After a successful ERP go-live, most business leaders want to take a hiatus from the intensity, expense, and disruption of managing implementation and the furthest thing from their mind is optimizing their new software. However, before a new system can truly revolutionize business operations, executives must freshly consider the organization’s strategy with the new possibilities available to them with more modern software. In this episode of The ERP Advisor, resident ERP expert, Shawn Windle, will lay the groundwork for reimagining the future of your business with a roadmap of post-go-live optimizations.
Reimagining Business Possibilities within Your New ERP: A Roadmap for Post-Go-Live Optimization
Business executives often want to take a hiatus once they reach ERP go-live because of significant hard work and resources spent to implement their new ERP solution. Unfortunately, this means that many businesses neglect to optimize their system post-go-live and therefore, fail to get the benefits they REALLY hoped for.
Revisit Your ERP Strategy & Best Practices for the Future
Upon going live, it is important for a team to look back at all they have achieved at the end of Phase 1 because it is a big deal! This reflection should take place after the second month-end to evaluate what the business went through and understand where they are now versus where they were. But then what?
First and foremost, project sponsors must ensure they have adequate support in place. Implementation partners will likely pitch support over the course of the project, but if not, customers should negotiate to contract their support for six to twelve months. It is best to negotiate a time & materials (T&M) support structure, however, some partners will only do a fixed price for a minimum number of hours per month. It is also important to engage with high-quality resources that will bring value to supporting you, and it is always a bonus if the assigned resources are familiar with the company’s specific ERP instance. Additionally, leaders will need to evaluate the business’s internal support requirements. Many projects require an internal support person or team, but this is only worth it if the application warrants consistent enhancements.
How ARE your original criteria for success either being met or not being met with your new ERP?
Begin the ERP software optimization process by identifying how the new system meets or falls short of the organization’s original goals by examining the initial business strategies and evaluating any necessary or desired functionality that was not realized in Phase 1. Often, there were not enough resources to accomplish all goals in Phase 1, which is okay. Once leadership has determined points of contention, they should also speak with users to find out what they are frustrated with. Users are often already sharing their concerns, but it is the leadership’s responsibility to listen and round up all the observations. Once you document the gaps, then prioritize enhancements within “now,” “within a few months,” or “later” completion categories.
Scoping Immediate Gaps with Implementation Partner
Businesses can rely on knowledgeable SMEs to scope the gaps categorized as “now” priorities with your support partner. Ideally, the partner will incorporate these enhancements into a support plan, especially if the support is under a fixed fee. Mid-size company project sponsors should limit the support to 100 to 300 hours and avoid making major changes, at least not yet. In fact, this is the best practice for most companies because the budget may be tight following the completion of an ERP implementation. If an organization has an internal ERP specialist this is a great time for them to shadow the implementation partner’s work to learn more about your ERP and software strategy so you can transition some of your support to them in the future.
Begin Tracking Your Software Contract
While the negotiations and processes are fresh in the minds of project leaders, they should record what modules and the number of user counts they purchased, as well as the contract terms, payment schedules, renewal caps, or anything else that will be important down the line. It is also important for them to record contract renewal dates in their calendars and set a reminder for a minimum of six months prior to contract renewal. This will give businesses ample time to prepare for successful ERP contract renewal negotiations.
Develop a Software Change Process
Once an organization reaches the point of software change process development, gaps in functionality and other missing criteria should already be documented. With all foundational pieces in place, the organization must then prioritize enhancements on the ‘now,” “in a few months,” and “later” scale in order to develop a long-term roadmap for optimization. At this point, it is also important for the team to determine whether their new-found stability means they should briefly pause development or keep going. Most organizations will choose to pause because they have other priorities or have blown their ERP budget; regardless, there will be additional ERP needs that leaders should stay ahead of by developing a software change process now. This will encourage a better realization of your ERP’s potential, and documenting everything after the implementation is still fresh will ensure you have a good plan for quick-hit optimizations once your budget and priorities permit.
Businesses should account for ERP enhancements within their annual budgets as soon as it is operationally realistic. The amount will vary by organizational size but should account for at least one hundred thousand dollars, or around 40 development hours per month. Additionally, the organization should develop a Change Control Board, comprised of subject matter experts (SMEs) from major areas of the business, assigning one of the SMEs to lead the board (potentially the company’s ERP Specialist). Each departmental SME should track enhancement requests and present them to the board. The board leader will then accumulate all enhancement requests and set priorities, allowing the board to modify and approve the roadmap based on these requests. Once in place, the lead can work with the support partner to develop the project scope together, ultimately running the project and working closely with the SMEs that will be affected by the enhancements. These initial steps will ensure the rapid launch of optimizations once the funds and resources are in place.
TIP: There will be additional work, so plan for it!
Perform New Analysis of Gaps in Processes
Once the most basic enhancements have been prioritized, businesses should identify opportunities for specialized enhancements through customizations, reports, or best-of-breed bolt-ons. The most common enhancements include:
- Sophisticated bolt-ons and modules (i.e., Advanced Planning).
- Additional integrations.
- Reporting and analytics tools.
- Process automation.
- Artificial Intelligence.
These additions are extremely valuable, so it is important to not overlook implementing these products post-go-live. While the ERP will offer transformative processes to a business, there are always opportunities to further deliver value, especially within nuanced areas of specialized business processes.
Conversely, tactical needs should not be the only drivers for ongoing ERP enhancements. Businesses should also look for opportunities to extend the new ERP to external parties, which may include:
- Implementing omnichannel e-commerce solutions.
- Building next-generation EDI integrations with vendors.
- Providing ERP data visibility and process execution capabilities to partners.
- Building deep integrations with financial institutions.
Identify Any Gaps with Technical Support
The next step is to identify any gaps in technical staff and identify future staffing requirements after adopting a definitive roadmap. These requirements extend across in-house staff, the support firm, staff augmentation, and more. Identifying key in-house staff helps uncover which resource gaps need to be filled.
For any project, it is vital to have the best, most reliable resources to ensure success; resources that will vary depending on business requirements. Organizations that have planned a high quantity of ongoing enhancements will need more internal, technical staff. Adversely, the more complex enhancements will be, the more external, expert resources the project will need, which requires a greater financial investment. We recommend avoiding hiring internal or external resources until organizational needs are thoroughly understood.
Optimizing your ERP system post-go-live is no easy task. It requires ongoing, committed financial and people resources to realize the organization’s ERP goals. It is best to start with vital enhancements and go from there; however, keep in mind that this is not a race, it is about positioning your business for future success. Regardless, the right resources are crucial to your ongoing success, so do not hesitate to reach out for guidance from our expert ERP consultants!