New business software in 6 steps – How to successfully implement applications in your company
The implementation of any new business software or resource planning (ERP) is a complicated process. Careful planning and strategizing are therefore essential, as the success of the project stands and falls with the project plan. In this guide, we will show you how to divide the process into six steps to ensure a smoother and more successful process.
Step 1: Preparation and planning
Only people can bring about transformation. Therefore, you must assemble a team of first- and second-level managers from all departments to develop and execute your project plan. A broad range of expertise in this team will give you crucial insight into the impact of system and process changes on day-to-day operations.
Important tip: Make sure to have back-up for the key positions in your team! Also, keep in mind that key staff will primarily work on the enterprise software project in the future.
The first step for this new project team is to assess current business practices to determine which processes can be improved or automated by the new enterprise software. Prioritize these processes and use this assessment to develop a strategy. This will define the goals and scope of the implementation. Include an assessment of potential risks in this strategy. Established tools such as SWOT, Business Model Canvas, Business Model Value Curve, Risk Matrix and the RACI model will help you in your decision making.
Think outside the box in your research: Study enterprise software or enterprise software examples from comparable companies to get a feel for what works best in your industry. The first step is to get help: Get support from someone who understands your business processes and can work with you on these efficiently.
Step 2: Review the process and procedures
Engage the project team to conduct a comprehensive review of the features and capabilities of your new enterprise software. The purpose of this review is twofold: The project team must become familiar with all aspects of the new enterprise software and they must identify knowledge and skill gaps before general implementation. This experience will guide any necessary training.
Also, check which manual processes are to be automated by the new system and ensure that the necessary changes are made prior to implementation. This will make the automation runs smoothly.
Tip: Conduct interviews with key staff in each department to find out first-hand how current processes work together and how these processes can be automated most effectively.
In addition to the knowledge available in your company, you can also use external expertise: Conduct regular audits to compare the output with benchmarks and determine whether the solution is adding value. You should also start thinking about training already. If you do not want to be trained yourself as a manager, it is imperative that you plan and allow the training of key users. Afterwards you will also know more yourself!
Step 3: Data preparation
Determine which of your existing data needs to be converted into the new system and analyze it to weed out useless or outdated information. If possible, locate the source documents to verify the accuracy and completeness of the data. A little homework at this stage is very helpful, as an enterprise software is only as useful as its data. If your data is clogged with inaccurate information, the value of your new enterprise software will be negatively impacted.
Once the data is reviewed and cleansed, you should create a spreadsheets to collect useful data and divide it into logical tables to streamline the transition to the new system. Set realistic expectations for the process with all stakeholders, from management to early staff, and keep communication open about how the process will unfold. This way, you can reduce any concerns about the change to new tools and processes and instead promote acceptance of the new software after implementation.
Experience shows that it makes sense to give key users access to the software at an early stage so that they can gain initial experience – an under estimated privilege of the software industry and of corresponding software projects. Take advantage of this opportunity, whether you plan to introduce the software later in waves or completely in one fell swoop.
Step 4: Testing and Training
Have the project team practice with a test database filled with real transaction data for a full week to validate system output, test accuracy and ensure that integrations and interfaces work properly. In addition to testing the new system, this hands-on experience with the new software can be used to help the project team create cheat sheets and process documentation for company-wide training.
The ideal training methodology varies depending on the number of staff in your organization. Depending on how much time your employees can dedicate to training and where they are located, you can decide whether face-to-face training, e-learning or a combination of both is best. Regardless of which training method you choose, use these suggestions to make the process more effective for everyone involved:
- Train tech-savvy employees to be ERP software super-users, so they can help with simple user problems and your IT department can take care of bigger issues.
- Make parts of the training process into a game to increase engagement. This “gamification” encourages friendly competition among colleagues while training them to use the software.
- Offer incentives for completing the training on time. A combination of small perks, such as free food or an extra hour for lunch, and large perks, such as cash bonuses or extra days off, can be an effective way to motivate employees and make the process fun.
- Tip: Turn cheat sheets and process documentation into standard operating procedures that the entire company can access and that are updated regularly.
Step 5: Introduction
Compile a checklist for the days and weeks following the roll-out to ensure that the following points are observed:
- System testing after go-live.
- Timing and budget for overtime or temporary staff.
- Communication protocols for system downtime.
- Verification of network speed and reliability. Your new system will be a cloud solution: fast, robust connectivity is a key element.
- Data backup procedures. This is less complex in the cloud, but no less important.
- Plan for lots of questions on launch day and be prepared for hiccups. Make sure your project team is prepared to guide its departments through the process and that your IT team is ready to make changes and adjustments as needed. ERP implementation is a lot of work, but the productivity and profitability benefits are worth it.
Step 6: Performance
After the implementation, you must evaluate the performance of your ERP solution against the goals your project team set during the planning phase. Does your new system meet these goals? Does it successfully automate manual processes as it should? If not, further changes and refinements are needed.
Conduct regular audits to compare the output of the enterprise software or individual components such as CE (CRM) or ERP solution against benchmarks and determine if your current solution is still adding value. Whether an occurring error originates in the solution or in the platform can be determined through such tests.
External factors can also cause processes that previously worked well to become invalid: Reasons include new technologies – it is not difficult to imagine customers requesting a quote via Twitter, for example, or reporting damage via Instagram and Tiktok. Dynamic markets, regulatory requirements (GDPR) and disasters such as the Covid pandemic can also make changes necessary.
Want to hear more? Contact our ERP experts and get started with Microsoft Dynamics 365.