Nothing strikes fear deeper into the hearts of people than change. It doesn’t matter if they know the change will be good—“This system has never worked for us and a new, better one will improve our business,”—or bad—“We need to expand beyond our current system and it’s going to be very expensive and time-consuming.”—it’s still just change, and that means the whisper of the unknown growing louder and louder into a yell of “STOP!”
Of course, the rest of the world isn’t stopping, no matter how loudly you ask it to. Your need to expand or improve will only keep you behind the rest of your industry if you don’t get to changing and leaving your legacy system behind. You can’t do too much planning or preparation before the transition, so the sooner you start the smoother your change will be. Here’s a general idea of what you can look forward to.
Examine Needs and Appropriate Software
First things first: is an ERP system appropriate for you? The larger and more intricate a company is increases the need for the cohesive organization and company-wide integration, but a smaller company may do just fine with standard office software combined with strict processes and organization. Since you’re reading this on our website, we’re guessing you’re going beyond simple and into ERP territory. While we stand by Epicor as a flexible and robust system that can become a tool for any company, you owe it to your company to consider all options available (before you come back to us, of course).
Get Everyone on Board
Many business decisions are unilateral, but when it comes to the software that every one of your employees will be using every day, all day, you’re going to need their opinions. You’ll also need the backing of all of the shareholders as well, and to be blunt, the relationship between the software vendor and the people paying for its implementation can be quite rocky. Many of these partnerships are mediated by a third party project manager, and they can help the shareholders understand the scale of implementation—which can be expensive and take years to complete—and the software developers understand the specific needs of the company, often through employee feedback which a third party can keep anonymous.
Define Goals and Channels of Communication
Now that everyone is ready to move forward, it is time to define exactly where everyone will be moving to and when they should be there. The software vendor will need to work with the company on tempering realistic dates and achievable goals, and the company will need to work with the software vendor on providing information and process transparency, as well as ensuring employees are receptive and ready to be trained. Establishing clear avenues of communication between the project management, the company executives, employees, software vendor, and engineers is of paramount importance.
Everyone will be putting forth their best efforts to be clear and concise, to meet deadlines and goals. And despite everyone’s intentions and efforts, things will probably go wrong. It’s stressful and upsetting and the urge to point fingers and yell is going to grow, but it’s important to maintain some perspective: your company is being taken apart and put back together and when it’s over, it won’t look or work the same. It’s a major invasive surgery, it’s a complete overhaul. Be prepared to roll with the punches: the pain won’t last long!
Eliminate all Aspects of the Legacy
No matter how well a preexisting system might have worked beforehand, it has no place in a brand-new ERP system. Information needs to be transferred or archived and every aspect of its usability needs to be transferred to the new system. Having an old system remaining open or employees creating informal work-arounds defeats the purpose of an ERP. The solution to any problem should never be having redundant systems, duplicating data entry, or wasting time reconciling the two differing systems. The company needs to make sure all employees are ready for the transition, and have hopefully been listening to employee input so that the form and function of they system works for them.
Training, Responsibility, and Refinement
As the system creation and installation draws to a close, the team should look back on their progress and realize how far they’ve come in building and implementing the new system. If everyone has done their part they should feel a sense of ownership in the ERP system and this positive feeling will aid in the training and maintaining of the new system. This extends to the software vendor and the engineers as well, who will be providing a lifetime of IT support and will be aiding in the modification and refinement of systems in the future. Like any system, your ERP will work for you right out of the gate but as it is used over the months, your company will discover the parts that work better than others and processes that can be made more efficient with tweaking.