10 Critical Factors for a Successful ERP Implementation

Discover the top 10 essential factors crucial for a successful ERP implementation at your organization, with Velosio's experts.

Table of Content

    We’ve said it many times before: every ERP implementation is unique.  

    “Success” can mean very different things to different organizations – even if we’re talking about two companies with the exact same demographics. 

    With that in mind, here are ten critical factors that can help you set the stage for a successful ERP implementation. 

    1. Clear, Measurable Objectives

    The first step to a successful ERP implementation is defining clear, measurable objectives for your project. This process entails defining ERP outcomes and expectations re: budgets, timelines, and employee involvement. 

    Here, you’ll want to make sure you can answer the following questions before getting started:

    • What are the main objectives and benefits that you expect from the system? 
    • What are the key features and functions that you need? 
    • How will you measure the success of the project? 
    • Etc.

    Without clear goals, you’ll likely end up with an ERP that’s poorly-suited to your org’s actual needs. Long-term, that bad-fit ERP will make it much harder to achieve your goals (assuming you get around to defining them). Or, worse, they sabotage your goals outright. 

    We don’t have time to get into everything that could go wrong. Our point is, you need to establish a clear vision and direction for your project before anything else can happen.

    2. Support from Top Leadership

    Look, there should always be someone in the C-suite managing all ERP strategies on a holistic level. But, ERP implementations are uniquely complex and challenging. As such, you’ll need strong leadership in the mix to get everyone aligned and on-board.

    Executive leaders set the strategic direction for the organization. However, it’s the ERP that empowers employees to execute on their vision. It’s on top leadership to ensure that all projects stay aligned with broader organizational objectives. 

    Sponsors provide leadership and guidance to the entire team. They play a key role in defining ERP goals, identifying metrics for success, and designing a roadmap for delivering the right outcomes.  They also gather requirements, coordinate with stakeholders, evaluate different ERP options, and communicate with implementation partners.

    Without executive sponsorship you can’t exactly reallocate IT resources to fund your project. Nor can you mandate that your colleagues in other departments hop on board with the big change.

    When the C-suite’s on board, it’s much easier to get resources you need to support the project from start to finish. And –coordinating across departmental lines tends to be much more successful. 

    3. A Strong Project Team

    A strong ERP team is essential for any successful implementation. ERP implementations are complex projects. You’ll need to make sure that you have a team in place with the right mix of technical and business skills. 

    The cross-functional team guides the project from start to finish. Prospective members must have the skills and domain-specific knowledge needed to ensure the ERP meets all organizational, team, and individual goals.

    ERP implementation teams include stakeholders from different the departments within your organization, plus any external vendors, partners, or experts there to support the implementation process.

    For the project to be successful, you need access to employees with the right skills and domain expertise. These include SMEs, senior employees, and external experts with specialized knowledge about the ERP technology you’re implementing and/or your industry.

    Placing inexperienced employees in key project roles or overbooking skilled resources will lead to major challenges.

    Something else to consider: the individuals who stand to gain the most from the new technology will be the most invested in the project’s success. Throughout the implementation, this group will be eager to test the new system and start reaping the benefits that were promised. 

    4. Effective Project Management

    ERP implementations are complex jobs. They involve several phases: discovery, planning, design, development, migration, training, testing, deployment. And, that’s just the pre-launch stage. Each phase comes with a whole host of critical tasks and requires the coordinated efforts of a cross-functional team to carry them out.

    With all those moving pieces, you need a system for keeping everything together. Project management is crucial for ensuring that your brand-new ERP is delivered on-time, on-budget, within scope, and as-promised.

    While PM strategies look different for every organization, they generally focus on a few key elements:

    • Resource allocation. Assigning the right people to the right jobs, funneling IT funds to high-impact areas, and getting the most from existing resources.
    • Organizational alignment. Maintaining alignment between stakeholder groups, business objectives, and ERP goals to ensure the project delivers the desired outcomes.
    • Project communications. Facilitating communication between stakeholders.
    • Budgeting & timelines. Ensuring that everyone meets deadlines, sticks to the budget, and continues to move in the right direction.
      Risk management. Identifying and mitigating risks throughout the entire 

    5. User Training

    End-user training and engagement are crucial for successful E

     

    RP implementation. After all, users must be both comfortable and proficient in the new system to achieve the outcomes outlined in your roadmap.

    ERP training must go beyond ensuring that everyone has been properly trained to use the tools that were available pre-go-live.

    With a cloud ERP, new features launch every day. You’ll need to keep up with these releases to determine which ones are relevant to end-users. You can use vendor-provided materials to create short tutorials or knowledge base content that put the new capabilities in context for users. It’s fairly straightforward, but it’s an ongoing responsibility that you need to stay on top of.

    The bigger challenge is dealing with constant disruption in a meaningful way. Orgs need a reliable system for keeping everyone’s skills up-to-date, when rapidly-evolving tech like AI, ML, low-code. and the IoT keeps changing the game.

     

    6. Data Quality

    Data quality is literally the foundation for your entire system’s functionality, so until you get things right on the data management front, successful ERP implementation isn’t happening.

    Ensuring data quality is a major undertaking on its own. This process entails identifying, cleaning, and verifying data, removing duplicates, filling data gaps, and merging data sources before migrating to the new system.

    From there, you’ll need to design data flows that support ERP goals. You’ll also need to implement strong data governance practices and security protections that preserve data quality and integrity long-term.

