You made it! After months (maybe even years in some cases) you and your ERP implementation project will finally cross the finish line. It is a momentous occasion, which may have at times seemed impossible to reach, so once you get here it is time to celebrate.
Remember, however, once you have gone live, you still have a long way to go. End users need to be confident and comfortable working with the new ERP solution and providing high-quality, effective, post go-live support is crucial to overall project success. Without it, the inevitable performance dip will be exaggerated and change acceptance delayed. Organisations reap long-term success from their ERP implementation if they help end users climb the learning curve with timely, robust support.
Provide plenty of onsite support for your teams for at least the first few weeks after go-live. A network of competent super users is critical. These are typically proactive employees from the business who gain exposure to new processes and system through the test events and sometimes receive extra training prior to go-live. They provide a clear point of contact for questions and issues. You (or your ERP implementation partner) should prepare support resources to stay onsite longer than you think you need. This is when unexpected issues tend to arise.
Prepare an implementation toolkit for managers/supervisors that includes a comprehensive list of new terms and definitions, reinforces the need for the change, highlights benefit and key changes in their area, and provides a clear outline of the support mechanisms available. This equips key business leaders to visibly support the change throughout implementation and after go-live by delivering the right messages and escalating issues correctly.
Schedule regular meetings with the support and project team to raise issues in a timely manner, answer questions appropriately, deliver consistent messages and provide proper direction.
“Implementing a new ERP and getting back to where the business started with a new front-end and a new way of processing is not success, it is a costly way of standing still.”
Going live is simply the start of the next phase of the project. There will have been requirements, issues, modifications and suggestions that were not on the business-critical path, or were even purposely moved off the business-critical path, and now these must be addressed.
Even if the business has implemented successfully and there was little in the second phase and they have made massive leaps forward throughout the business, this is still not the time to do nothing. The go-live process is perpetual. Standing still after go-live will see the business begin to slip backwards from an ERP perspective.
The system needs to be constantly reviewed, processes and applications should be assessed for suitability and purpose, and where gain can be extracted from a change it should be made.
If at this stage the business stops the process of continually improving, innovating and enhancing their ERP solution, there is a distinct possibility that within the next five to ten years they will be undertaking a new implementation project to reimplement a new system because the incumbent system does not meet the needs of the business. An ERP system is one of the costliest most and powerful tools a company possesses. Senior leaders must ensure it is developed to its full potential. This, in turn, brings us full circle, knowing your incumbent system – without it, the business will not be going live perpetually, they will be implementing ERP perpetually.
Whilst there is a period of settling into the new system to gain the full leverage of the software and the change, the original reasons for change and the strengths of the new software and possibilities must be brought to the fore. The original goals set out during the purchasing process should be reviewed for relevancy and achievement.
In addition, a post-implementation audit should be performed after the system has been live for the first week and then three to six months following to ensure the anticipated ROI and business benefits are being realised. Comparing actual numbers with previously established benchmarks will reveal if the software tool does what it is intended to do – add value to the business. It is important to periodically review the system’s performance to maximise ROI.
Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 18 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.