An ERP implementation is a major step for any company to take. Working out just how long it will take can be difficult; if you’re not realistic, you run the risk of the project coming in late, and that usually means over budget too.
You have to balance the scope of the project and the time it will need to be implemented. If you take too long installing a new system, you could lose competitive advantage as you won’t be running your business efficiently. By trying to shoe-horn a system in too quickly, you might not achieve everything you’d hoped from the new software.
Never believe what ERP salesmen tell you. They are born optimists and have a vested interest in making the implementation process seem painless. Even if you use preconfigured systems for your industry, you’ll have to ensure your processes fit the template, and make any changes that are needed; that all takes time.
The best way to estimate a realistic time frame is to benchmark to similar firms businesses that are the same size and roughly of the same complexity as your business, in the same sector. Don’t put your entire reliance on a single case study; get at least three or four examples and look at them in some detail.
As a guideline, you might want to consider the data from consultant Panorama’s 2016 ERP Report. Panorama says that the average ERP project takes 21 months-that’s nearly two years. True, that includes major corporations with highly complex supply chains, but even a medium-sized company will probably take 12 to 15 months. Only nimble, well-organised and simple small businesses can put their ERP in place within a three-to six-month time frame; if you’re not that business, be realistic!
It’s clear that some businesses are not being realistic. Panorama says that 57 percent of ERP projects are delivered late.
Points you’ll want to consider include:
How complex is your supply chain? Will suppliers or customers need access to your ERP system, or provide inputs to it?
How standardised are your processes? How good is your documentation of those processes? Analysing and improving business processes takes time, and needs to be done before you start implementing ERP software.
Will you need data conversion services? Is your data clean, or do you need to build in time for cleansing your databases?
How good is your ability to manage organisational change? Have you had recent success in business development or corporate change programmes, or will you have to build up your company’s expertise and experience?
Are there any bottlenecks in terms of hardware requirements? This is less the case if you’re going to choose a cloud implementation, but even then, you may need to improve your networks and upgrade desktops.
Be realistic about the need for training. Two hours for everyone isn’t enough. Training needs to be delivered across the workforce, with specialised training on topics such as business reporting. Don’t squeeze training in at the last moment; build it into the project plan from the start.
Make sure you have enough time allotted for pilot runs of the system before you go live. Going live before a system’s ready can wreck a business.
It’s easy to be fooled by salesmen who claim you can install a system in a few months. Any system that takes so little time to install is not going to deliver much more than automating a few paper processes. If you want to use ERP to its frill capability, to transform your business and its ability to compete, you need to give the project the time it needs and be realistic from the start.