Five Steps to a Successful ERP System

➡ BEGIN BY FORGING AN INTERNAL CONSENSUS among key constituencies in your company about what you are trying to achieve. One key question is how much of your system can be offsite in the cloud versus on-premises. You don’t want to change technical specifications after you launch. That can lead to cost overruns and delays, known as ERP “bloat.”

➡ PICK A TECHNOLOGY PARTNER CAREFULLY. Most SMEs will not deal directly with an SAP or Microsoft, but rather with one of their local channel partners. Rather than a vendor relationship, this is more like a marriage in which your partner will learn your innermost secrets. Check references to make sure the provider has strong service capabilities in your geographic area and knows your industry.

➡ WITH CLOUD SOLUTIONS, IT IS USUALLY BETTER to accept software that is considered industry best practice rather than insist on customized solutions. The more customization you have, the greater the challenges of maintaining integration as different underlying programs are updated by providers. “Customization of software in the SME space should be considered a four-letter word,” says SAP’s Kevin Gilroy.

➡ CONCENTRATE ON MAKING THE SYSTEM EASY TO USE. “The No. 1 reason for failure,” says Microsoft’s Gordon Macdonald, “is not poor software design. It’s because the folks in your organization don’t like using the tool and therefore don’t adopt it.”

➡ MAINTAIN C-LEVEL INVOLVEMENT in the implementation and take active ownership of the process, rather than relying exclusively on your partner. As the old adage goes, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.

William J. Holstein :William J. Holstein is a journalist, consultant and speaker. He is the author of, "The Next American Economy: Blueprint For A Sustainable Recovery." For more of his work, visit www.williamjholstein.com.