How to Effectively Plan for ERP Implementation Success

This guest post was written by ERP Focus.

Aside from developing a useful set of selection tasks regarding the purchase of an ERP system for retail or wholesale, the launch of a new system typically offers a daunting challenge when it comes to enterprise-scale integration.

As one might expect, this ‘last mile’ along a company’s critical path is typically strewn with potholes, ranging from cerebral issues like planning effective ways to ensure that a workforce buys a new system, to more utilitarian concerns like effectively integrating legacy apps within a nextgen platform.

Consequently, in the same way that solid requirements offer enterprise-wide values up-stream, a formal ERP implementation plan delivers similar levels of enhancement down-stream. To give you a sense of what a general plan looks like, here’s a pro forma framework from ERP Focus.

Note that while this document breaks the overall implementation into seven discrete focus areas, it is largely driven by elements based on ‘what’ will be needed, versus ‘how’ a successful result can be executed at a practical level.

This second part involves granular investigation into who does what, what individual tasks are necessary to get the job done the first time, and most importantly, getting the whole show on the road on, or under, budget. Nevertheless, it is always a good rule to start at the top and drill down, which is exactly what the document is intended to do.

However, just to close the practical knowledge loop, here is a comprehensive implementation plan provided by the State of Texas prior to launching its 2008 ERP effort. Again, pay particular attention to both levels of applied detail, since to paraphrase the old saying; ‘the Devil’s in the detail, but particularly when an ERP implementation is involved’.   

Importance of implementation planning during your project

In the past, retail segment ERP platforms were largely seen to be back-office oriented, essentially providing value in terms of scalable data management and record storage. At the front-office level, however, operational capabilities were typically thin and generally limited to user interface elements that supported the serial consumption of data records, rather than the manipulation of masses of records that could create even more meaningful information at the reporting level.   

However, at the turn of the century, ERP providers began to directly integrate and enhance back-office utility with more robust front-office processes, largely driven by the emergence of mobile device adoption. Suddenly, not only was the mobile user able to access what was already stored in ERP-driven databases, but also push new field-based records into these systems, consolidate new data with old, then create and deliver even more meaningful information-driven products globally, and on-demand.

At the same time, these new process capabilities naturally pushed users to demand more focus on comprehensive planning as an intrinsic operational component, and particularly in the case of implementation, as a critical success driver.   

Why implementation failures happen

While this mobility/data confluence spawned the era of what we now refer to as ‘Big Data’, it also began to make ERP operations much more complex than before. While in the past resources-based systems were generally accepted as being complex, nextgen systems became even more complicated, and as a result, implementation failures began to increase as they rolled-out.

Here are three of the biggest reasons why.

1. Misunderstood operational expectations - To be sure, ERP platforms are useful tools, but they’re also exceedingly complex beasts to master. Many managers expect that simply integrating a resources-based platform will surely serve as a solution for a host of problems. Experience shows that this belief is clearly untrue. So if your retail operation is considering an ERP purchase, make sure that your plan properly articulates why the business is doing it for the right reasons, based on identifying and fixing one or more things that will make a finite difference.  

2. Poor business impact planning – In support of item #1, ERP platforms tend to subsume everything they touch. This means operations, processes, policies, business rules and everything else. Consequently, when you’re developing an implementation plan, ensure that you’re identifying everything you see, and most of what you don’t.   

3. Unreasonable cost projections - There is no getting around the enormous cost of a traditional ERP purchase. As suggested earlier, these systems touch everything within a given enterprise’s infrastructure, so the more moving parts that are involved, the higher the costs will go. Consequently, if your retail operations fancy an ERP integration, ensure that you first project your costs accurately, then based on practical experience, add at least 50% to the bottom line just to give yourself some wiggle room when the rains come.  

Nevertheless, in the aggregate, note that both the ‘Big 3’ and ERP Focus bullet points suggest that the majority of these boggles are largely derived by failures of preparation and planning resulting in errors in knowledge, rather than technical flaws.        

Conclusion

Obviously, every retail enterprise harbors its own set of structural and/or operational challenges, and proper planning for an ERP implementation is equally subjective. However, if you spend some time considering the issue while doing proper due diligence, the right resolution leading to ERP implementation success will emerge in due time.


Additional comments from Brightpearl:

At Brightpearl, we believe that your implementation journey should be free from issues and challenges, providing you have the right planning in place, as well as the right team to help you.

To ensure success for anyone implementing and using our back office software, our experienced retail and wholesale consultants oversee every single Brightpearl implementation project.

From guiding you through each step of the process, to conducting thorough and easy-to-follow training, to giving you ample time for User Acceptance Testing (UAT), you’ll be well looked after and kept on track with a much faster implementation time than traditional ERP systems.

In fact, most of our clients get live with the system within just 90 days on average; with some taking even less time than that:

"With Brightpearl’s support, we got set up in just 24 days; automating several time-consuming processes and putting all of our orders and inventory in one place. With Brightpearl up and running, we spend far less time on admin and have more flexibility with our resources." - Kasia Konwinska, Arthauss Furniture

You can find out more about Arthauss Furniture’s implementation journey in this blog post.

For any other questions regarding our services and how they can help you with your success in implementing Brightpearl, just give us a call!

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About the Author

Rick Carlton, dba PRRACEwire, is a regular columnist for ERP Focus and has worked as a tech journalist, writer, researcher, editor and publisher for many years. In addition to his editorial work, Rick has also served as a C-Level executive/consultant for a wide-range of private and public sector U.S. and International companies.