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A Guide to A Smooth ERP Implementation Timeline for SMBs

Naama Aharoni  |  June 27, 2023

How long does an ERP implementation take for an SMB and how to make it a successful one?

For SMBs looking to implement Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, the process can seem daunting. It is important to understand the various steps and factors that go into a successful ERP implementation before diving in head first. More often than not, small business owners underestimate the complexity of an ERP implementation process and overestimate how quickly it can be done.

This guide is designed to demystify the ERP implementation process for SMBs, provide insights into the factors that influence timelines, and outline typical implementation phases.

UNDERSTANDING WHAT IS AN ERP SOFTWARE

Before exploring the specifics of implementing an ERP system, it is important to have a clear grasp of what ERP actually is and why it is so beneficial for SMBs.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is a technology-based solution used by organizations to manage core business processes and operations such as inventory management, financials management, customer relationship management (CRM), human resources (HR), supply chain management (SCM), etc., in an integrated platform.

By embracing ERP systems, businesses can streamline processes across departments and teams, reduce manual labor, automate workflows, gain real-time insights into operations, and improve decision-making.

FACTORS INFLUENCING ERP IMPLEMENTATION TIMELINE

The timeline for an ERP implementation depends on several factors that must be considered in the planning stages. These include the project's complexity, data migration needs, customization requirements, training & support needs, vendor selection process, change management initiatives, and integration with other existing systems.


COMPLEXITY

The complexity of an ERP implementation directly impacts the timeline. For instance, a simple implementation such as moving from one version of the same software to another may require less time than building out more custom processes and features. Additionally, if the company wants to implement multiple modules or integrations with third-party applications, there will be additional complexities to consider. All of these factors must be considered when setting up project timelines.

DATA MIGRATION

One important factor influencing ERP implementation timelines is data migration. Data migration involves transferring information from existing systems (such as manual spreadsheets) to the new ERP system to ensure that all relevant information is readily available for use within the new system. Data migration is a time-consuming process, and it needs to be thoroughly researched and planned out to ensure that data integrity is maintained throughout the migration.

CUSTOMIZATION

Customizing ERP software can also impact implementation timelines as it requires additional development time to ensure all components are working within the desired scope of the project. Customization may include setting up specific user roles, building custom reports or dashboards, configuring automated workflows between modules, and more. All customization needs should be outlined early on in the planning process so that they can be fully accounted for when creating timelines.

TRAINING AND SUPPORT

Training employees on how to use ERP software effectively is another factor that can influence ERP implementation timelines. Setting aside enough time for training and support is important to ensure that employees are comfortable using the system. This includes creating user manuals, providing online tutorials, or even offering on-site training sessions so employees feel supported throughout the process.

VENDOR SELECTION

Choosing the right vendor is essential when it comes to implementing an ERP system. Different vendors offer different service levels and may have unique requirements that could affect timelines. It is important to thoroughly research potential vendors before making a decision in order to ensure that they can provide the level of service needed and meet your timeline expectations.

CHANGE MANAGEMENT

Change management initiatives should also be taken into account when developing an ERP implementation timeline. Change management is the process of introducing new business processes or systems in a way that minimizes disruption and creates a smooth transition for all involved. This includes developing a strategy to communicate the changes, providing adequate training and support, and creating incentives for employees to embrace the new system.

INTEGRATION

Lastly, an ERP implementation plan must also include integration with existing systems. Integration between different software platforms can require additional development time to ensure compatibility and data integrity between systems. Furthermore, it is important to test any integrations thoroughly before moving forward with deployment to minimize any potential issues down the line.

TYPICAL ERP IMPLEMENTATION PHASES

Here are the typical phases of ERP software implementation:

ERP Implementation phases_EN
1. PROJECT PREPARATION

Project Preparation is a critical phase of the ERP implementation plan as it sets the foundation for the project's success. It involves defining the scope of work, budgeting for the ERP solution, and selecting an appropriate project team to carry out the project. During this stage, careful consideration should be given to determining what kind of customization is needed, along with expected timelines and resource allocations. If done correctly, this phase helps create a solid roadmap for the successful completion of the other phases.

Scope Definition - Defining the scope of an ERP implementation sets out the goals and objectives that need to be achieved while allowing for flexibility as situations change throughout the process. Without a clear scope definition, there can be confusion around roles and responsibilities, project timelines, and deliverables. This can delay or derail the ERP implementation process altogether.

Budgeting - ERP implementation costs can be pricy. It requires adequate budgeting for resources such as software licenses, hardware requirements, professional services fees, user training costs, data migration costs, and ongoing maintenance fees. One of the most common mistakes made with budgeting is underestimating resource needs or failing to plan for unforeseen expenses that may arise during the project. It is imperative to consult with an experienced ERP implementation specialist to ensure that the budget accurately reflects all necessary costs for a successful implementation.

ERP Project Team Selection - Selecting the right implementation team members and assigning roles is critical to ERP implementation success.  An effective project team should include representatives from each area of the business that will be impacted by the project and technical personnel who can provide expertise on system development and deployment. Everyone on the project team must clearly understand their roles and responsibilities, as well as how they fit into the overall project timeline. Without this clarity, tasks may not be completed properly or on time, which could further delay or even prevent an ERP implementation from being successful.

2. BUSINESS BLUEPRINT

The business blueprint phase is the most intensive phase of the ERP implementation life cycle. During this stage, an in-depth analysis is performed to understand all aspects of the organization and its requirements for the new ERP system. This includes gathering requirements from business stakeholders and conducting workshops to document current business processes, identify areas for improvement, and design the future state.

Process Review - To ensure that the new ERP system meets the organization's needs, it is necessary to first review and analyze existing processes. This involves mapping out how tasks are currently being completed within each department or division and identifying opportunities where automation or streamlining can be implemented with a new ERP solution. Depending on the size of your organization, this may require multiple workshops to capture all the necessary information for a successful ERP implementation.

System Design - Once the current processes have been documented, it’s time to start designing the new system. This requires analyzing how each process will be handled in the new ERP system and designing customizations if needed. Additionally, this stage involves setting up roles and privileges within the system for security purposes as well as defining data migration rules from legacy systems into the new ERP solution.

3. PROJECT REALIZATION AND FINAL PREPARATION

The project realization phase is where most of the development work takes place.  During this stage, customizations are built, integrations are configured, users are trained on the new system, and quality assurance tests are conducted to ensure everything is working properly before the go-live date.

4. GO-LIVE

Once all of the development work has been completed and tested, it’s time to go live with the new ERP system. During this stage, users are given access to the system and begin entering data, while post-implementation support is provided by the vendor or consultant to ensure any issues that arise are quickly resolved. The importance of proper user training cannot be overstated; without a thorough understanding of how to use the new system, users will not be able to take full advantage of its capabilities.

5. POST-IMPLEMENTATION SUPPORT

Once an ERP implementation has gone live, post-implementation support often continues for several months as users become more familiar with the system and any additional customizations or integrations are made. This is also the time when user feedback should be collected and analyzed in order to identify any areas for improvement.

CONCLUSION

The time it takes to implement an ERP for SMBs can vary greatly depending on the complexity of the project and available resources. While some projects may take several months, others may take up to a year or more.

By understanding each stage of the process and properly planning ahead, organizations can ensure that their ERP implementations are successful and provide long-term value.