ERP adoption: 3 keys to setting yourself up for success


4 min read

Investing in an ERP solution is a big step for organizations. Yet too often, the adoption process fails. The result? Costly shelfware, which helps no one and hurts everyone (and drives CFOs crazy). 

Like faulty structures, most problems with ERP adoption processes can be traced back to the foundation. Without one—or with a suboptimal one—it’s nearly impossible to get full value out of your ERP solution.

But this doesn’t have to be your fate. 

Here are three keys to creating the foundation for a successful ERP adoption, as outlined in a recent podcast episode by Tyler Santos, VP of Engineering at Zone & Co, and Joe Scavotto, Senior Director of Solution Consulting at Zone & Co.

1.) Identify current pain points and areas of success

“If you’re looking to install a new ERP in your business, I think identifying the problems that you have in your current processes, or even the areas that are working really well, can help you create those buckets of capabilities that you need, and those will inherently tell you what you need the system to do,” says Tyler. 

Before getting an ERP, knowing what you already do and don’t do well is the first step in understanding your needs. 

Maybe you’re strong with journal entry but weak in billing. Perhaps your accounts payable process is broken. Wherever your current strengths and weaknesses are, it’s vital to dig in and investigate what reality is like today so you can build out a vision of what the future with an ERP might look like. 

“This gives you an opportunity to create the most efficiencies that you can on day one, and not have to re-tailor or reconfigure something six or ten months down the road,” says Joe.

2.) Get alignment on the business strategy moving forward

“It’s important to identify and work with the leadership team to understand what the strategy is moving forward and what the business capabilities are that you’re really trying to achieve in the future, so that you can identify buckets and capabilities that you might not even have or be aware of right now, but you might want to build for in the future,” says Tyler.

Knowing where your business is going in the future is paramount to successful ERP adoption. Organizational plans to grow and scale, stay private or go public, or expand into new territories all have significant implications on what you need an ERP to be able to do.

It also helps you map out:

  • What capabilities you absolutely need to have now 
  • What capabilities you can do without
  • What capabilities you don’t need now but will need in the future

3.) Outline and build a phased approach

“I really like to talk to clients about the phasing approach—not boiling the ocean,” says Joe. “What do we need on day one to stand up and get you off of your old system? But knowing that’s not the end goal. We know we want to get you to automation on every level. But by getting you out of your old system today, your employees get comfortable in the new system.”

Too often, companies implement an ERP and make one, two, or three critical errors early in the adoption process:

  • Immediately move all processes onto the ERP
  • Add too many modules
  • Onboard too many users

This works in theory, but in reality, it causes complexity, frustration, and software avoidance. And all three of these things turn what should be a business-changing solution into shelfware. 

Instead of rushing modules and user onboarding, you should aim to start small (and slow). Begin by introducing only a few processes to a few users. “Just start with a small subset of your employee population to introduce new features that are needed in your finance processes and then grow from there,” says Tyler.

This way, a small number of employees get familiar with the platform in a manageable way, increasing their comfort with the new system and turning them into your ERP champions. Over time, you can gradually introduce new modules to more users and allow these champions to coach others on the platform, ensuring company-wide adoption and success.

“I like to really focus on: let’s get one of these business units live, have them uncover those kinks in your process that you can actually refine so when you have your large, most complex one, you have a great foundation to say ‘Oh, that’s easy, we can just implement this and we’re good to go,’” says Joe. “It just gives you that pathway to be able to get the business up and running.”

Quote of the episode

“Take your time, do your due diligence, do not rush the process—because focusing on getting it right and being really aware of how your company needs these business processes to work within a system is going to enable everybody within the company to be on board and the success of the entire implementation to go really well.” – Tyler Santos

Listen to the full “How to create the foundation for the successful adoption of an ERP” episode here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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