Many companies underestimate the effort required for successful ERP implementations. An ERP implementation is not simply an advancement of technology or a change to a new, trending system. It’s also an opportunity to re-engineer accounting processes, procedures and controls. It’s a chance to transform the ways accounting and finance professionals work on a day-to-day basis.
The tips below are based on my experience in leading ERP implementations. Whether you’re looking ahead to a future implementation or in the middle of a project, I hope they offer valuable insight.
1. Select a third-party project management professional to lead the ERP implementation.
Choose a professional who has deep Finance and Accounting expertise as well as a proven ability to successfully project manage complex ERP implementations. Engage this resource as early as possible, so s/he can lead the effort to search for and select your new ERP system and represent your company in the negotiation of the contract with the solution provider or Value Added Reseller (VAR). Utilizing a third-party ERP system implementation project management expert to lead the full-time effort to search, select, negotiate and implement your new ERP system leaves staff to focus on their regular roles and responsibilities. It also increases your company’s chances for a successful implementation.
Learn a little more about why a third-party PM is a good idea for an ERP implementation:
2. Refer to the Business Requirements Document continually throughout the ERP implementation.
This document succinctly describes the specific requirements of the new ERP system. It is initiated during the Search and Selection process by a deep dive into all Accounting and Finance departments’ as-is functions, processes, policies and procedures. Peripheral systems, company goals and department objectives (e.g., automating and improving workflow and controls) are typically reviewed and prioritized by a selection committee. The committee then ultimately creates the list of requirements to present to potential solution providers to assess their ability to fulfill each requirement.
The final business requirements are contractually agreed to by the company and solution provider for the selected ERP system. They also form the foundation of the Implementation Project Workplan.
Continual reference to the Business Requirements Document throughout the implementation is essential to ensuring the provider successfully delivers an ERP system that satisfies all contractually agreed-upon requirements.
3. Select an ERP implementation team featuring representatives from each impacted department.
It’s best to set expectations early in terms of time commitments, deadlines and deliverables. You’d also be smart to provide routine updates on progress and changes. This communication will improve your ability to obtain their early buy-in and support of the project.
4. Engage the departments that manage data sources as early as possible.
Your ERP implementation team should include leadership representation from any functional area with external systems providing or receiving data from your ERP system. Be sure to include subject matter experts for the other systems which will be integrated with the ERP system. It’s also imperative to keep the team engaged throughout the implementation process.
5. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating the effort to manage data.
Specifically, it’s important to focus on data clean-up, transformation and remapping of data fields from the old system to the new system. This will help ensure that legacy data migration does not become the bottleneck and cause project delays. Make sure you involve the appropriate subject matter experts in this effort.
6. Take time early in the ERP implementation to scope reporting requirements.
Leverage out-of-box reports to the fullest extent possible and set a plan for creating custom reports either by the ERP system or an external report generator. Make sure you involve representatives of the report audience in the report design and reporting logistics and obtain their final sign-off before go-live.
Learn more about selecting a financial system for revenue management (and ASC 606) in our free whitepaper:
7. Compile use cases that represent each transaction scenario of your business.
This will help for testing. It is acceptable for a company to select a small sample of use cases to evaluate potential ERP system solution providers during the Search and Selection Phase. However, it is essential to include as many use case scenarios as possible in the System Test Phase of implementation. Make sure all use cases that fail initial testing are tested after modifications, and repeat this cycle until all use cases pass the test. There may be some use cases the system is just not capable of handling, but this should be a very small percentage. Have a plan to identify when these non-standard cases occur and how these exceptions will be handled when you go live.
8. Allow ample time for modifications.
In particular, you should allot time between system testing and user acceptance testing (UAT) and between UAT and go-live. This is where a lot of project schedules start to slip – because the project plan assumed everything would go according to plan. Expect the unexpected, set realistic expectations and build cushion into the timing between these two critical stages for reconfiguration and modifications.
9. Create a Change Management Plan.
The impact of any system implementation on the lives of your workforce will be huge. Have a structured and clearly communicated Change Management Plan that addresses legacy data migration, testing, user training, Day 1 go-live activities as well as the process changes resulting from the implementation.
Schedule routine meetings throughout the implementation with representatives of each end-user group to review the timeline of changes and plan for transition to the new system. Begin process design effort early and involve subject matter experts and end-users in the process. Thoroughly document each process with workflow diagrams as well as desktop procedures. Have this documentation in final form and available before you begin Administrator and End-user training.
10. Meet routinely with the ERP implementation team, stakeholders and C-level sponsors.
Schedule a daily meeting with the ERP implementation team – 15-20 minutes maximum – and focus on any roadblocks that may put milestones and deliverables at risk and cause project delays. This is not a time to discuss everyone’s progress; it should be tactical and focus on problem solving. The PM should keep the stakeholders and C-level sponsors apprised of progress, changes, updates and upcoming milestones. This can be done through email and/or an in-person meeting or conference call.
Additionally, meet routinely with the VAR and solution provider Project Lead. Focus on the Project Plan and identify tasks or activities which could be delayed and strategize to keep the project on schedule. Also, review project expenses and discuss variances to plan-to date. Refer to the Business Requirements Document as needed, particularly if there is an indication of “scope creep.” Schedule several meetings per week at the beginning and the end of the implementation and one meeting per week for the in-between period.
If you have any questions about third-party ERP implementation project management support, then contact 8020 Consulting to learn more. We have 90+ finance and accounting consultants ready to deploy to offer interim financial and project execution support.
If you’re interested in learning more about system selection and implementation, you can also download our new whitepaper:
About the Author
Dan has 20+ years of global finance and accounting experience across multiple industries. As an Accenture alumnus, he has over 14,000 hours of project management experience in the areas of Business Process Development and Re-engineering, Systems Integration, FP&A as well as M&A due diligence and post-acquisition integration. Throughout his career, Dan has created finance and accounting processes, implemented financial systems and built top notch finance and accounting teams for several business start-ups and acquisitions worldwide including Avanade, a joint venture with Accenture and Microsoft where he also served as VP of Finance for the Americas and Asia Pacific. Prior to joining 8020 Consulting, he was VP of Finance and Continuous Improvement for the 2nd largest wine company in the world. Dan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Texas Tech University, a Masters of Commerce degree from the Burgundy School of Business in Dijon, France and an MBA in Finance from Loyola University of Chicago.