ERP Implementation Planning Guide 2021

Find the answers to all of your ERP implementation questions in our fully comprehensive planning guide.

Introducing the GURUS ERP Implementation Planning Guide 2021

So, you’ve decided on upgrading your business to a new financial system. And now you’re probably thinking – ‘hey, tough part over, right?’ However, taking on a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system for your company is a tremendous undertaking, no matter the size of your business. That’s why our team at GURUS has created this fully comprehensive ERP Guide covering the broad range of critical factors for a successful implementation project.

The good news is that if you’ve already picked up on the core signs that it might be time to upgrade your outdated systems (whether it be spreadsheets-based like Quickbooks or a legacy solution you took on early on in your company’s growth), you have already taken the first big step. We can help you with the rest and hopefully answer some of your pressing questions below.

This next step is where you have to start planning out your process for changing your systems. You can start by taking things like change management, data migration and integration with legacy applications into account. I’ll speak more on those further down, as well as the other crucial factors when it comes to how to successfully implement an ERP system. But before we even get into that, let’s start with the second step in planning out your ERP implementation, the Selection Process.

ERP Software Selection

Before you can start thinking about an ERP implementation strategy, you must first navigate your way through the selection process. Choosing the right ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) solution is no simple task, considering how many options there are in the market and how different they can be across industries, functionality and even in terms of how they play with other legacy systems.

 

For 10 straight years GURUS Solutions has earned recognition as a 5-Star Oracle NetSuite Alliance Partner for services provided across the U.S. and Canada. As such, we leverage more than 15 years of experience and lessons learned in the world of ERP, CRM, Integrations and Cloud Technology as the guiding principle in all that we do and have assembled this ERP Comparison Guide to help guide your selection process.

 

While we are first and foremost a NetSuite ERP Implementation Partner, there are several other ERPs available for consideration. You can look at our in-depth guide and get a better idea of how these systems compare to each other, and feel free to ask my team for help with any questions or clarifications. To hear ERP implementation success examples from some of our clients, be sure to check out our testimonials.

 

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Before you start looking at ERPs, be sure to start out with the
3 most important items that will factor into your selection:

A clearly defined scope of what you want as an implementation is critically important to your selection process. It’s very important that you do your due diligence here and set a realistic timeline based on what you want your ERP to do, how many added features you want, the depth of your data migration (do you have years and years of historical data?) and how many people on your team will be assigned to work with your implementation partner. This last point brings us to the second factor...

 

Choose the right players from your team to oversee and assist with all necessary steps of your implementation project (here’s a quick guide to who should be on your implementation team).

Most importantly, and I can’t stress this enough, start setting goals early on. This will accelerate your selection process and also increase the likelihood of success.Before you start looking at systems, sit down with your executive team to explore and agree on short term goals for your new ERP. Are there immediate pain points you want to address? What long-term priorities do you have?

 

 

Selecting the right ERP system is one of the most crucial factors for success when changing systems. To help make things easier, GURUS invites you to check out our blog highlighting the 10 most important software selection criteria to consider. Within the blog is a more detailed breakdown of each of the above mentioned critical factors for success, along with a step-by-step guide on what you should consider before reaching out to any ERP vendors. Read it here.

Speaking of ERP vendors, that takes us to the third step and one of the most critical factors for a successful ERP implementation - finding the right implementation partner!
ERP Implementation Partners

One of the most critical steps in your implementation process, and the one where most companies fail, is choosing the right implementation partner to guide the project. Oftentimes your implementation phase for a new system will raise innumerable challenges that can drown your business. The right implementation partner, on the other hand, can help share lessons learned and experienced gained on past implementations to help you avoid expected challenges and overcome significant hurdles you'll be facing along the way. Some will ask at this point, “Do I really need an ERP implementation partner? Can I self-implement my new system?”

So what exactly is an ERP implementation partner and what do they do? Let’s look at an analogy I’ve come up with for this.

 

Watch our video on the 5 Selection Criteria for Choosing Your ERP Implementation Partner

What is an ERP Implementation Partner and What Do They Do?

Say, for example, that you own a small sailboat, but you’re looking to upgrade because you want to go out into deeper waters with your whole family and they just don’t fit in your tiny boat. So, you work out your budget and decide to invest in a much larger boat.

You spend the next several months planning, deciding on an appropriate timeline, looking at different competing options – until you finally decide on what’s best for you and your family. The new boat looks glamorous, and it’s massive! So much room for your family to enjoy - everyone is getting excited about going out on the water together. But before you hit the wants, you want to make sure it’s absolutely safe for everyone, right?

You need to be certain without any doubt that your boat structurally sounds, has no risk of leaking or breaking, and that your sailing crew is properly trained on how to operate and maintain your boat. The last thing you want to deal with when you finally hit the water is an unexpected crack or leak, or even worse, not enough life jackets to keep your crew safe.

