Many middle market organizations have recently migrated or are planning to migrate to updated financial and operational systems, commonly referred to as enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. If selected properly, most of these systems offer significant tactical and strategic advantages to organizations.
A range of capabilities is gained from adopting an updated application, including making underlying business processes more efficient and scalable. It also provides greater flexibility for working remotely as well as improved security and business continuity features.
The sheer notion of gaining access to these features, however, does not guarantee your organization will be able to reap their benefits. It takes more than selecting the right tool to get the job done; middle market managers also need to ensure their selected solutions are maintained effectively after implementation. Initial implementation is critical, but ongoing support and enhancements are key drivers of success over the long haul.
The Implementation Process
During initial phase of most implementation projects, selected applications are configured based on business process requirements; applicable screens, forms, reports, and potential integrations are developed and tested; and end users are trained on how to use the new system. It is critical during this stage to ensure that a group of core users, subject matter experts, or process owners have been exposed to the application at a deeper level, giving them an opportunity to re-imagine new process flows and take advantage of underlying features. This core group will also be responsible for testing and tweaking the application as well as conducting end user training.
Initial implementation efforts are the foundational building blocks for success. Poorly designed and implemented systems will result in significant post-go live issues, low morale, and increased costs and frustrations. It usually takes 90 to 120 days for a newly implemented system to settle down. The first month is typically very hectic, with numerous issues and corrections to address. The second and third months gradually become better if the team has done its homework with initial implementation efforts.
What happens after the initial post-go live implementation period also plays a critical role in the long-term success of these projects. Vendors and delivery partners often move on to another project and switch clients over to support mode, meaning that clients now have to work with a new team of support professionals. What we have observed with this common industry practice is that unless the company has a strong internal knowledge base and advocacy resources, the new system can become stale. Little by little, users revert to their old habits of creating workarounds. Eventually, this can lead to inefficient operations.
Given the internal ERP resource constraints faced by most middle market companies, selecting a partner that delivers continuous support via an advisory model is crucial. It’s important for your vendor to stay engaged with the core project team members over the long haul, educate them on the latest updates, alert them of upcoming internal challenges, and provide tailored solutions to address such challenges.
Next time you are evaluating a financial or ERP solution, don’t just dig into the features and functions of the application. Consider your existing internal resources and what you will need an external partner bring to the table a year or two after your initial go live, because that will be the secret sauce to success in the long run!
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