So, you’d like to implement an ERP project within your company, but you don’t know where to start?
For your project to be a success, you need to follow several steps before deploying ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software in your IT system. The most important step for the success of your project is choosing the ERP solution that best suits your specific needs.
How should you go about it though? What are the steps to follow? What are the mistakes to avoid when deploying an ERP? And how do you choose the best ERP among all the offers on the market?
Appvizer is here to guide you through the process step-by-step!
What is an ERP project?
An ERP project is a project management process with several stages. It goes from defining the requirements for your ERP to post-project, which revolves around the deployment of ERP software and supporting the transition.
The main objective of implementing an ERP within a company is to manage all its information and business data while simultaneously automating business processes to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and optimize resource usage.
The difficulty lies in the ability to match the functionalities available in ERP software with the company’s needs and expectations.
It will be a question of choosing the specific modules and program in line with existing business processes, such as:
- accounting management
- financial management
- human resources management
- commercial and customer relationship management
- production management
- distribution management
- stock management
- e-commerce management
Software that fits your business: Traditional vs Project ERPs
It’s hardly a walk in the park when it comes to choosing an ERP and knowing which application or software will work best for your company. But, if you’re a project manager here to set up an ERP project yourself, your company might have similar objectives.
So, what’s the difference between a project-based ERP and a traditional one?
Similar functionalities with different focuses
Traditional ERPs are generally built, as the name suggests, for resource planning in business industries with economies of scale that look to accelerate their production through automation and process standardization. They tend to focus on the end results of the production and manufacturing process.
While traditional ERPs are still effective in optimizing business practices, a need for a more project-focused approach has led software publishers to create project-based ERPs. This software provides businesses with increased project management functionalities in comparison to traditional ERPs. These lead to a more detailed breakdown and view of individual projects.
Project ERP software follows a different approach to the functionalities that you’d find in traditional ERPs:
- Project-focused accounting: companies can access detailed views of individual project budgets instead of an overview of business processes. Businesses then improve decision-making by analyzing each project’s costs, revenue, and performance to determine where improvements must be made.
- Workforce planning for human resources: with a higher focus on human resource management, project managers can allocate the necessary employees to specific projects based on expected needs, track time worked on specific projects, and manage payroll and expenses for employees.
- Business intelligence and insights: through the classic centralized data that ERPs benefit from, businesses analyze each project's metrics and KPIs through dashboards to gain valuable insights into profits, resource allocation, cash flow, and more.
- Future project planning with CRM modules: clients are at the heart of it all. By using customer relationship management modules, companies will manage customer marketing campaigns, review history and streamline processes for clients for better communication and overviews of project proposals, and determine the health of projects with recurring clients.
Beyond those different approaches to traditional ERP modules, project ERPs introduce new project management tools. Depending on the depth of the ERP, businesses will have access to various types of reporting allowing them to track timelines and tasks for individual projects, and collaborate with stakeholders and suppliers while using the relevant project data from all the other modules.
Different tools for different industries
There are tons of different ERP solutions on the market that respond to most types of businesses, each one is made differently, catering to specific business uses.
As we mentioned earlier, traditional software tends to work effectively with companies that focus on:
On the other hand, there’s no surprise in learning that project ERPs are more effective for companies where continuous projects are the main focus. This includes companies that work in:
- Construction and contracting
- Marketing and consulting
- Architecture and engineering
- And any other industries that rely heavily on project management
By making sure your company chooses an ERP solution that aligns well with your business practices and processes, you’ll be saving time, money, and effort in the long run. So, no matter the ERP, ensure that its features respond to your exact needs and pain points.
If you’re ready to implement your new ERP right now, make sure to check out Odoo’s guide for ERP implementation. It covers the major challenges of deployment while helping guide businesses with best practices on ensuring employee adoption of your new tool!
How to implement an ERP step-by-step
Step 1: Carry out a preliminary study
As with any project, you should first ask yourself why you want to implement or choose new ERP software. What business problems will be solved with its implementation? The very basis of the process is finding out what it can do for you.
To define your objectives in detail, your company also might want to consider analyzing different factors of the company’s departments, such as:
- Department processes
- the different work and information flows
- the communication and collaboration between services
- the tools already implemented in your company
This self-auditing phase allows you to identify your needs and the best ways to reach them.
From that point, you can more effectively create a global plan for the future of this implementation project. This global plan will outline and detail precisely what is expected from the implementation of ERP software in your company.