Now, think of your new ERP solution as that brand new boat. Did you know that a whopping 50-60% of ERP implementation projects fail? As I mentioned before, it is a tremendous undertaking with a lot of moving parts. When you make an investment like that, you want to be sure that you don’t run into any costly or potentially hazardous issues somewhere down the line. Nobody is happy spending money on a boat that doesn't float!

That’s where your implementation partner comes in. Who better to help set you up for long-distance sailing than folks that have spent their lives out on the water, right? The right implementation partner, who leads through experience and lessons learned, will help navigate the waters and make it easier, faster and safer to get to your desired destination.

How Do I Choose My ERP Implementation Partner?

There is no one-size-fits-all category for an ERP implementation partner. GURUS Solutions provides our clients with round-the-clock NetSuite consultants that leverage nearly two decades of experience across several industries in the world of Oracle NetSuite and its ecosystem of third-party applications.

The best approach to successfully implementing an ERP system with a partner is to choose the right experts for your industry, your system and your priorities. It is important that they have an understanding of your business model, as well as strong chemistry with your internal project team.

Your ERP project’s success depends on your partner’s ability to understand your business requirements and set up a strong channel of communication with your key players. To learn about more factors to consider when choosing your implementation partner, check out our blog.

The first thing that you’ll discuss with your implementation partner is a step-by-step strategy and a roadmap for what the implementation is going to look like. You want to know exactly what you’re getting into, including:

  • Implementation costs & timeline
  • Training plan
  • Risk assessment
  • Obstacles overview
  • Target outcomes

– so that you know what to expect throughout the process. When you start the implementation, there should be no surprises for you or your project teams.

And that's why our team at GURUS Solutions has constructed this best practice overview of what a successful implementation plan should look like and the critical aspects of the planning stage you should address before you start.

Now, I should mention that this is by no account a complete and totally inclusive list. But it will give you an idea of what to expect. For more information, it’s highly recommended that you contact us. Once we have an understanding of your real business needs, goals, and future vision, then we can help you build a more specific project plan tailored to your needs and requirements.

 

Planning Readiness
  • Roadmapping: Planning Initial shut-down of legacy system to transactions being recorded in the new system.
  • Includes: Open-transaction migrations & opening balances and inventory.
  • Strategy to validate the final import.
  • Resource Readiness  (are stakeholders and department leads available? What about consultant resources? What’s the buffer in case of delays? Looking at the logistics of external support and stand-by staff for IT, etc).
System Readiness
  • Conference Room Pilot (ERP is an integrated system, fostering collaboration. Testing can’t be made in silos!) This phase involves validating the new software in terms of the business processes of the end-users, by allowing them to use it to carry out typical or key business processes.
  • End-to-End Testing - This will give you an idea of what will work, what won’t work and planning around the go-live phase.
  • Stress / Load Testing will help you develop an understanding of the limitations of the software by pushing it to its breaking point. It will help you gauge capacity and measure how it will handle your demands. 
  • Data Readiness involves checking your data to see if the migration will require light touch-ups for messy data, as well as get a good grasp of the mapping.
  • Equipment Readiness means looking at what kind of hardware will be required by the time of the go-live. What is available? What needs to be added? etc. Even SaaS still requires some pieces of hardware!

 

People Readiness
  • End-User Training will help evaluate to which extent the end-users can operate and navigate the system. It will help them get used to the new software and learn some of its best practices. It's also a great way to get them excited about the upgrade!
  • Post-Go-Live End-User Support Plan: This will involve setting up points of contact for end-users needing help or facing issues after the go-live. You also get access to hands-on and over the shoulder feedback to help ease the transition - as well as access to documentation. 

 

Business Readiness
  • New Process Awareness: With new systems comes new processes. This is the stage where we ensure your team is aware of the changes and how they can best use them to their advantage. You don’t want any confusion later on, and this is where we help you avoid it. 
  • Internal Department Communication: Integrated systems mean new and improved business platforms. You want your departments aware of the changes, so they can coordinate with each-other. Again, this whole step is about avoiding surprises among your team. 
  • External Stakeholders Communication: How will your new system affect customers, vendors and partners? What should they know about your new system? Everyone likes positive change - but once more, it’s important to be aware of it beforehand.
Risks Contingency and Mitigation Plan Readiness
  • Project Go-Live Risk Management: We look at any potential risks that could potentially derail your go-live. How can we minimize the risks? What is the impact? Here, we talk about contingency plans and ways to mitigate difficulties.
  • Business Go-Live Risk Management: You need a safety belt for your business in case any small detail goes wrong during the go-live. We encourage total readiness, and that means preparing for the worst case scenario - no matter how unlikely it is.
  • Last Minute Cancellation: You have the option of delaying or cancelling a go-live at the last-minute. Oftentimes, companies feel a pressure to meet the go-live date planned out at the beginning, but that pressure is not worth the risk of going live if you think there are unforeseen issues that might arise (ex: shipping labels don’t print - preventing shipments). We strategize and plan for these worse-case scenarios from the start to avoid last minute panic.
  • Post-Go-Live Rollback: In case the go-live phase presents issues, or becomes infeasible due to an unexpected issue like shipping labels not printing or shipments not being able to go out, you can ask for a time assessment of when the issue will be fixed and ask for a rollback. At this point, you will revert to your legacy system for the time it takes to repair the issue and smooth things out. This is a last resort, but it can be a lifesaver if you’re prepared for it in advance.

