ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning. ERP software is comprised of powerful and strategic business process management tools that can be used to manage information within an organization. ERP systems integrate all facets of an enterprise into one comprehensive information system that can be accessed by individuals across an entire organization.
Most ERP practitioners structure their ERP implementation as follows:
1. Gain approval
The executive sponsor oversees the creation of any documentation required for approval. This document, usually called a business case, typically includes the following:
- Problem definition
- Description of the program’s objectives and scope
- Implementation costs
- Implementation schedule
- Development and operational risks
- Projected benefits
Once the business case is complete, the executive sponsor presents the business case to the appropriate group of senior executives for formal approval to spend money and direct staff to implement the ERP.
2. Plan the program
The high-level timeline created for the business case is then refined into a work plan, which should include the following steps:
- Finalize team members. Key internal individuals should be identified by name. Other required staff should be identified by role. External partners need to be selected.
- Typical partners include. ERP implementation specialists, organizational change management specialists, and technical specialists.
- Complete contracts. Contracts for new software, technology, and services should be finalized.
- Plan infrastructure upgrades. On-premises ERP systems frequently require faster processors, additional storage, and improved communications. Some organizations can minimize infrastructure upgrades by using cloud ERP. But even cloud ERPs can require infrastructure upgrades.
- Create a work plan and timeline. Tasks, dependencies, resources, and timing need to be made as specific as possible.
3. Configure software
This is the largest, most difficult phase. Major steps include:
- Analyze gaps. Understanding the gaps in current business processes and supporting applications helps the project team determine how to change business processes to conform to the software.
- Configure parameters. Parameters in the ERP software are set to reflect the new business processes.
- Complete required programming. Ideally, no changes are needed for the ERP software. However, some programming may be required for interfaces to other systems or for data migration.
- Migrate data. The team standardizes data definitions and examines existing files for data completeness, quality, and redundancy. Finally, existing data is cleansed and migrated to the new ERP.
- Test system. The system is tested to ensure it delivers the needed functionality and required responsiveness.
- Document system. Required functional and technical documentation is created. Typically, the vendor has documentation that can be tailored to enterprise standards.
- Upgrade infrastructure. Complete any required upgrades.
4. Deploy the system
Prior to the final cutover, when the new system is in production, multiple activities have to be completed. These include:
- Train staff. All staff needs to be trained to operate the system and be given access rights.
- Plan support. A support team will be needed to answer questions and resolve problems after the ERP is operational.
- Test the system. The new system must be thoroughly tested to ensure it is secure, responsive, and delivers the functionality described in the business case.
- Make the “Go live” decision. Once the executive sponsor is confident the new ERP is ready, the enterprise needs to switch from the old system to the new system.
5. Stabilize the system
Following ERP deployment, most organizations experience a dip in business performance as the staff learns new roles, tools, business processes, and metrics. In addition, poorly cleansed data and infrastructure bottlenecks will cause disruption. All impose a workload bubble on the ERP deployment and support team.