If you are considering implementing an ERP into your business, it is important to conduct a thorough assessment as a first step.

Looking at the value of the assessment phase can be reverse engineered: I want a successful Go-Live, to get there I need a plan, to create the plan, I need information, to get information I have to ask questions, to ask questions, I need to go through the assessment. 

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In simple terms, the goal of the assessment is to de-risk the project. Like anything else, evaluating the situation before diving in is key to avoiding pitfalls and ultimately - project failure.

As we’ve heard before, “failure to prepare is preparing to fail”.

Why is an ERP Assessment important?

First, it’s important to understand the reasons why Assessments are performed prior to an implementation. 

Common occurrences in most failed ERP implementation projects are:  

  1. Improper understanding of business goals
  2. Overly ambitious timelines
  3. Lack of sponsorship / stakeholder engagement
  4. Sub-systems / applications not taken into account
  5. Underestimated Integration effort

Therefore, performing an effective Assessment  will help alleviate points 1,4 & 5 effectively from the start. 

How to have a successful Assessment

An important clarification worth noting upfront is that most common ERP implementations in today’s world are with Commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) Cloud Solutions, which means they come with a range of features and functionality that already address most of the core business processes and common requirements. Some vendor solutions, such as Oracle NetSuite, even have industry specific editions which further address more industry specific needs. 

The overall goal of the Assessment is to capture enough high-level requirements to de-risk the project, identify gaps that are not addressed by the native functionality, and prepare an implementation plan accordingly. Detailed requirements discussions will be postponed to the walkthrough sessions that are performed during the Implementation phase, ensuring you are first exposed to the native functionality of the platform. 

Trying to blueprint too early typically leads to unnecessary scope (cost) bloat and customization.
Here are some of the areas/topics that are discussed during Assessment Sessions: 

  • Top 3 Business Goals
  • Company Structure
  • Employees and roles
  • Products and Services
  • Procure to Pay
  • Order to Cash
  • Inventory Management 
  • Accounting and Finance

The implementation partner should take the time to thoroughly understand the client’s business processes, industry, business goals and any challenges you are facing. Clearly define roles, responsibilities and expectations for both the implementation partner and the client. Active listening also plays an integral role during an assessment. 

The implementation partner should listen to the client’s objectives, concerns and requirements. Use “Best Practice” when trying to guide the client in the assessment process. The implementation partner can share lessons learned from other implementation projects in order to provide context and perspective.

During an assessment it is important to ask as many questions as possible in order to discover what you are missing and also make sure to discuss areas of complexity which can lead to uncovering risks and identifying gaps. Questions not only focus on systems and technology, but also consider people, process, and organization impacts. 

Some of these questions may include:

  • Discussing project requirements and constraints such as timeline, budget, resources
  • Reviewing current organization processes and systems in order to identify pain points, inefficiencies and areas of improvement. 
  • Ensuring to identify key requirements your company needs from the implementation of the new system. Consider factors such as scalability, integration capabilities, industry-specific features, etc.
  • Performing a gap analysis can also help detect differences between existing processes and the advantageous capabilities offered by the system being implemented. 
  • Identifying potential risks and challenges ahead of the implementation. Things such as data migration issues, integration complexities and/or any change management within your company. This step can help develop mitigation strategies in order to tackle these risks proactively.

Key Milestones in the Assessment Journey

Below are four key milestones the Implementation Partner should complete when conducting an ERP Assessment.  

Assessment Preparation

This initial phase lays the groundwork for subsequent sessions. Coordinating roles, responsibilities, and expectations is paramount. Additionally, collating essential documentation, such as existing process diagrams and strategic business goals, streamlines the assessment process.

Assessment Sessions

Structured sessions, led by seasoned consultants, form the crux of the assessment process. From lead consultants spearheading discussions to project managers evaluating potential risks, each role plays a pivotal part. On the client side, assembling a dedicated team, comprising project sponsors, leads, and SMEs, ensures a holistic understanding of business processes.

Project Documentation

Thorough documentation is the linchpin of a successful assessment. From project plans to business requirement documents to process diagrams, meticulous documentation ensures alignment between stakeholders and mitigates scope creep.

Project Management

Establishing a robust project management framework is indispensable. Agreeing upon a budget and maintaining transparent communication channels fosters accountability and keeps stakeholders abreast of project progress.

Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Lastly, here are a couple of key lessons learned that should be considered when undertaking assessments: 

Aligning Scope with Budget

Prioritizing assessment scope in alignment with budget constraints is imperative, ensuring resources are allocated judiciously.

Managing Expectations

Proactively addressing discrepancies between planned objectives and client expectations averts potential pitfalls, fostering a collaborative environment.

Prioritizing Documentation

Acknowledging that documentation invariably consumes more time than anticipated underscores the importance of meticulous planning and prioritization.

Embarking on an ERP Assessment necessitates a blend of strategic foresight, meticulous planning, and unwavering commitment. By adhering to best practices and leveraging lessons learned, organizations can navigate the assessment journey with confidence, laying a robust foundation for ERP implementation success.

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