Never. It’s never a good time.
It’s always going to be a massive pain. Because you need to spend time on a thorough search and selection process, and no matter how pragmatic and decisive you are, it’s not going to be easy. Nor should it be. You’re committing to a business partner who’ll be with you for the next 10 years or more. Like a marriage, you need to navigate the whole ‘getting to know you’ process. Working out who should be on your shortlist, discussing requirements, arranging demonstrations, following up on references, right up to contract negations takes a minimum of 3 months, and 6 – 9 months for larger investments.
Next, you go into an implementation project. And believe me, the change management involved in adopting a new system is only the tip of the disruption iceberg.
So, when is a good time to adopt a new business system / FMIS / ERP?
Some businesses have seasonal ebbs with quiet times or even downtime. So you could plan the implementation to coincide. But take into account that you’ll still be doing your ‘courtship dance’ during your peak season.
Of course, you can keep running your company on your current system, warts and all. And unless your hardware or software vendor has set a drop-dead end of life date, the switchover will rarely be a time-bound, compelling event. But the lead up and switchover are inevitable. This all said, what are my recommendations on reducing the pain?
- Kick off the whole project by allowing employees to air their complaints about the current system, and get them to rank their grievances. This gets everyone thinking about why a replacement is necessary, which helps in two ways. One, it generates a valid and usable list of problems and possible solutions. Just be careful not to let your wish list become a fantasy list that won’t be viable or achievable. Two, users are more likely to be positive and accepting when you add the implementation process into their workloads.
- Requirements don’t need to be extrapolated into Requests for Proposals. Keep them as a checklist, and get ‘Yes’, ‘No’ and ‘With Customisation’ answers. Simple. Any good vendor will do full sales discovery workshops anyway, to be certain they understand your requirements and are offering you the best solution and most cost-effective option.
- Embrace the idea of full disclosure. A good prospective vendor will want to know all about your company, and understand key business and project drivers. The great ones will meet with your IT or Supply Chain suppliers and build up relationships with your commercial partners. This kind of collaboration works for your benefit, and everyone you do business with.
- Keep your shortlist short. Fortunately, there are really only three vendors worth considering for each tier in the current business landscape – whether your company is small, medium or large. If you want advice on who to approach, then you are very welcome to ask me.
- Select a partner who has the right skill set and experience, but also make sure their approach to implementation fits with your business. No two implementations are the same, so the vendor needs to be pragmatic and flexible. Only agree to an implementation that follows best business practice and is also tailored to your company’s internal needs. Both parties need to know exactly what happens, why and when to be successful.
- Let’s face it, SMB businesses are not in a position to hire backfill resources should the need suddenly arise because of the switchover and implementation. Choose the vendor with the project plan that lays out exactly the commitment your company needs to make in terms of resources and effort. Get them to show you where your key people fit into the project. Then test them to see how flexible they can be with the resources available to you.
- Plan, plan, plan. Before you go into the project you need a clear picture. What type of resources, how many, how often and when? What actions, and when to take them? Everyone needs a clear understanding of what to expect. They need to see the breakdown of the whole implementation methodology, planned out month by month.
- Strong Executive Sponsorship. Don’t even think of kicking off this project without Executive Management backing.
- Once the final plan is agreed, the time for discussion is over. What you need now is a strong hierarchically structure that supports the project team in their decisions on the business process. Identify key decision makers who can make a ruling and move on. If each project stage is debated or amended, costs and timelines can spiral out of control. Don’t do it.
- Start the project with excitement, and close it with rewards. Whether it’s a morning tea shout, or days off in recognition for the extra hours the team put in, make sure everyone is involved and thanked for their efforts.
So, we’re agreed. It’s is never a good time to choose and implement a new system, but that isn’t the issue.
We need new systems because we outgrow our old ones, they become outdated, or they no longer support our business objectives. They have to be replaced. Yes, putting in a new system will impact on the business. But we can be realistic, and approach it in the right way. Having an outstanding Professional Services Partner is the best guarantee of success. Choose one who takes the time to get to know you, really gets you, plans perfectly, and gets it right – for you.
If you’re thinking ERP, then call or email me to catch up for a coffee and some timely advice.
Lisa Nicks – ERP Sales Manager
+64 21 893 423