Republished with kind permission of The Manufacturer.
For many years there has been a misconception that one of the most difficult and problematic IT upgrades is the implementation of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. While most people are aware of the benefits of ERP software in terms of increasing productivity and efficiency, some MDs and IT directors have been wary of it due to a false impression that ERP implementation can be tricky to get right.
It looks like that could all be set to change. According to Hennik Research’s Annual Manufacturing Report (AMR)2016, many manufacturers are ready to grasp the opportunities ERP software offers. A quarter of those surveyed said investing in ERP was their main focus for IT in 2016, making it this year’s top IT priority for the sector. It’s easy to see why. Access to more robust business information alongside better operational planning gives manufacturers much greater control of their business and delivers more efficient ways of working.
It’s not about working harder to gain a competitive edge, but working smarter.
The stats in the AMR 2016 speak volumes about the benefits of investing in technology. 98% of respondents said IT investment had delivered increased productivity. 89% revealed their competitiveness/efficiency had strengthened and 80% said it improved profitability. But how do you make sure your investment in ERP delivers what you need with minimum disruption?
At Azzure IT we have more than 100 years’ experience of ERP delivery to manufacturers. We’ve seen first-hand what causes an ERP system implementation to go wrong, or indeed, right. Here are my top tips for making sure your investment is stress-free and delivers a superb return:
1. Start with the scope
It sounds obvious but get this wrong and a simple process can quickly become anything but. Get to grips with your core business requirements and what functionality you need will pay dividends later on. The clearer you are about exactly what you need from the new system, the more likely you are to have a positive experience. Realising half way through the process that you need the software to handle another operation you haven’t scoped out is likely to cause unnecessary difficulties. The more specific you can be, the better equipped vendors are to provide you with the right solution.
As with all successful projects, good communication is critical. Explain your objectives to your ERP partner clearly and honestly. Highlight any issues and barriers you might need to overcome. Be clear about your expectations. Let vendors know about your business plans. If you’re expecting to introduce a new process or product, or looking at targeting new markets overseas, make sure you’ve got a system that can adapt with you. Investment in ERP should be about future-proofing the business.
3. Embrace the change
Change is never easy but your new ERP system doesn’t have to become a battlefront. Involve key team members in the process and canvass their thoughts early on so they can appreciate the new system is about making their lives easier and not forcing them to do things differently. Make sure your vendor offers a comprehensive support package and plenty of training. Simply making sure staff fully understand how to use the new software and feel supported in doing so can make achieving that all important buy-in more straightforward.
4. Choose your partner wisely
Don’t be too hasty when picking a supplier. The best implementations happen when customers and ERP vendors work together as partners from the offset. You should choose someone who you can work well with, who takes the time to really get to know you and understand your requirements and ultimately, who you feel you can trust. Do your homework by asking for testimonials and speak to some of the vendor’s customers. A legitimate software provider should have a directory of happy customers ready to sing their praises.
5. Fit is everything
Finally, ask whether both the ERP software and the provider you’ve chosen fits with your business. If you need to make huge changes to the way your business operates in order to fit with the new software, you don’t have the right solution. Go back a step and look at alternatives. Similarly, think carefully before you commit to a provider. Do they have experience in your sector? Have they worked with similar sized businesses or those facing similar issues? Do they fit with your business culture? Get the fit right and you will be on the right track to a straightforward system implementation and quickly enjoying the benefits ERP software offers manufacturers.