So, you think you are ready to finally do it? You think you are ready to climb the Mt. Everest of tasks, implementing a new ERP Software. As a CFO, I’ve been in your shoes, standing at the base of the mountain not wanting to make the climb; take a breath, it’s not that bad. With the steps I am going to lay out for you, you will feel strong and confident in making this journey.
1. Why Are You Making The Switch?
This step seems very obvious, but this is where most companies go wrong. They try to fit a square peg into a round hole and end up getting persuaded by fancy dashboards they will never use or get so worried about the cost of the product and don’t end up with the correct solution. Be methodical in your thought process with this. What is causing you to want to make this switch? Is it growth of the company, the need to work remotely, is your current solution slow and outdated, etc. All the questions need to be handled with care, and the answers need to be well thought out before moving on to step number 2.
2. Search For A Few Solutions
Be sure to put the work in this step. There are most likely four or five good solutions in your particular industry that will fit what you need. You need to do research on each solution to find out what product is not only the best fit for you now, but for what will ultimately be the best fit for the future. It is my suggestion to narrow your choices down to three.
3. Scheduling A Demo
Now that you have your three choices it is time to see what each one can do for you. But, before you do that, you need to tell each ERP product you are demoing a little bit about your company. I suggest creating an “About Us” document. This document should highlight what your company does (industry, niche, revenue, headcount, etc.) and also talk about the issues you want to solve with this new ERP system. This is an important document because it tells the ERP company about you in advance of the presentation. When your prospective ERP partner is pitching, I have a few suggestions for you to follow:
1. It is important to keep the viewing group to very select set of people. You want your questions to be heard and to be able to drill down to the main issues you are wanting fixed. Too many chefs in the kitchen can often derail the conversation to a minute issue that doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things.
2. Have the same group of people attend each demo. You want everyone to see all of the options so they can accurately compare and contrast.
3. Focus less on cost and more about functionality and fit.
4. Think big picture, you might not need certain functions today or even in a couple of years, but you will need them in 3-5 years.
5. Let the demo expert do their job. Too many times I see a CFO or Controller try to control the demonstration and you end up not getting the full demo experience that the company has developed.
After you have properly sat through all the demonstrations and asked what you think are all the right questions, it’s time to make a selection. I can’t stress this enough; this step cannot only be about cost. You don’t want to be going through this process every 3 years. You want to choose the product that fits your company’s needs for the now, and most importantly for the future. There are different ways to do this step, I’ve seen the good ole’ pros and cons chart, I’ve seen owners say they “just knew” and I’ve even heard owners say they are in love with the dashboards (I don’t recommend this reasoning.)
Personally, this is my favorite step, but this is by far the most taxing step on your team. There is something beautiful about taking all of the information of a company and rolling it up into a brand-new ERP system.
You will have a third-party implementation specialist that will help you along the road. Be sure to select someone who fits your management style and will get along with your team. There will be a lot of late nights, one off phone calls, panicking e-mails, etc. so you want a good fit for you and the team.
Treat this implementation like a construction project, create a budget and a completion date. Be sure to set milestones; this gives the team something to shoot for and creates small victories to celebrate along the way. Do everything in your power to meet your deadlines and milestones. Once you start making exceptions on deadlines, you are jeopardizing the entire schedule of the implementation.
Push your team, but always be sure they know the end game. As a leader, you obviously know how important what your doing is, they also need to realize that so they stay bought in through the entire process.
There will be lots and lots of data that needs to be brought over from the legacy system into the new one. Utilize any integration tools that are available. There are several excel add-ons that will make your life much easier as you can quickly export and import data into your new system.
6. Enjoy The Success
Celebrate this victory with the team. What you’ve just put everyone through is both physically and mentally draining. You’ve asked them to work longer hours, more weekends and spend more time at work and less time with their families. Make sure your team knows how much you appreciate them; after all, you most certainly couldn’t have climbed this mountain on your own.