How Can SMEs Successfully Implement an ERP Solution?

ERP systems, which integrate to provide data flow across processes, are used to fully digitise processes, increase efficiency, and reduce operating costs. 

Implementing any ERP solution is a labour-intensive process. It can become incredibly complex if the right stakeholders and project partners are not involved from the start. And while it can provide great success in businesses, it can also cause major disruptions when project plans are skipped or too high level. The following steps are important for a healthy transition to a new software solution: 

• Creating the project team
• Determining project goals 
• Creating a detailed project plan
• Training the project team and other personnel
• Installing the software and setting up the pilot system
• Training software users
• Transferring data
• Continuous improvement of the system, and  
• More training

Creating the project team 

The most successful projects are managed by leaders who can get things done by working well with others. These leaders will likely hold deep knowledge of the business’ activities and will possess advanced project management skills, as well as the ability to find appropriate resources for implementation and sufficient power to make permanent decisions. 

Further, an appointed project team should include senior managers and key subject matter experts. The goal is to build a cross-functional team who can map processes, gather requirements, state project goals and build a final project plan that is inclusive and complete.  

Beyond the project team will be the implementation team. This team should be able to work across the business to translate requirements and business goals into a functional, integrated solution. The implementation team may be in-house or a combination of internal stakeholders and an external partner. It may be that the implementation team is solely an external ERP provider. However this team ‘looks’, it’s important to be sure the right skills and experience are on your side.  

Determining project goals 

The project's objectives should be clearly defined for the project team to continue their work effectively. These targets are determined as management, project, system and performance targets. These targets provide a clear set of measures to help determine project success. These goals will vary from business to business based on needs. For example, reducing stock levels, reducing the sales cycle, automating important billing processes to accelerate payments, etc. 

Creating a detailed project plan 

The resources required for each job should be determined to create the initial project plan. Ideally, no resources should be overused to prevent burnout and project delays. After all, the Project Team are already working hard to do their normal work. Here are some of the steps taken to create a detailed project plan: 

• Adding detailed stages and resources to the high-grade project plan – so who will do what and when
• Starting the project implementation assuming that the resources are limited
• Transferring some work from critical resources to other resources by reviewing resource requirements
• Deciding whether to use external resources in critical areas
• Estimating project completion time with a possible margin of delay

Training the project team and other personnel 

A significant part of the system installation budget will be used for training personnel. The project team and key staff will attend training and education on the new ERP solution and will learn in detail about daily operations and how to do them. The business should seek support from the software supplier that provides the solution or ERP implementation partner to train the project team about the concepts related to the ERP solution, each module and its functions. 

An ideal training program should include the project team’s understanding of the concepts and opportunities related to the ERP solution and how the business operations can work in harmony with the new software by learning the different features and functions of the solution. This helps the team add more detail to the vision established early in the selection process. 

The project team will help train other personnel – so it’s key they understand the ins and outs.  

Installing the software and installing the pilot system 

The software is installed by the ERP Implementation team, and several tests are performed to ensure that it is installed and working correctly.  Once the installation process is complete, the standard version is run on the enterprise network system for at least one business day to check that the software is working properly. 

With Open Source solutions, it is possible to run a free version of the software as a trial to get a sense for how the solution will work for the business. However, more advanced, helpful features come with the paid version of these ERP solutions, so it is advisable to upgrade once it’s clear the solution will work.  

Customisation is usually needed to get the most from any solution – and this is where the right project partner can help take a solution from average to excellent.  

Training software users 

Every single employee should receive at least general training on how the new system will affect business operations, the business, customers, employees and suppliers. Some team members may require more in-depth training as they are heavier users.  

Part of the support expected from the software supplier includes conveying all knowledge of the software’s functions and limitations, as well as an understanding of how this system will be implemented in the business’s own industry. Periodic training may be needed to help staff form habits and consistently use the solution.  

Transferring data 

After completing the necessary training, it’s time to start working with the live solution!  A data bridge must be established between the old and new systems. Although these data bridges will be used for a short period of 1-2 months, they are important for continuity. However, the system's accuracy can be compromised by transferring incorrect data to the new system with these data bridges. Each department enters the data related to their own departments that the system needs so the old solution can be completely retired.  

Continuous improvement of the system 

After implementing the new system, it’s important to review the performance measures at set times to see how things are going and where improvements can be made.  

People are a big part of the success of any ERP solution, making training and follow-ups important to reap the rewards and build a competitive edge. Software needs updates from time to time and processes should be reviewed periodically to ensure maximum efficiency.  

Final thoughts 

ERP software is critical for gaining efficiency and reducing costs over the long-term for most small- to medium-businesses today. We have listed the steps you need to successfully implement ERP software, which streamlines all business processes. 

As we mentioned at the beginning of the article, ERP software can provide great success in businesses, but it can also cause great disruptions without the right project team, planning and implementation partner. OptimySME has over a decade of experience in helping SMEs along their ERP journey. We can simplify the complexity while reducing risks, delivering your solution on time and on budget.

If you would like to talk about what’s happening in your business and how we can help, please contact our ERP software expert, Kevin McMenamin.

Odoo named top 10 ERP software for 2022