At a time when many businesses are being forced to pause or slow down operations, many of our customers are shipping more product than ever. Our company produces enterprise resource planning (ERP) software for global manufacturers and distributors. The supply chain leaders we partner with are working hard to keep their raw materials arriving and their production staff in place to keep up with orders – all while juggling family life and remote work challenges.
Customers that had been planning ERP implementations this year are now wondering if their projects are feasible. The most common questions we are hearing include: Is this the right time to take on a complex internal initiative? Is it even possible to complete an ERP project remotely, without any of your team members coming on site? And if so, how?
Since we already did the majority of our implementation work remotely before this crisis, we have been able to easily adapt our processes and guide companies through successful, fully remote ERP software launches.
If your company is considering managing an ERP implementation soon, here are some of the most valuable lessons we have learned in recent months.
Understand Your Team’s Bandwidth
Every company is different, and only your team can determine if now is the right moment to upgrade your ERP software. It will require an initial investment of dollars, time and resources, but done right, it will streamline all of your operations, from formulation and product development through production, shipping, warehousing, sales, and accounting.
Before making a decision to move forward with an ERP project, be certain that you have a good understanding of your team’s bandwidth to take on the project. What will your team’s capacity be for taking on additional duties? Who will lead the project? Some companies are finding that with large portions of their team working from home, many people have more time available for infrastructure projects. Doing a project like this now can ensure that your company is well-positioned for growth when the world ultimately returns to more normal times.
Embrace Technology For Improved Efficiency
Though our team traditionally managed about 80% of an ERP implementation remotely, until recently, we still sent team members to be on-site at a customer’s facility for three critical events: the project kickoff, the conference room pilot and the go-live launch. We are now conducting the entire process remotely using tools such as GoToMeeting and webcam-enabled tablets, and we have been pleased to discover a few unexpected benefits from this transition.
- Project Kickoff
Before: We sent three to five team members to the customer’s facility for two to four full workdays. Each day typically involved extensive meetings with key team members. Our goal was to gain a better understanding of their critical business issues and begin to map the details of their ERP project.
Now: We are setting aside short sessions – lasting an hour or two – with the leader of each functional area: production, warehousing, purchasing, sales, etc. Because we only have a limited period of time with every person, we have been having more focused and productive conversations. Using a webinar functionality on a tablet, each leader gives us a virtual tour of their functional area, commenting on what is happening live and how it relates to their ERP.
Takeaway: Reserve short, dedicated blocks of time with key players instead of trying to carve out multiple days for a project kickoff. When you only have an hour to meet, people are more willing to put away distractions and give the task their full attention.
- Conference Room Pilot
Before: Two months before the go-live event, our team members went on-site to help the customer test scenarios that exhibit a standard day in the life of their business. We helped them simulate business practices through the new ERP procedures to confirm everything was working as expected.
Now: We use live webcam screen sharing to help our customer test the new ERP platform, provide feedback, and troubleshoot any issues that arise. We have found that this process is just as effective in a virtual setting as it is in person.
Takeaway: Go through a live simulation of new ERP software (remotely or on-site) so key stakeholders can voice questions, address obstacles, and review successes. Giving customers the option to be in person or virtual can help them better manage their resources and budget, while still gaining the same value.
- Go-Live Launch
Before: We sent one to five team members to support the customer as they converted to the new software and started using it live.
Now: In advance of the launch, we set up a support hotline monitored by our team. If the customer encounters any challenges or questions, they can jump into an ongoing webinar at any time for immediate help. We also schedule 15-minute stand-up meetings with each functional area owner to check in and address problems in real-time. Both the hotline and the stand-up meetings have been enormously beneficial for both our team and the customer. When we manage the launch on-site, we can sometimes get caught putting out little fires instead of looking at the bigger picture. The remote process helps us prioritize issues and stay focused on overall go-live goals.
Takeaway: Allocate time for each functional area owner to assess their part of the launch, noting positive results and potential risks. Take a step back and make sure you are still aligned with your big-picture objectives.
An ERP implementation is a major undertaking for your entire team, but it is a worthwhile investment if executed properly. With the help of technology and the perseverance of your team, you can achieve a smooth and successful remote ERP launch.