Insights & Ideas

Avoiding an ERP apocalypse

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The truths about implementing an ERP system.

Maybe you’ve been here before: You’re on the verge of an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning system) implementation. A big-name integrator hands you a work plan for the next two years and you realize that even an army of integrators needs a lot of support. Implementing an ERP requires full commitment, and executing the work plan will tax your team even further. You know that a poorly executed implementation can bring an organization to a standstill. The pressure to make this critical investment successful can be overwhelming.

Here are some truths to consider as you begin your journey:

1. The integrator can’t do it all.

Implementations require business resources that have specific knowledge and skills. Business needs must be translated into system requirements and vice versa – unless your people have been deeply involved in other implementations, creating business user requirements and clear design plans for the integrators won’t come easily.

2. A successful design depends on understanding the current state.

Making sure you have a clear understanding of the current state is essential in guarding against an important process step being overlooked. Discovering a disconnect in a live system can cause churn and pain, all of which can be avoided by asking the right questions — who is doing what, when, where?

3. The solution is only as good as the design.

For each process — Record to Report, Procure to Pay, Merchandise Management, Supply Chain Management, etc. — specific knowledge and functional
experience make the difference between having a solution that doesn’t work and having one that fits your needs.

The integrator will be focused on the primary processes the technology supports—the 80% solution. But your team still has to perform 100% of the processes. Make sure you include design exception processes to work with new systems and data.

4. Data rules.

Don’t skimp on data management – its purpose is to develop a common business process for maintaining a single master file, thereby improving data quality, reducing the risk of fraud and errors, and eliminating legacy costs for errors and maintenance.

5. Testing isn’t just a “1,2,3….”

An ERP implementation will touch every site and every product line. Significant business issues arise even though the system itself is working. Testing encompasses business rules, user interface, data conversion, processes, and vendor interface.

Your “go live” is often just the beginning. To get the true value from the ERP, don’t be tempted to stop with “go live.” Long after your launch party has finished, you’ll be continuing to:

  • Optimize processes, identify performance indicators, and give users the management reports to monitor and understand them.
  • Provide the right tools without burying users in reports and metrics.
  • Create and train dedicated resources, with expertise in business processes and performance improvement.

Where to start

Take a realistic assessment of your organization’s capabilities and find the right partners.

Supporting an implementation isn’t just a matter of freeing up resources but also expecting resources to wear different hats. You don’t need bodies to backfill personnel; you need resources with specific skills to fill niche roles within your team.


interim human resources director
interim human resources director

Karen Appleby

Karen Appleby and the Salo team partner with clients to solve complex financial and business challenges.

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