Is there a way to guarantee ERP implementation success? When it’s time to go live, there’s no turning back. You just spent a lot of money on a new enterprise software system, so it better work. When your organization has invested time and money on an ERP implementation, you need to make sure your go-live goes as smoothly as possible.
There are several ways that a go-live can go wrong. But we have found that proper preparation and planning can mitigate the risks and facilitate the transition to a new ERP system.
Here are our top 16 tips on how to achieve a successful ERP go-live.
1. Be Ready for the Unknown
Often there can be a bit of fear of the unknown when organizations are stepping into a go-live for the first time. Even if this isn’t your first ERP software update, you can still experience the unknown of what will happen with this particular project. Each ERP implementation will have its own peculiar idiosyncrasies and the best you can do to ensure a smooth implementation is to be prepared for just about anything.
2. Know Your Risks and Mitigate Them
Knowing the risks of a project and preparing for them is vital before a go-live. Inevitably there are risks in any project, and while testing helps to minimize them, even that is not a guarantee. You can often gauge the likelihood of a good implementation based on the involvement of the end users and subject matter experts during user acceptance testing (UAT). If there's a ton of people involved in user acceptance testing, you have a good chance at a successful go-live. If there aren't that many people involved in UAT, you might have a nightmare as your go-live basically becomes the testing phase. If that does happen, it’s still possible to go live successfully. You can set up mitigation such as ensuring developers are on site, ready to immediately start editing the product in real time and fixing issues as they become apparent.
3. Successful Go-Lives are Created Months Before the Cutover
If you want your go-live to be trouble-free, remember that success is made well before the switch is flipped and the new software is running. Going live is like many other big events in life and the easiest way to ensure that it will go well is to be ready. A successful go-live doesn’t just happen naturally on its own, it often takes months and months of hard work behind the scenes.
4. Get Your Best Resources Lined Up Ahead of Time
Another way to ensure your go-live is as smooth as it can be is to round up your resources and have them standing by before the big day. As much as you prepare, there’s never a guarantee that things won’t pop up once the new software is live. But if you have people ready to handle these hurdles in real time, it won’t feel like an emergency. If something such as a billing error happens, having competent people on hand to jump in and start making corrections will help keep everyone calm, cool and collected.
5. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
A go-live can be a bit like a big musical production. You get everything set up behind the scenes, everyone knows what roles they have to play, and then it’s showtime. To make it all go as effortlessly as possible, the best thing you can do for you and your team is to rehearse. This means testing, testing and more testing. Do trial runs and have your staff go through every scenario to see what issues might happen. Also have your programming team run through every way that they might fix any problems if they should occur. Once all of this has been done, your go-live should be calm and carefree.
6. Be Ready for the Long Haul
Everything in your ERP project plan may seem to be gearing up for just one thing: Go-live. But don’t forget that there’s more to it than just those first days, or even the first week. Once the “opening night” is over, success will come from how you handle what happens after that. Again, similar to a Broadway show, you will need to make adjustments and improvements as the system is used and people find problems or discover ways to make it better. A successful go-live depends on the long-term.
7. Think Outside the Box
Creating a successful go-live isn’t only about the project plan and the rehearsals, it’s also about the people. After all, they are the ones who will make those plans come to life. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your project is take care of your staff. At ERP Advisors Group, we’ve worked with many clients and one of our most successful go-lives featured a secret ingredient: massage therapists. Having them on hand helped calm nerves and led to a successful go-live at a time when people were stressed about a particularly complicated project. Think of ways to keep staff relaxed during your implementation and you might find your own secret ingredient for a smooth project.
8. Extend Your Timeline if Needed
The best-case scenario is that a go-live will go off without a hitch, but that’s not always the reality. Sometimes, no matter how much preparation you’ve done, things will come up that cause problems. When this happens, there’s nothing wrong with extending your timeline. At the end of the day, the only thing that really matters is that you have a system with features that allow your staff to function effectively, and your organization to expand. If this takes a month or two longer than the original timeline, but you end up with a system that is solid and working well, then it is still a success.
9. Emphasize User Acceptance Testing
User Acceptance Testing isn’t just about making sure that the software works. More importantly it’s about ensuring that the users will accept and work with the new system. You can put your ERP through dozens of tests but if employees aren’t able to use it in the end, your project will still be a failure. Also be careful of users who report that all is well, but who haven’t adequately tested the software. Make sure that what they asked for is what they received and if they discover they need something different from the system, make sure they get that. You don’t want to get to the end of the project and find the users aren’t using the product, otherwise the entire project would have been a waste.