 

What is Data Migration and Why is it a make-it or break-it factor for ERP Implementations?

Even the most proactive organizations that will spend countless hours researching and discussing their implementation will often underestimate the amount of work involved in data migration. We’re not just talking about migrating historical data, although that alone can tie up a lot of time and resources if you have years of it.

 

When you’re implementing an ERP, you should consider beforehand what information in your old systems might be outdated, muddled or obsolete. You’re about to undertake a massive transition, which is a great reason to clean up your historical records and figure out what you want to carry over. Are all of your contacts, clients and suppliers even still accurate in your lists? If your company has been around for a decade or longer, then you likely have some clean up to do in advance.

It’s worth parsing through your legacy data here and figuring out what’s become obsolete vs. what is important data that you want carried over. Data migration, when poorly planned, can significantly delay your go-live and cause obstacles throughout the process and long after. Putting bad data into a new system is like putting old gas into a new car - it will never run like it should. However, if you plan ahead, a smart data migration can help make your system more efficient and give you cleaner data to start with as you go-live.

How is the implementation of an on-premise ERP different from a cloud based ERP?

Implementing an on-premise ERP system involves expensive hardware and software components. For this, your initial implementation phase will require delivery and installation. This will also mean that you need key players with technology skills on your team to help with the installation and configuration, as well as support and maintenance down the line.

 

With a cloud based ERP, you can skip this whole step as your system will not have a hardware component and will likely be maintained under a SAAS model (for example, NetSuite is 100% cloud based and automatically updates twice a year to evolve at the pace of technology), with little to no intervention from your staff.

What are the main causes of ERP implementation delays?

As a long-time ERP implementation partner, the main causes that we have identified for delays and struggles during a project are typically associated with the original planning phase. Get your plan and structure right before you start an implementation, because course correction becomes much more difficult after a project is underway. What do I mean when I say ‘the planning phase’?

Before you start a project, make sure to have a good understanding of when you want to go live. You need to be realistic here and even add some flexibility. Trying to take on a large implementation project for your new ERP system with a very tight timeline is never a good idea, considering how many moving parts there are at any given time. Sit down with your implementation partner and discuss the key points, ask them for a realistic timeline and plan contingencies. 

Some organizations make the mistake of having only one key player on their side handling their internal team tasks during their project - and if that person leaves the project for any reason before project completion - that will heavily impact your go-live. It's critically important to have a strong communication channel with both your partner and internally among your key stakeholders on the project.

How much does an ERP implementation typically cost?

The costs associated with an ERP implementation will differ depending on a variety of factors, including:

  • Your chosen ERP system
  • Whether there are any on-premise installation costs or it’s entirely cloud-based
  • The size of your data migration project
  • Whether your system needs to be integrated with other legacy systems in your organization
  • Any system add-ons purchased that will be installed before go-live
  • Project complexity and additional training and support requirements
  • Project timeline
  • And unique business needs

 

For NetSuite ERP implementation costs, you can refer to our NetSuite Pricing Guide.

 

RFP for ERP - Do I Need A Request for Proposal to Start My Project?

As a long-time ERP implementation partner, the main causes that we have identified for delays and struggles during a project are typically associated with the original planning phase. Get your plan and structure right before you start an implementation, because course correction becomes much more difficult after a project is underway. What do I mean when I say ‘the planning phase’?

When faced with a long list of possible ERP solutions and countless software vendors to choose from, many organizations will seek help to ensure they make the right decision. They will hire a specialised firm to help them gather requirements and guide them through the process. This hired firm will then gather that long list of solutions and vendors and ask the client to fill a checklist of which of the software fulfill their requirements.

Do you need to go through the process of building an RFP or hiring a firm to start your ERP implementation?

The answer is no, you do not.

An RFP (Request for Proposal) is great in concept, but can tie up your project in a needlessly long selection process. Your executive team will be required to sit through several demos of different solutions to disqualify them - and the truth is, many ERP systems offer the same core functions. There are good firms that will help you ensure success on your RFP with a tight timeline by making the initial draft of best of breed ERPs to suit your business. 

