How To Avoid ERP Implementation Failure

In one of our recent conference calls, we discussed how implementation failures are just a consequence of the industry we work in. We like to be involved upfront with clients (of course!) and we do all we can to avoid failed implementations, but all too often we get called in to help save an implementation that has gone astray. Suffice it to say, we have become experts in the art of bringing botched implementations back to life.

On our most recent episode of The ERP Advisor Conference Call Series, we covered the top 4 instances that lead to a botched implementation. You can listen to the recording above, or read a summary of the call below.

A botched implementation is when the implementation fails to meet the original objectives of the project and in our experience, there are four instances that cause these types of botched implementations.

  1. You don’t know what you’re implementing in the first place

While that sounds fairly obvious, it’s a very real issue that we run into with many companies. Typically we see companies decide they need to upgrade their ERP or their software applications because of a problem that arises within the company, so they choose a certain software application to solve said problem. Perhaps they are adding a new entity or expanding overseas and need to add new currency. Perhaps a mandate comes down from a higher level in the company that requires new software. Either way, management starts shopping for a new application.

Once they start the implementation process, however, sometimes folks discover that the tool they bought doesn’t solve the problem the way they thought it would, if at all. It’s as if you went shopping for an apple but when you got home from the grocery store, your bag was full of oranges.

To prevent this from happening, it is important to really dive into the vendor’s contract, their website, the sales order form, and really understand — line by line — what you are buying. You can even call the implementation partner and have them explain it to you, and if they don’t understand certain aspects, then you really have a problem. It’s critical to understand every aspect of the software application and make sure your implementation partners understand every detail, to avoid a botched implementation.

  1. You don’t have the appropriate implementation resources


Sometimes the implementation resources are too bogged down by other projects, and do not have enough time to devote to your project and to deliver it in a timely matter. One of the advantages that our team at ERP Advisors Group brings is that we can be “on scene” and look out for your best interests. We gain access to timesheets to see how many hours per week a resource is billing to the project to make sure they are devoting adequate time to ensure on-time delivery. We are also able to monitor if they are billing too much and not doing the work. Basically, we watchdog the whole process to ensure the implementation partners are doing the work they promised and in a timely manner

We’ve seen a LOT of implementations where the resources hired are just too busy to dedicate time to your project. Months go by, costs continue to build, and expectations are not met. Ask for a time sheet from your implementation resources and track their time to ensure that your implementation does not get botched.

  1. Your internal resources are too busy or don’t know what they’re doing.

This is a hard topic to discuss with clients, but again, it is something that we come across often.

When a company undertakes a software implementation, they don’t often realize that the key people in the organization are the same people that need to be involved in the implementation process because they know the business, the processes, and the way systems are currently used. These are the same people that need to talk to the vendor, communicate business requirements, check all the configurations, do the testing, and even help with training. However, they still have their full-time day jobs so it can be difficult to add this project to their plate and expect the implementation to be successful. Hire temporary help, promote people into new roles, and just watch out for the people who are too busy and help support them.

The other aspect of this is when an employee doesn’t really know what they are doing. This is not to say that they are not competent or able to do their job within the organization, but they may not be comfortable or knowledgeable implementing a complex ERP system. This can be especially true if they have never gone through an implementation process — they will have no idea what to expect. They might not know that they’re responsible for telling the implementation partner exactly what they need, asking all the right questions, providing a certain amount of information. So when the implementation team starts building everything out and it’s not correct, your only line of defense may be someone who isn’t experienced enough to catch that issue.

If you don’t have the right people on the project, it could result in a botched implementation. You’ll want to mitigate that risk by making sure your key employees that should be on the project are readily available to assist in the project and know exactly what they need to be doing in order to make the project a success.

  1. You don’t actually need new software

Sometimes the problem that you are trying to solve in the first place cannot be solved by software. Again, this may sound painfully obvious that you shouldn’t go out and buy new software if you don’t actually need it, but a lot of companies do this out of desperation. For example, a company gets consistently bad marks for customer support so they implement a new customer support application that integrates with the telephony system, tracks the customer support representative’s activities, provides them with recommended phone calls, and is an all-around elegant and detailed application. However, the go-live process doesn’t go well and it doesn’t actually fix anything.

The “real problem” may not be process, tools, or efficiency but that perhaps the customer support resources themselves are not very strong, or the manager isn’t ensuring that work is dealt out, tasks are defined, and appropriate people are doing the work. Perhaps the issue is cultural within the organization. New software will not solve those types of problems.

These are four of the most common instances we see that can lead to a botched ERP software implementation. It is important to watch out for these early on, and mitigate any of the risks before you spend the money on implementing the software and have it go terribly wrong. Next week, we will continue our discussion on botched implementations and talk about when you should pull the plug on an implementation project and when you should power through.