Upgrading to a new ERP system can be both exciting and daunting. On the one hand, your new ERP system may provide greater flexibility, usability, and help streamline many of your day-to-day processes. The benefits are great, and you can’t wait to see the positive effects they will have on your business. But then you start thinking about the implementation process, and one big question stands out: “How long will this take?” While ERP implementations can take up to several years to complete, the average implementation time is six to twelve months. But don’t let this trouble you; if you’ve selected a user-friendly ERP system with great flexibility, the benefits will far outweigh the time you’ve invested. In regards to ERP implementation, it’s also important to remember that it’s not just about software. The implementation process is essentially a life cycle comprising 5 stages: selection, installation, migration, training, and go-live & beyond. Understanding this life cycle is imperative for a successful implementation.
The 5 Stages of the Implementation Life Cycle
Stage 1: Selection
The first stage of the implementation life cycle is selecting the ERP system. This phase typically takes three to six months and includes defining the requirements your system needs, narrowing down the wide array of ERP solutions to a shortlist of vendors, reviewing proposals and demos, and final selection and negotiation. Prior to the selection stage, companies may also spend up to 6 months developing an overall plan and organizing teams to handle the implementation, though this planning stage isn’t officially part of the life cycle.
Stage 2: Installation
The length of this stage can vary depending on the type of ERP system being installed. Traditional ERP systems may take up to several weeks to fully install owing to the time it takes to deliver the hardware and software, set up infrastructure such as networking facilities and data collection/display devices, and installing the software. On the other hand, a cloud ERP solution may not require any software installation and have little to no installation lead time, saving considerable time in the implementation process.
Stage 3: Migration
This stage contains two main components: data conversion & loading and testing & validation. After the new ERP system has been installed, data from the old system must be migrated to the new system. A large chunk of this data includes basic records, such as customer, vendor, and item master files. It also includes active transactional data that should be loaded just before go-live. Some of this data migration may be completed in conjunction with the training and validation steps, and an IT team or a team of consultants and contractors can also help with this step of migration.
In the testing & validation step of migration, IT will work with users to verify the converted data is correct by comparing and examining the basic records and transactional data. They will also ensure the new system is producing the expected results. Testing & validation occurs over an extended period during training and procedure development as each functional area loads data and begins processing test user transactions.
While the migration stage requires considerable time and effort, it doesn’t add a significant amount to the implementation timeline.
Stage 4: Training
The fourth stage in the implementation life cycle is the most important and also the most time-consuming. This stage includes not only user training, but also procedure development. In this stage, operational employees will be trained on the new system while also still being responsible for their everyday jobs. The time this training takes varies depending on the size and complexity of the new ERP system (number of users and modules, degree of difference in old and new procedures, etc.) and how much time users can devote to training each day. It may be beneficial to hire temporary employees to maintain the old processes while your employees are being trained on the new system.
Stage 5: Go-Live & Beyond
The final stage can be handled in a variety of ways. The go-live could happen instantaneously or completed in phases. A third approach could also involve employees using both the old and new systems simultaneously for one or two accounting periods (or some other specified amount of time). However you decide to handle the go-live stage, you should know that this isn’t the end of the ERP implementation life cycle. Ongoing user training is essential to maximize the benefits of the new ERP system and utilize all the software has to offer.
The Importance of the Process
If you’re frustrated with the limitations of your current ERP system and vendor, it may be time to consider upgrading to a more flexible solution, such as a cloud-based ERP system. Once you decide the time is now for an upgrade, become familiar with the five stages of the ERP implementation life cycle. But understanding the life cycle is just one step to ensure a smooth transition from one ERP system to the next. It’s equally important to partner with a vendor who understands the importance of the process and will guide you along the way.
At iPro ERP, we’ve been helping businesses with their ERP decisions for over 20 years. From decision to implementation to ongoing support, we work with our clients to help them get the most out of their ERP system.
Jeff DeSchon, VP of Sales at iPro ERP, on the implementation process:
“It is vitally important to have a detailed and concise implementation plan. We’ve found it helps keep projects on track and simplifies managing all of the steps involved in an ERP implementation. When we work the plan, it helps minimize your company’s exposure to risk factors like missing your Go Live date, scope creep or project drift and unnecessary cost overruns.”Jeff DeSchon, iPro Vice President – Sales
If you would like to learn more about how we can help you get the most out of your ERP software, contact us today.