10. Data, Data, Data, Data
When it comes to the success of your go-live, data is so important we truly can’t emphasize it enough. Data is the overall reason why organizations implement new software. Of course, there are other issues to be handled like process automation, new user interfaces and technology legacy. But ultimately, the reason we need new systems is that we want information about the organization that we can’t get currently. Getting your data cleaned up as best as you can during the conversion process, and at go-live, is vital. One secret to ensuring that happens is doing a dress rehearsal, where you implement multiple go-live cutovers early in the project to test that you have all the data, everyone knows what they’re doing, users know where to go and the data can be validated.
11. Set Realistic Expectations
This is a factor that a lot of people miss, but it is also very important. You must set realistic expectations about your project. Don’t rely on luck or hope that your go-live will be absolutely perfect and happen without a single problem. Even if your implementation goes well overall, you still want to set those expectations for the cutover. Start talking to your bank, your company’s stakeholders, and anyone else that could be affected by the software update. Let people know that you’re switching systems, what day it will happen, and that there’s a possibility reports could be delayed. Hopefully, no delays will occur, but it is better to set expectations low and then work like mad to exceed them.
12. Give Incentives and Acknowledgements
People work hard during a software implementation. They usually come in early, stay late, put in time on the weekends – while still doing their day job. Even if you bring in help to backfill some positions, there’s no doubt that good staff will bend over backwards to make sure your go-live is a success. One of the best things you can do for your project is to do something for your people to incentivize them or reward them when everything is completed. It can be something as simple as an email acknowledging specific people and thanking them for their commitment and contribution to the project. You could even send gifts to an employee’s family thanking them for putting up with having their family member missing all those extra nights and weekends during the project. Whatever way you choose, it’s important to let your people know how much you appreciate what they did.
13. Trust Your Intuition
Another important thing to know about these types of projects is that all indications for a bad go-live happen early. It’s not as if the project will be going along just fine and then suddenly at the cutover everything becomes a terrible mess. Projects just don’t work that way. If you start to see things going wrong, trust your intuition and do something about it. For instance, if you see that the Project Manager your implementation partner put on your project is disorganized, let the project sponsor on the implementation side know about it. Don’t be afraid to speak up, but also remember to escalate appropriately and give them ample opportunity to fix the situation.
14. Know When to Ignore (or Listen) to Naysayers
On every project you’re bound to have a person who might not be entirely on board. A successful go-live will depend on knowing when to ignore them and when to listen. Truthfully, most of the time you can ignore the naysayers, especially if they don’t have a lot of importance in regard to the project. If you’re confident that everything is fine and you’ve got your checklist and mitigation in place, listening to them could just slow down the project if you try to handle their imagined issues. On the other hand, if the person is higher in the company and pointing out reasonable concerns such as they don’t believe enough testing occurred in a specific area, then you may want to listen. They could find a problem you weren’t aware of and lead you to a resolution before it affects the go-live.
15. Remember: A Bad Go-Live Can Turn into a Success
On some projects it’s not possible to do all the preparation and testing needed because staff are simply too busy. While this proposition can make the go-live more complicated, you can still do the project and be fine in the end. If you know extensive testing isn’t an option, be sure to have mitigation in place for anything that might go wrong. If people can’t test beforehand, you will essentially turn the go-live into the testing phase. This is not the most ideal way to go live, but if you are prepared for it and have staff ready to do fixes, it can work.
16. Don’t Forget to Create a Go-Live Checklist
Having a go-live checklist is vital to your success, and yet it can be one of the most overlooked factors in a project. This may be because many people assume that the checklist will be created by the implementation partner and that it will contain everything that needs to be done to go live. While your vendor should have a cutover checklist, it may not have every necessary step on it. Each organization should create their own list of actions to accomplish, and items that are needed for the go-live to work.
Here are some examples of things that should be included in a go-live checklist:
- Job aids to show employees the steps to take to log into the new system, do simple steps, etc. These can be laminated hard copy documents or virtual documents, either way they should be simple and easy to understand.
- A schedule of stop dates for the old system showing exactly when the new system will be online and when the old one will no longer be active. This could be one date or a series of dates if you are rolling out the new system in segments. It should start at least one to two weeks out from the stop date.
- Tasks to be done before the old system is turned off, such as cutting checks to help make AP simpler after the go-live. You can also list out when you will let customers and vendors know about the update and how this will affect their interactions with your site, including any new links they will need.
- A timeline of all tasks, including testing and training, as well as vital integrations and data migration. Be sure that important tasks such as data transfers to your bank and other integrations are set up before shutting down your old system.
There’s nothing worse than putting time, money, and effort into an unsuccessful go-live. Contact us here at ERP Advisors Group if you need help with your next implementation.