“How long will the implementation take?”

It’s a fair question for any company considering the implementation of an ERP platform. Unfortunately,this can be a difficult thing to determine with certainty, as each ERP implementation sticks to its own pace.

The pace of implementation can be understood either in terms of the project process or life cycle. Where theERP implementation processmay only take a month or two, this merely accounts for the time it takes for the system to go from a purchased service to a usable one. On the other hand, theERP implementation life cycleconsiders the system as an entity in perpetual development, from the moment the search for an ERP begins to the day it's eventually replaced.

ERP Implementation Process

Your system deployment strategy is a critical consideration for any company looking to invest in an ERP. Many ERP adopters follow an implementation strategy akin to ripping off a bandage; quick, but painful – if only momentarily.  Through this approach your old processes are removed and replaced with the new ERP system in one fell swoop. On a given date, the staff is moved to the new system and begin to use it.  

While this approach to implementation can often be completed earlier and less expensively than a staggered methodology, you run the risk of missing details during implementation and incur greater employee disruption. In a staggered implementation, this process occurs in phases, which limits employee work disruption and provides you with more opportunity to ensure the system is working as expected.

Once you’ve established your strategy for implementation, it’s important to understand the implementation process itself. It often begins with establishing which onsite infrastructure and hardware elements will be required, and installing them accordingly. This could include networking hardware to support a stronger connection with your cloud system, or the installation of onsite servers for a locally hosted solution. It's worth noting, however, that while you may need to improve networking hardware, the requirements at this stage are greatly reduced in a cloud solution.

Once infrastructure is in place, the next step is the installation of the system itself. From a technical standpoint, this step is quite simple for a cloud solution, requiring a web-browser, and potentially the installation of a couple of plugins. In the case of an onsite implementation, the process is considerably more complicated, often requiring an onsite technician to get the system implemented properly. Once installed, maintenance and configuration must be performed to ensure the system is working as required. 

With the infrastructure in place and the system installed, the next step involves uploading key business data to the new system. This data includes any previously collected client data, inventory information, lead lists, previous engagements and any other business critical information you require access to in the new system. It’s often wise to back up the data you decide not to upload as you may find its more important than initially thought.

With the key data uploaded to the system, the next step is the configuration of preferences, documentation of processes, and training of employees. This is widely considered the most important step in the implementation process, for the reason that having employees that understand the system is key to gaining competitive advantage out of its implementation.

Once you’ve trained your employees to use the system and you’ve ousted the most egregious bugs in the maintenance stage, the system requires a period of live testing and validation. This is used to ensure that the users are not being limited by the system, or their understanding of it.

ERP Implementation Life Cycle

When you initially roll out an ERP system it passes through various phases as it goes live. The first of these phases is a period of organized chaos immediately following the implementation, during which time testing needs to be done on the system to better optimize its performance, and better tailor it to your business’s requirements.

Once the system is optimized to the customer’s use-casea period of maintenanceis required, during which minor changes to workflows and efforts in familiarizing staff with the systems can be completed. Following this, it's a matter of extending the obtainable value from the system before the downslide of effectiveness begins. This is often done with hardware maintenance, or updates from the ERP system developer.

During the ERP’s eventual downslide, the technological requirements of the business is likely to grow. This serves only toamplify the issue of the software’s increasing ageand deteriorating performance. Furthermore, making changes to the system grows more difficult as maintenance leads to patch after patch and hard code customizations to the system.

Considering this deteriorating performance and diminishing return on maintenance investment,companies usually begin to look elsewhere for their business IT requirements. This restarts the ERP system implementation process, which in turn, restarts the ERP implementation life cycle until the inevitable replacement of the system with a modern alternative. However, you can break this cycle throughthe implementation of a SaaS (Software as a Service) system for your ERPIT requirements.

The Cloud Difference

With an SaaS ERP solution, your company is able to avoid this decay in performance, benefiting from updates to the hardware and software systems from the ERP service provider. This ensures your company has access to modern systems and hardware platforms, thus avoiding the problems that stem from degradation of system performance and modernization. 

With the ERP system hosted in the cloud, you can gain easier access to the software, avoiding the troubles of onsite maintenance, and never worrying about updating your physical servers to get quality performance. Furthermore, because implementation and installation is done quickly and easily, without the need for an onsite server installation and extensive maintenance, the time of an ERP platform can be greatly extended.