If you’re in the early stages of exploring ERP systems, please consult “Preparing for ERP Implementation: Fundamentals for Success” first for additional information.

Meeting the constant demands of an ERP implementation is time-consuming and critical. Deliverables get postponed, team members feel overwhelmed and deadlines come and go in the blink of an eye. To successfully build an ERP implementation plan, you must balance the implementation itself, limited financial and human resources, and often, unrealistic peer expectations. 

Structure your ERP implementation plan simply by breaking it into steps. Assault ambiguity, master your inputs and outputs, then test and launch. It is simple, but not easy. The team, data and documents all need attention. An ERP is a major investment in your company’s future, so it is imperative to set a realistic timeline. Addressing the project with a level-headed approach will go far to preserve team morale while keeping the timeline and budget on track.

Clarify roles and responsibilities

Your ERP provider—Sage, SAP, Microsoft, Oracle or another high-quality vendor—will assign a project manager as your point person for their implementation team. Their business analysts, developers and testing teams will be brought in as needed to work on documentation, customizations, migrations and integrations. 

Many companies use Scrum (or a hybrid method) to manage their development and implementation life cycles. In a Scrum framework, a single product owner is the decision-maker for the business. This prevents differing directives from being given to the vendor. While not foolproof, it reduces friction during an ERP implementation. 

An accounting director or controller is often the product owner for an ERP implementation. A note of caution here: Be sure whoever takes on the role is fully available to execute all the tactical needs the role requires. Some of the core functions of the job include ensuring project tasks are completed, reviewing defect logs and making tough calls when processes aren’t working as expected. 

Eliminate assumptions with documentation

Just as it was important to define what success would look like when you were determining if it was the right time to move to an ERP, it is essential to define nearly everything as you move forward building your ERP implementation plan.

Document the implementation project with Microsoft Project or another tool to keep everyone in the loop and on a shared timeline. It may seem like overkill to use project management software, but the embedded Gantt charts that alert users to conflicts and the linked calendar function to facilitate booking meetings could be worth the investment. 

Have your team pour through your vendor’s ERP software documentation. It will note terminology definitions, illustrate processes, define field lengths and identify calculations and other options available to you.

Interview your ERP vendor to establish the business rules that developers will use to configure and test your instance of the application. Supplement the vendor materials with your own as your team clarifies items. Microsoft Visio or a simple online tool like Draw.io can help you with flowcharts.

Delve into the data

A huge benefit to an ERP is having a single source of truth—the database where all your records live. Whether you are moving your accounting applications from Quickbooks or Xero, or from one ERP to another, there are a host of decisions to make about the data. 

Mapping data fields from the source systems to the ERP is the baseline activity. Required fields are one of the many things that can cause havoc. If zip codes were not required for every record in your source system but will now be required, how will you handle records without them? Capitalizations, abbreviations, foreign addresses and extinct chart of accounts categories will all need to be culled through. As you cleanse the data, take the opportunity to sift out duplicate records and purge unused account numbers. 

Accountants should ensure all the migrated data will be ticked and tied to match the source and receiving systems. Record and transaction counts will need to match up, as will dollars and interest rates. Account balancing should be checked at the highest level. Then, drill down to ensure that everything is recorded in the proper periods.

Review and optimize outputs

Dashboards, reports, forms, downloads and screens are your windows to the information within your ERP. This is what you’ve been waiting for. Charts, graphs and KPIs will provide insights to improve decision making.

Out-of-the-box report settings may have minimal flexibility before extra development costs set in. When reviewing reporting and analytic tools, try to work with their existing output. Make as few modifications as you can, and focus on content over presentation. Fonts, headers and their alignment may not match your previous decade of reports—that’s okay. Let those differences be a clear signal of your company’s evolution.

Take advantage of automation wherever you can. Schedule daily emails that compile, publish and distribute KPIs to management so you gain a quick win from your new ERP. Set up job queues to prompt users or the system to perform next actions. Streamline your month end by defining lists of exceptions, thus eliminating the need for users to identify them. 

Test for success

Nothing will provide you with more assurance about your new ERP than testing it yourself. Get clarity with your ERP vendor on the depth of their testing process early on. Determine whether they will be testing to the level that you want or expect. Removing all assumptions is key.

Find out if the vendor will share their test plans, test cases and test scenarios with you or if your team will need to create their own. Each level gets more granular as you move from checking major processes, to specific fields, to combinations of variables. 

Testing is an area where drowning in details can easily occur. Avoid checking base functionality too thoroughly if other high-value items remain untested. Spot checking that a CRM system is pulling in the right salutation for a letter may be all that is warranted when your timeline is under the gun. 

Launch and learn

Graduating to a robust ERP is a major step for your business, and launch day will no doubt be a big day. Approach it with the same confidence you brought to your ERP implementation plan, and be sure to give plenty of accolades to your team and those who supported them along the way. 

As with any large goal, there are often sacrifices. Quarterly accrual reviews or updating your pricing guide might get postponed. Family time and vacation plans are frequently affected as well, despite best intentions. 

If an extra set of hands would help your software implementation go faster and smoother, Paro can quickly match you with ERP implementation experts to accelerate your way to launch day.