If you choose to move forward with a firm for your ERP RFP, they should narrow it down to a maximum of a few solutions based on their experience and knowledge of your industry. We recommend looking through YouTube, as well, for pre-recorded demos that will help you avoid having to sit through tedious discussions that eat up your time. In this day and age, most software vendors and partners will put these up for free on their channels. Here is a presentation of Oracle NetSuite, including a demo of several roles and walkthrough of the ERP that GURUS has on YouTube as an example:

When we’re talking about RFPs for ERP selection, we’re really talking about a few factors:
  • Do you want it to be a cloud based solution or not?
  • Will your company culture be more compatible with certain vendors, like Microsoft, NetSuite, Oracle, SAP or even open source
  • Does the ERP system play well with your legacy applications? Does it integrate?

If you keep these in mind when building your RFP, you can streamline the process and better manage your communications with the hired firm.

 

Alternatively, there are a number of resources available to help you build an RFP internally.

An ERP request for proposal is outlined based on your team’s assumptions about your requirements. You may not know exactly what you want, but you can feel the pains of what’s missing in your current systems. My suggestion is to keep any RFP you build as concise and to the point as possible, based on your unique requirements and what you think might be tricky points that should be addressed right away (If you need your ERP to integrate with a specific system and one of the three ERPs you’ve narrowed it down to doesn’t have that integration in its existing ecosystem, that could be an expensive customization that you can easily avoid by eliminating it from your list).

Once you’re talking to ERP Partners and vendors, don’t let yourself be tied down to what’s on your RFP. Ask targeted questions and let them challenge you to help you identify the real gaps that might not have been addressed on a surface level with your request for proposal. That’s why you chose to work with an implementation partner. Their role is to make sure you don’t get trapped in a boxed-in approach that will harm your project’s success.

What is the best of breed approach to ERP implementation?

There is no one approach to implementing an ERP system, however there are a number of critical success factors to any given project. Your ERP will integrate crucial functions across your organization, from financial management to sales and marketing, human resources, project management, inventory, warehousing, supply chain management, eCommerce channels...and the list goes on. 

These integrations are customized to your industry, with most best of breed ERP platforms today offering an entire ecosystem of supporting applications for your specific requirements. The implementation of an ERP is the process that you undertake for scoping and planning, and configuring and deploying your new system to deliver increased productivity and visibility across your organization as it grows.

This process is no short order, as it generally involves months of heavy work and can vary from somewhat to very complex, based on how many functions you want to support and automate by go-live. To ensure a successful NetSuite implementation, GURUS built a unique approach to worksharing that offers 3 different levels of engagement when planning out your structure and phases:

SHERPA Coach

Does your organization have its own  internal team of key players in finance and project management with ERP experience and knowledge? Does your team already have experience implementing legacy systems and want to take control of your ERP implementation with an internal project lead? You can choose our Coach implementation approach, which means that your internal team leads your project, with GURUS as guides and supporting resources to help make sure you quickly overcome any struggles and have a successful Go-Live.

SHERPA Guide

Our SHERPA Guide approach is a 50/50 split when it comes to your ERP implementation, meaning our team of consultants collaborate fully with your own internal team. This is the approach that we generally recommend to our clients, as it combines our 15+ years of NetSuite experience with your team’s in-depth knowledge of your current business processes and needs. This way also ensures that your team is trained and knowledgeable in most things NetSuite by the time we get to go-live, so that they will be familiar with the ERP and system architecture by the time your transition is complete.

SHERPA Experience

Our SHERPA Experience approach lets your team take it easy, while we deploy our best consultants to deep-drive into your business processes, build in-depth knowledge of your requirements and lead a seamless implementation process all the way to go-live. This is the ultimate white-glove experience for ERP implementation. We recommend this if you don’t have internal resources that you’re ready to allocate to the project and you’re also looking to work with the same NetSuite partner for years to come. By the time your project is done, our consultants will be intimately familiar with your business, inside and out, and be ready to lend support with ease at any point or build custom scripts when required.

So, do you feel like you are ready now?

Wait a second, not so fast. Now that you know what each part of the planning process entails, take the time to explore your overall readiness. Read these steps and cross-reference with them. Discuss things at length with both your implementation partner and your team. 

And as you’re nearing your go-live, if you foresee an issue and you’re thinking of delaying, take the time to make a pros and cons list. Sit down with your executive board and weigh your risks and rewards. Do the benefits of going live NOW outweigh the benefits of waiting an additional few weeks to polish and mitigate risks?

Finally, we wish you the absolute best of luck in searching for your new ERP and are happy to help in any way to make this process easier for you and to help ensure your ultimate success.

Considering NetSuite ERP? Check out our NetSuite 2021 Pricing Guide and use our online ERP Price Calculator to build & price the right implementation package for your business:

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