Planning and preparation is the key to successfully implementing a business management system. If you haven’t read the steps we discussed in earlier parts of this series, you can access them through the links below.
- Part 1 – Project Organization
- Part 2 – An Introduction to the Planning Phase
- Part 3 – Planning Details
- Part 4 – Identifying Project Staff
- Part 5 – Kick off!
Once each of these steps has been completed it is finally time to implement and configure your new system! During the next month (perhaps six months, depending on the complexity of your system), it may seem like little is happening. Your hardware vendor will probably install some new equipment, but everything remains the same. Rest assured that your VAR is hard at work preparing the next phase of the project. They may be programming or developing custom reports, dashboards or business intelligence views. Perhaps you want to do a master file conversion. They will be busy during this time. Make sure you have regular updates from their project manager. During this time, much of the activity is theirs – your time will come.
In this phase the activity level will begin to pick up. Depending on your terminology, this may be a “conference room pilot”, a “test conversion”, a “proof of concept”, or “beta” implementation. No matter what you call it, this is the time to dig in and do the odious, time-consuming work of testing. If you do a trial conversion of transaction data, take the next several days of work and enter it immediately into both systems.
Remember, you aren’t trying to duplicate the process; you are trying to understand the result. Your new business management system will process and report differently. Develop your understanding of the new system’s process and results by comparing to the old system where possible. Some results will be identical; other results may be very different. For example, customer and vendor invoices will have the same results for price, sales tax and terms. However, you may find differences in cost of sales and inventory handling if you have adopted different methods of order fulfillment. Take the time to understand this now. The difference may be desired; however, discrepancies may be the result of poor setup or conversion choices. Alternatively, you may find that the discrepancies are due to flaws in the old system. If that is the case, you may find that your business measurements will be different and you will have to make appropriate corrections to understand the result. This may cause you to reconsider your data conversion. You may change methods or eliminate the data conversion, based on your findings during the Pilot Project.
For example, perhaps you have implemented a “landed cost” inventory process in your new business management system that adds freight, tariffs and other costs into the total cost of an inventory item. This will result in significantly different accounting and costing transactions than you have been used to seeing. Again, take the time to understand this now. Just because the system gives you an answer, doesn’t mean it is right. Setup choices may have been made without full understanding; users may not know how to use all the functionality or the software may have a flaw. Don’t wait until you go-live. You will have a big problem on your hands if you do so. The test system is critical to your success.
When you do your testing, you may find things that are wrong. These items may have required software hot-fixes or updates or configuration changes. Your VAR should be documenting these issues, so that the fix (which you test) is implemented at your go-live. Do your own documentation and checklist. Keep a log of issues, the resolution and the date of resolution. Use this at go-live to make sure that everything is done correctly. There is nothing more frustrating than testing something, having it corrected and then experiencing the same issue when you go-live. We have worked with a number of vendors who have good products, but have version control problems. Even though the new version of the software fixes some problems, it may reintroduce problems that existed in previous versions. Good documentation on your part and that of your VAR will keep this from happening. That is the purpose of this phase. Get rid of the bulk of the problems and misunderstandings before you go-live.
Stay tuned for our next article where we will discuss process documentation, testing and training in more detail, as well as provide you with some conversion checklists.
In the meantime, you may be interested in taking our Business Systems Health test to find out how effective your business management system is for your organization. Or, download our complimentary whitepaper below for a complete guide on how to implement an ERP system!