ERP Implementations: How to Ensure a Successful Business Go-Live

This series starts with ERP Implementations: Understanding Technical Versus Business Go-Live, which focuses on why it is critical to balance the requirements of both for success.

Achieving successful go-lives across both the technical and business dimensions is essential to ensuring a successful Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation. In our ERP implementation engagements, we see only a handful of clients truly realizing the full potential of the platform. Sometimes users only identify that their system configurations are incapable of performing business processes after the platform goes live. In other cases, while the ERP is designed and configured adequately, user adoption is low due to inadequate training. There are also cases where the issue is a combination of both. The underlying reason is that companies typically place much more extensive focus on the technical aspects of implementation with inadequate attention to business requirements and end users.

Robert Cantow is one of Converge’s supply chain practice directors and has 30+ years of experience designing, transforming, and managing complex global supply chains in the medical devices, pharma and biotech industries.
Rashi Gupta is a consultant focusing on supply chain operations. She also provides project management support for ERP implementations and commercial product launches.

What Can You Do to Ensure a Successful Business Go-Live?

Assemble the Right Team

Develop a core team at the beginning that involves the right mix of employees that represent all user groups affected. This team will help define business needs and outline desired system functionalities. Include members from IT, manufacturing, supply chain, quality, procurement, finance, training etc. Factor in resource availability and outline the required level of effort for each team member. Identify a project sponsor who is invested in the project’s success. Develop a steering committee to gain executive support.

Outline the Project Scope & Timeline

Clearly identify what you need the enterprise solution to do with a well-defined User Requirements Specification (URS). Understand the problem you want to solve or new capability you want to build. The core team should have a clear understanding of priorities to avoid scope creep and stay on track. Additionally, leverage the steering committee to ensure that the scope aligns with the corporate strategy. Identify a realistic timeline to complete implementation that is accepted by end users.

Select the Right ERP Provider

Select a vendor who knows your industry and its unique requirements. The life sciences industry requires unique system design configurations such as lot and batch control, quarantine and testing, temperature restrictions, traceability etc. If you notice any gaps in your implementer’s industry knowledge, consider supplementing the implementation team with relevant additional internal or external resources. Industry knowledge makes it easier to understand business needs. Also, identify the level of support needed from the ERP vendor both pre and post go-live. Plan for hypercare to align with go-live timing.

Select a Deployment Methodology

Select an approach to fit your needs. In a phased approach, discrete capabilities are implemented in phases over time. The parallel approach or the big-bang approach is where migration from a legacy to a new ERP system takes place in one big system cutover. In a technical go-live approach, most/all system functionalities are implemented but system adoption and use by business owners is phased in over time.

Leverage Project Management Tools

Assign a Project Manager (PM) who has a good understanding of the ERP platform and business needs. Utilize tools such as project plan, RAID logs, change management logs, resource and budget tracker to communicate with the stakeholders and to maintain project timelines.

Practice Proactive Change Management

Manage any changes to the implementation timeline, budget and level of effort proactively. Have a user engagement plan and immediately communicate any changes and issues with the core team. This enables them to access the situation, impact and react appropriately. Have an escalation plan to deal with issues.

Ensure End User Preparedness & Training

Provide in-depth knowledge to end users on how to use the ERP properly prior to going live. Develop all operational documents (procedures, work instructions etc.) to outline the new business processes. Create a user training schedule and notify trainees ahead of time.

Key Takeaways

  • A successful ERP implementation requires companies to pay as much attention to ensuring a successful Business Go-Live as they do to ensuring the Technical Go-Live.
  • A detailed definition of the ERP opportunity and implementation timeline should be outlined and socialized amongst all system users. The core team should understand the purpose, timeline, intend use and expect benefits of the ERP implementation.
  • User involvement and buy-in is essential. Involve employees from all impacted functions to define user requirements. Ensure users get timely robust support i.e., training pre-implementation and hyper care along go-live, and need based support post-implementation.