The successful deployment of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is often a requisite to an organization’s finance transformation. The improved data visibility and automation provided by an ERP can bring a long list of efficiency benefits to a business’s finances. Larger institutions such as banks have long been using ERPs to boost operational efficiency, reduce manpower demands, and improve customer service.
Previously, such systems were mostly out of reach for smaller institutions due to the high IT requirements and the need for on-site deployment. The on-site hosting of ERPs meant that they were also usually expensive and difficult to scale, which, in turn, meant that even businesses that could afford them were often unable to use them effectively.
Fortunately, the continuing maturation of digital networks and cloud computing systems has made it feasible for almost all businesses to finally deploy an enterprise resource planning system. Cloud-based and hybrid systems where the software, platform, or infrastructure are remotely maintained by third-party providers have several key benefits over their onsite counterparts. They have lower IT requirements, minimal hardware maintenance costs, and are easily scalable. Additionally, they tend to be more reliable, as third-party providers can focus on providing maintenance and backups. Needless to say, businesses—especially financial organizations—that choose to deploy a cloud-based ERP will almost certainly enjoy a range of efficiency gains and cost savings that will more than compensate for the acquisition and related costs.
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If you’re interested in having a new cloud-based ERP for your business, here are the main steps that you should take:
Create a deployment plan
Almost every ERP deployment happens under unique circumstances. Today, there are a good number of competing ERP suites as well as various methods of deployment. While all ERPs do more or less the same thing, the small differences between them and their deployment methods can create benefits or complications for a business, depending on its current situation.
Also, every organization has a different set of operational requirements—not all of them need to fully utilize the full capabilities of their ERP. Some may also have existing systems that will have to be retained or data that has to be migrated, among many other potential issues. Given all these, organizations have to carefully plan their ERP deployment. The scope, the involved departments, teams, and leaders, as well as the specific requirements and estimated timelines, have to be laid out. The order in which different business units and geographic areas will go through training and final live production should also be determined.
Communication structures should also be established to avoid scope creep and to keep deployment expenses low. Most importantly, key performance indicators (KPIs) should also be established. This will give project managers and implementors an idea of what success at different phases is.
Implement the plan
The next step is to start rolling out the plan. The focus at this stage is to assess needs, lay out the foundations of the ERP integration, and configure the settings. Additionally, implementors should attempt to back up and migrate data to establish the single source of truth approach needed for the ERP to function effectively. At this time, processes should be documented for future reference.
During this phase, it’s inevitable that the implementors will find things that were not considered in the planning phase. While some fixes can be done, the main intent during the initial rollout is the implementation of the deployment plan.
Make sure your project is on track
As the ERP plan is being implemented, the involved teams will have to step back periodically to evaluate and readjust. Configurations should be checked and KPIs assessed to see if the project is going according to the set timeline.
If the project has any issues, the relevant stakeholders will need to assess and implement the needed fixes. This is where communication among the IT team and other involved departments is crucial, as some potential issues require the input of all stakeholders.
Ensure the whole organization is ready for deployment
Everyone from the top management down to the line employees should be trained in the use of the new ERP. It’s during this period when system training and the provisioning of profiles and passwords will take place.
At this point, there will usually be some remaining minor issues that need to be corrected. Implementors need to agree on a final list of items (a “punch list) that contains priority fixes that need to be addressed before deployment as well as less important items that could feasibly be addressed immediately after.
If the previous steps were done sufficiently well, going live will result in few or no problems, particularly on tried-and-tested cloud ERP systems. The IT and project teams should remain on standby to monitor the new system’s performance as well as the overall experience of the users.
Ideally, the organization should have access to the vendor’s support team for the lifespan of the ERP, as there will likely be issues or at least questions that need to be addressed. Additionally, the documentation created by the implementing teams should form the basis of the organization’s training program. This will enable new users to successfully use and maximize the business’s new ERP.
Every ERP deployment is going to be a unique experience. It will be impossible to predict everything that could happen. However, thanks to advances in cloud-based computing, ERP deployments are now much less fraught with risk than they were previously.
Today, the biggest challenges have less to do with technology and more to do with how financial organizations manage major projects. By following the basic steps above, the chances of deploying an ERP on time and under budget can go up substantially.