The trials of 2020 have put many businesses in a mode of transformation. For some, that can mean changing anything from their internal operations to the services and products they offer.
Due to advancements in digital technology, massive change was well underway in numerous industries before the pandemic. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) has been a central part of those changes as companies learn to organize and analyze data and use software applications to automate business functions.
But while the main goal in acquiring ERP is to streamline processes and increase productivity, it can be difficult to implement without the right combination of people, training, and technology. Failure with ERP implementation happens for many reasons, and knowing how to avoid those pitfalls is critical to a company’s growth and survival in these trying times, says Joel Patterson, a workplace culture expert, founder of The Vested Group and ForbesBooks author of The Big Commitment: Solving The Mysteries Of Your ERP Implementation.
“Many businesses are aware they need to adopt digital technologies to compete in today’s market, but the fear of failure holds some back,” Patterson says. “Often, the barriers to successful ERP implementation have less to do with the software and more to do with communication- and employee-based issues.
“A change of such magnitude in a company requires solid and consistent change management, in which company leaders work well with outside consultants, but more importantly appreciate the importance of their workforce as much as the need for change.”
Patterson offers five tips on how to avoid failure in ERP implementation:
- Tie ERP into long-term planning. One reason for engaging in an ERP project is to improve processes for the long haul. Therefore, an organization’s leadership needs to have a vision for the timeline that makes sense for their industry, typically at least 5 years. “It’s a key question for many businesses, especially in terms of selecting and implementing ERP,” Patterson says. “For example, it would be a big mistake to choose a product that doesn’t allow you to easily add new companies or service lines if expansion is a component of your strategic plan. Create a roadmap and share it with your IT partner.”
- Put people first. Patterson says that having a solid work culture in which employees, their treatment and their betterment are prioritized is necessary for any ERP implementation to succeed. “You can have great ERP software,” he says, “but your employees are your greatest asset. Listening to them helps the overall effectiveness of the system going forward. If your culture is a mixed bag of nay-sayers and disengaged managers, projects of this magnitude are doomed to fail.”
- Get buy-in across the organization. It’s common for people to fear or resist change, especially employees who have been with companies the longest. “When an organization is made up of people who understand the reasons behind what is being done, then they are more likely to be on board with the changes,” Patterson says. “How will these changes not only benefit the company, but more specifically, how does it impact their daily lives? These details need to be clearly laid out.”
- Cut out bureaucracy, delegate responsibility. “The consulting team needs to be allowed to play the role they were hired to play, and you need clearly defined decision-makers on the project team,” Patterson says. “Otherwise, too many people wrestling over decisions can bottleneck projects. Your project team should walk you through each stage, and your company needs to establish a good governance structure in which each person knows their role.”
- Prioritize aftercare. The next set of challenges comes when the company is running the new system on its own. “You can’t overlook the potential for problems,” Patterson says. “That’s why you want a partner who offers ongoing support. Assign teams to gather data about how employees are using the software, what issues they are encountering, and how to make it more effective overall.”
“In any ERP implementation,” Patterson says, “leaders need to stay connected with their employees and keep departments aligned, while encouraging them throughout a sometimes challenging process.”
Joel Patterson is the founder of The Vested Group, a business technology consulting firm in the Dallas, Texas area, and ForbesBooks author of The Big Commitment: Solving The Mysteries Of Your ERP Implementation. He has worked in the consulting field for over 20 years. Patterson began his consulting career at Arthur Andersen and Capgemini before helping found Lucidity Consulting Group in 2001. For 15 years he specialized in implementing Tier One ERP, software systems designed to service the needs of large, complex corporations. In 2011, Patterson founded The Vested Group, which focuses on bringing comprehensive cloud-based business management solutions to start-ups and well-established businesses alike. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Baylor University.