Because of the myriad options out there for Enterprise Resource Planning software, we cannot stress enough that your best option depends a lot on what you need the software to do, what you are using now instead, and the direction you see the company moving in the future.
As any software provider or vendor (and common sense) will tell you, the most important research needs to be done before you start kicking tires. What are the processes that are not going as smoothly as you’d like in your workflow? Where are the bottlenecks within the company? What kinds of planning would you like to be able to do that you don’t have the time or information to do now?
A great exercise is to write down the workflow steps from start to finish in your organization, both from an internal and external (customer’s) perspective. What do you get complaints about from customers? Complaints can be a big clue that there is a snag at that point in the process that can possibly be alleviated by a more streamlined setup. Plus, you get to visualize the big picture, which your everyday outlook may not allow for. With that information in hand, you’ll be prepared to have a constructive conversation about potential solutions that will fit your needs.
Looking at the steps and bottlenecks that you identified, make a note of what tools (if any!) the company is using now.
Are there seemingly millions of Excel spreadsheets hanging around, with no connection from one to another? Is there only one key person who knows what’s going on in a key area of operations? (God forbid that person gets sick!) Do orders have to be routed and input by a human, when it would be faster to automate? Knowing where all of your data is stored and in what formats will help your software partner craft the right solution for you.
Have you patched together a workaround system that has worked “well enough” until now? Make a wish list of information you’d love to have at your fingertips (historical data, projections, organized documents and spreadsheets, etc.) and think about how a good system will potentially alleviate stress, costs, and customer issues. When you have a picture of how the company can grow and continue to improve in functionality, not only will you have a better compass from which to steer, but that information will help you find the perfect tools to make your dream a reality.
At Parallel Solutions, we want to partner with you to make sure that the road to full ERP implementation is as smooth as possible. The first step is to make sure that we work together to find the right vehicle to get you the information and processes you need to be successful. Taking some time to look at what’s not working now and how it can be better will pay off in being able to craft the right solution to the problems you actually have. We work with a variety of software providers, so we can offer the best solution for your needs, instead of using a one-size-fits-all approach.
Implementing new software requires a significant financial investment and employee effort. It can be a scary process to many people: managers because of the scale of the project, and employees because of the potential for major changes in their work patterns and time away from their families. Here are some ideas that we've found in the course of many installations to be helpful for maximizing your success.
1. Name the Project
Having a catchy name can identify the work in a positive way. We are all easily influenced by the words we habitually use. Why do you think the Army uses sometimes-ironic "Operation" names?
The project leader or members of the cross-functional team can determine a name. If you do decide to use a name, keep it simple for ease of use.
Example: the Diamond Project
2. Create a Project Plan
As with any big job, breaking the project into meaningful tasks will help the implementation run more smoothly. Include in the plan all of the departmental responsibilities, codependent steps, data conversion, employee training, and most importantly, a realistic timeframe. This should be the guide for the project leader and team to follow with measurable steps.
A good plan will help everyone feel included in the process and have the ability to see the progress being made on the project. Which leads us to. . .
3. Recognize the Project Team
4. Celebrate the Project Start
Engage your entire workforce by celebrating the start of the implementation. Consider having a breakfast treat, like coffee and donuts (or juice and fruit if your company is more health conscious).
This kickoff celebration is an excellent time to communicate the goals of the project using its catchy name, introducing the project team, and emphasizing the positive outcomes of the project for employees. Establishing strong buy-in at the user level supports everyone’s commitment to the success of the project.
5. Announce Project Progress
6. Honor the Project's End
Food is always a great start. Something as simple as a pizza lunch for all your employees and recognizing the project team in front of peers.
One company we worked with recognized the contribution of the project team's spouses by inviting them to a special celebration where team members were publicly thanked. Another company provided team members with "We Survived -project name-” sweatshirts.
Be creative and generate enthusiasm for the next project or future software upgrade, while recognizing the contributions and patience of employees during the transition.
Nancy Wright is a Solutions Consultant at Parallel Solutions, who specializes in implementing ERP software with small, medium and large manufacturers in the Midwest.
Mary Jo O'Neill