    Before the go-live, you’ll need to test new data and new data policies thoroughly. 

    7. Change Management

    Change is hard for people. It’s important that you do everything you can to make the transition to the new system as painless as possible.

    An ERP implementation represents something much greater than switching to a new platform. It’s a massive culture shock.

    These initiatives usually mean redesigning core processes and overhauling org charts. That means, employees must adopt new habits and get comfortable with new collaboration methods.

    The employee re-learning process often happens out in the open. This makes people feel vulnerable, and, thus, more resistant to change.

    To overcome change-related roadblocks, leaders must focus on securing buy-in from stakeholders, communicating the benefits of the new ERP, and enlisting the aid of change champions to motivate peers on the ground.

    8. Rock Solid Budgeting Practices

    Budget management is huge for ERP implementations.

    ERP implementations are complex and costly. You’ll need to think about software licensing, storage requirements, hardware, and the costs associated with retiring and replacing legacy systems and processes. You’ll also need to account for training, data migration, consulting fees, implementation services, and long-term support and maintenance.

    If you run out of cash before you’re able to finish the project, it could put your business in a tight spot.

    Budget management keeps implementations on track and prevents cost overruns and unexpected expenses from tanking the project by:

    • Monitoring & controlling expenses.
    • Allocating resources to priority areas.
    • Tracking spending against planned budgets.
    • Coordinating spending with the implementation team.
    • Making adjustments to the budget to minimize risk of overspending.

    9. Commitment to Continuous Improvement

    Making it through the implementation unscathed is a big accomplishment, but your work is far from done.  The implementation process is about building a foundation. 

    Lasting success comes from an unwavering commitment to improvement. Think: evaluate, ideate, execute, repeat — on loop, forever.

    With each cycle, you’re moving closer to strategic goals. But, you’re always monitoring ERP performance and using new insights to tweak the strategy every step of the way.

    As an example, when painting services provider CertaPro first approached us, they knew what they wanted from their new ERP. The client had several goals for their project: increasing staff capacity, managing compliance requirements, and using predictive insights to forecast cash flow and resource demands.

    Before they could pursue those goals, CertaPro needed to implement a system capable of supporting them. Velosio experts helped them build an integrated ERP on D365 Business Central that addressed the fragmentation and visibility issues holding them back. 

    We also used our Dynamics BC Express Implementation solution, which uses pre-built templates and best practices to accelerate deployment, reduce complexity, and ensure predictable costs. Power Automate enabled automated load movement between apps. We also set up simple workflows that helped the company improve efficiency. 

    Once CertaPro was settled in the cloud, data captured from those initial automations allowed them to start building toward the capabilities they initially had in mind. Enhanced visibility gave them the insights they needed to increase capacity. Automation, and later, increased capacity, gave the company more time for financial planning and analysis. 

    This is just one example, but the same idea applies across the board. ERP data allows you to build toward increasingly advanced capabilities. But, it’s important to stay focused and take things one phase at a time. 

    10. Partners that Really “Get it” 

    Even if you’ve been down this road before, your next implementation is bound to bring new challenges you may never see coming.

    Working with the right experts is one of the best ways to get ahead of those challenges — as well as unlock value from unexpected sources. 

    For example, ERP consultants can help you put together an ERP strategy that cuts down implementation timelines and maximizes the impact of the resources you already have.

    Implementation partners tackle things from a technical perspective. They’ll work with your team to understand requirements and help them design and implement processes that get the right results. 

    ERP implementation partners can also help you fill critical skills gaps — in both the short and long term. For example, an ERP partner can lead an inexperienced IT team through the transition, develop a training program for bringing junior employees up to speed, and help C-suite leaders hire and retain more experienced talent. 

    That said, it’s important to find partners that understand your vision and what it takes to make it a reality. 

    For starters, you’ll need to find a partner with in-depth knowledge of your chosen ERP system (i.e., different partners work with different tech. Velosio, for example, works with Microsoft and NetSuite products. If you’re working with SAP, Salesforce, Acumatica, or whatever else, you’ll need to find a partner that specializes in those specific tools.)

    You’ll also need to look for companies that have a proven track record within your industry/niche/target market. It’s not just about finding a partner that works within the D365, NetSuite, or SAP ecosystem. You’ll also want to look for partners that use those specific technologies to help companies just like yours. 

    Just within the Microsoft partner network, you’ll find many partners using the same tech to support very different use cases. Velosio specializes in solutions for project-driven SMBs, small distributors, field teams, and companies in the agribusiness  and medical device spaces. Other MS partners work with construction firms, energy providers, non-profits, retailers, and more. 

    The point is, it’s not just about finding a partner that knows the tech. It’s about finding a partner who knows how to use the tech to get results in a specific context. 

    For more info, check out these eight tips for choosing the right software partner

    Final Thoughts

    Let’s be real: because ERP success hinges on your ability to define and deliver on your org’s one-of-a-kind expectations, there’s a lot you’ll have to figure out on your own. 

    Including these ten elements in your strategy can help make this challenging journey a bit easier. But, your best bet is working with an implementation partner that’s been through it many times before. 

    With more than three decades in the game, Velosio knows what it takes to “win” your next big ERP implementation – and ensure your system delivers high-impact returns throughout its entire lifecycle. Contact us today to learn more about our process, services, and ERP solutions.