In addition, this project must be integrated into your current business strategy because it includes human, technical, and financial considerations that are not negligible.
As you’ve begun to notice, an ERP project represents a long-term investment and a significant budget for a company. Despite this, there are cloud software choices that use monthly subscriptions instead of a large upfront cost. This can be a good option for small to medium-sized businesses that have smaller budgets.
This preliminary study will help validate or rework your expectations of the usefulness and attainment of your project’s objectives. It also improves the chances of avoiding any cost overruns.
Step 2: Putting a team together
Once the decision has been made to implement an ERP project, a project team must be put together to study and undertake the project. These two or three collaborators, headed by a project manager, are the key players in the project.
Here is some advice we can give you:
- Ensure that the roles of each person are precisely defined.
- Choose a mixed team in terms of skills and departments: one person from the IT department with technical skills, and one or two people from other departments such as HR, or accounting, to ensure that business needs are met.
A project team made up of those who will use the service ensures optimal governance of the ERP project.
Step 3: Establish specifications
The technical and functional specifications are used to define clear functional parameters for the project. These specifications should be used as a reference document throughout the project.
The ERP specifications must be very detailed. Not only does it express needs, but:
- it provides all the key information about the company and its pain points
- it takes into account the analysis of workflows, processes, and interactions between existing services and any possible blockages that may arise
- it lists one by one the expected functionalities and the benefits that the ERP can bring
Establishing all of this is essential so that once you’ve found a vendor, you can monitor their performance according to your specifications.
💡 This document is useful for the software provider you will be working with to ensure smooth communication while avoiding unpleasant surprises when setting up the tool.
Step 4: Choose the ERP software adapted to your needs
Now, you know what features you’re looking for, all you have to do is choose the tool. On-premise ERP, open-source software, or a cloud-based SaaS? Carrying out market research will help bring you the answer to this question.
On-premise software will be installed on your company’s infrastructure and generally requires a more invested technical team to maintain, as well as higher upfront costs.
Cloud-based ERPs are accessed online and require less infrastructure but provide less control over the software. These options generally have monthly or yearly payments.
Keep in mind that you’re not only choosing a tool, but also experts to work with. Pay attention to the support offered and what it includes!
Need a place to start? Check out other ERP software options on the market.
Step 5: Implement the chosen ERP solution
You’ve finally made it to the step for installation and deployment of your ERP.
This may require an update of your infrastructure. For example, if you choose an open-source or proprietary ERP to be installed locally, you will maybe need to install a dedicated server to host all the data.
Opting for an ERP in SaaS mode might make your life easier. Your database will be hosted in the cloud, and you won’t have to worry about hosting. Your service provider will take care of it for you.
After deployment, the tool will be available to all users by integrating it into your information system.
Step 6: Time for testing
At this point, it’s necessary to start training a couple of key users and get some global feedback to verify that it effectively meets all the needs that were established at the beginning of the project.
Centralize user feedback to adjust certain elements and, if necessary, resolve any problems that may have arisen.
Integrating an ERP can be difficult. Do not neglect the test phase under any circumstances. This is what makes the solution work well in the company and ensures proper adoption of the ERP.
Step 7: Support the change
The success of your project also lies in the attention you pay to it after the installation and testing phase.
This begins with full user training. This step takes more or less time depending on the complexity of the tool, the knowledge, and the digital literacy of employees.
Make sure to establish and implement new processes and a new organization of work, including the sharing of information for optimal use of your ERP.
Work with your service provider and support teams to make any final adjustments in the weeks or months following deployment. This way, you can fine-tune the tool as new needs arise, as the company grows, etc.
Advice to ensure the success of your ERP project
Here are some mistakes to avoid if you want to ensure the success of your ERP project:
- rushing to complete the project: this is the best way to make poor decisions without sufficient information
- forgetting to involve all the stakeholders in the project and to communicate about its progress
- neglecting the adaptation to change phase: to facilitate the adoption of the ERP by all its users, collect their feedback, identify their blocking points, and give them the means to adapt their work to the new tool.
Finally, always remember to:
- Set up a voluntary and committed project team, including key users from the very beginning of the project. That is to say, those who understand the operational reality of your company perfectly.
- Make sure you have the support of your company’s management before the start of the project.
- Take advantage of all the expertise of your software provider to help with support and integration.
You now have all the cards in your hands to set up an ERP project and lead it successfully!