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How Long Does an ERP Implementation Take for an SMB?

Manufacturing News


By Alan Margulis

Determining a timeline for ERP implementation is a complex task for businesses of all sizes. The length of time depends on many variables, some of which are consistent for all organisations, and some of which will be unique to yours.

What is more important than an accurate projection of your go-live date is a detailed timeline with milestones and realistic expectations. Build your timeline based on as accurate an assumption as you can make about each of the involved tasks, which are covered below. Depending on the size and scope of your business, the project can take anywhere up to two years, but that has been exceedingly rare for our customers.

Building realistic expectations is a ground-up process that involves everyone in your organisation. To achieve the expected benefits from an ERP implementation, you must account for the technical aspects of the project and the people and process aspects. This involves weekly status meetings between business leaders and the implementation team, the latter of which includes members of your staff and your vendor’s staff. If this does not occur with consistent regularity, neither party will be held accountable for ensuring that milestones are met. All parties must come to terms with common expectations and priorities at the outset of an ERP implementation project.

Who should determine the time to go-live?

Pick a project champion in your organisation to head the implementation plan. Assign an experienced leader with project management and communication skills, since this person will be required to execute the following steps:

  1. Define the proposed change to the company’s top executives
  2. Bring the proposal to life by painting a vivid picture of before and after implementation
  3. Set measurable goals with defined key performance indicators, where applicable
  4. Communicate value at every level for company-wide buy-in and commitment
  5. Keep the project organised and on pace to achieve its deadline

The project champion should appoint a complete implementation team to define and schedule the project. The team should follow a sequence of activities that includes the following:

  1. Set realistic expectations and account for what can go wrong, with contingencies
  2. Define business needs including workflows for all engineering, manufacturing, shipping, selling, marketing, accounting, customer service, and administrative processes
  3. Develop a business case to stakeholders that details how the new ERP solution will bring efficiencies, cost savings, and productivity to the organisation based on process improvement
  4. Ensure organisational alignment and delegate roles on the implementation team
  5. Research and determine hard requirements including modules and features for the system
  6. Communicate change and deal with any potential resistance
  7. Re-map current business processes to new ERP solution
  8. Develop a data migration strategy
  9. Train staff
  10. Test and go-live!

A strong vendor will partner with the project champion and implementation team to determine which goals are a priority, and how these phases can be broken up more specifically for your unique organisational needs. At the end of this planning process, you will have realistic expectations for moving forward with a timeline and final go-live deadline.

What are the time factors to consider?

Implementation time can be affected by many variables, each of which can add complexity and time to your process. Here are some of the most common:

  1. Desired number of ERP solution modules
  2. Deployment locations
  3. Potential software customisations
  4. Data conversion
  5. Number of business users
  6. Vendor experience with similar types of implementations

What can cause delays?

In addition to planning how everything will proceed, consider what can potentially go wrong. Business processes may not be completely and accurately defined, which may come to light later on in the process. Personnel may not perform tasks and meet deadlines, business leaders may interject new considerations when the timeline is well underway, and data may be full of errors and duplications, requiring extensive cleaning before migration. These are a few of the common causes of delays.

If you’re considering an on-premise solution with hardware, you’ll also need to add time for procuring the hardware as well as hiring and training IT staff. This option is far too complex and expensive for most small-to-midsize businesses, and it doesn’t offer the built-in security and update features of cloud-based solutions.

A strategic Enterprise Resource Planning implementation process is essential to moving your business forward. Because this system will integrate, manage, facilitate, and automate all of your business processes, it is critical to plan a comprehensive implementation schedule.

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