Last month I wrote about five keys to successful ERP and CRM implementations. That included having a clear definition of success before you start, plan on implementing in small, bite sized chunks, appointing a “champion”, getting users on board before you start, and not skimping on training. Clearly these are some key things to get done as part of a successful implementation. But, wait…there’s more!
There are a few more steps you can take to continue to have a better shot at success. One of my favorite speakers and writers is a guy named Tom Hill. One of his key lessons is “getting the odds in your favor” in life. There are no guarantees, but if you take the steps to “get the odds in your favor”, you’ll be successful more times than not. These keys are just that. They will help you with those odds.
6. Choose the right software and the right provider
This one seems obvious, but sometimes you just don’t know. How do you know if it’s the right software? How do you know if you have the right implementers? Here’s the thing – no software is going to be perfect and no provider is going to be perfect. Going in, it’s important to acknowledge this.
With regard to the software, there are some key questions you can ask: Are other companies in my industry using this software? Is the software customizable and flexible? This is critical, because your needs will change over time. Your software has to be able to change with you. Are there one or two REALLY COOL THINGS the software can do for you right out of the box that your current software cannot do? Most people don’t consider this, but if you can immediately get something new out of your new software within the first month, you’re going to feel really good about it. This is regardless of whatever other “bad” or “disappointing” things come up. You’ll be able to point to the REALLY COOL THINGS and go…”well, at least it does THAT!”.
With regard to the provider, do you trust them? A lot of people put their faith in references, and it’s definitely good to call references. However, almost anyone can come up with three to five people to say nice things about them. So, I personally put less faith in them than others. To me, it comes back to trust and do they seem to have the resources and technical chops to get the job done. Resources? Yes, resources. How many programmers do they have on staff? How many consultants and support folks? Are they located in the US? And, with regard to technical skills, are their people certified? How long have they been working with the software? When they demo the software, do they know it really well?
7. Plan the Data Migration Really Carefully
Nothing can derail a CRM or ERP project faster than bad or incomplete data in a new software package. Talk about destroying the spirit of the people in your company. Make sure you know which data is going to be migrated, which data is not going to be migrated, and when it’s going to happen. It’s generally okay to omit some data from the migration, but it’s only okay when everyone knows ahead of time that it will be omitted. If you want your team to hit the ground running on the first “Go Live” day, make sure the data is correct and complete. Have a plan for checking it the first morning. Don’t just blindly assume it’s correct and complete. And…don’t rely on your consultants to do this. It’s a job for your team, the guys and gals who will actually be using the software.
8. Do a “Test Go Live”
Sometimes this can be difficult and/or expensive to do. It definitely adds dollars to the budget of a project. However, it’s money well spent. It’s like insurance. No one likes writing that insurance check, but we’re sure thankful when we need it. The same with this “Test Go Live”. And, if things go wrong during the test, it’s not a time to get frustrated or upset. That’s the point of the test J And, just like with the data migration, make sure you’re team does the testing. Does the customer data look right? If it’s a CRM implementation, do the opportunities and leads look accurate? The consultants should definitely be involved and assist, but no one can test the system better than your team.
9. Plan and Expect the Unexpected
Woo. This is a tough one. Did you forget that you needed to download banking transactions into your system, and the consultant didn’t ask? Was there some key customization in your old software that didn’t come up in the discovery discussions but is now a glaring problem preventing you from shipping? Yep. This stuff happens. If you chose the right provider (see #6 above), you’ll get through this quickly and effectively. You can brainstorm together to come up with a short term work around and a long term solution. However, it helps going in to know that things like this will arise.
10. Implement the New Software at the Right Time
What’s the right time? Well…it’s probably easier to describe the “wrong time”. Do you have your quarterly board meeting scheduled for the week after? And, you need critical financial reports for it? Not the right time. Do you owe some financials to your bank right now? Not the time. Are your key accounting staff on vacation during the transition? Wrong time. Is it your slow time with the fewest amount of orders being processed? Might be a good time. All things being equal, it’s never a GREAT time to do this, but there are definitely better times than others. Consider this when scheduling the project.
A few other things (11, 12, and 13) that can derail CRM and ERP projects include having faulty networks and hardware supporting the software, trying to implement too many new things at one time, and not making your team completely available to work with the providers.
Talk with your provider about all of these things prior to planning the project. Let them know you’re committed to doing whatever it takes to be successful. We’re all in this together, and if we get the odds in our favor together, we have a great shot at success.