplies)," says Greg Palesano, executive vice president, Applications Services, HCL Technologies, a global IT services company. "This is why ERP was built in the first place. Companies can take advantage of standard processes that are leading class and have been tested by many other companies," he says.

"If a particular business function believes they have a case for a customization, make sure they prove it," he argues. "Remember, the cost of the customization is not only writing and testing the code for initial implementation, but providing long-term support of the custom code and treating any customizations as exceptions every time you upgrade your software," he says. "Keep it simple and try not to allow customization into your ERP program."

7. Factor in change management. "Organizational change management is pivotal to the success of your project," says Matt Thompson, vice president of Professional Services, EstesGroup, an ERP managed services and technology solutions provider. "Typical ERP projects facilitate massive change in organizations that can include changing of day to day job descriptions or eliminating job descriptions in total. [These] changes impact the culture of your company and without careful control and communication plans and workshops you can create an adverse reaction to ERP [resulting in] barriers [to] implementation and adoption."

8. Appoint an internal ERP product champion -- and surround him or her with good people. "Do not rely on the vendor-appointed project manager only; have someone on your staff for this," says Morris Tabush, principal, the TabushGroup, a provider of managed IT services. Select someone within the organization, who knows or is comfortable managing software systems, to serve as the project manager," he advises. "This person will be responsible for "collecting all the end user requirements, learning the new system inside and out, working with the vendor on data conversion, coordinating training and acting as the point of contact for all employees."

"One of the most common mistakes made by companies during ERP implementation is spending significant time, energy and money selecting the right software and implementation partners, only to assign their own 'B' team to the program," adds Palesano. "This results in numerous issues during design and implementation, slow decision making and delays. While it's difficult to free up your brightest resources from their full-time jobs, ERP implementations are not simple and they can be extremely expensive," he points out. So it's important to "put your best people on the job. Not just your best IT people, your best people, period."

9. Provide the necessary time and resources for training on the ERP system. "Learning a new way of operating will require a significant time commitment for everyone, so the project team must take proactive measures to reduce the burden on employees," says Joel Schneider, cofounder, Liberty Technology Advisors, an IT consulting firm that specializes in ERP, business processes and project rescue. "Identify department-specific needs, allowing for sufficient time to develop and deliver training programs."

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