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10 Tips for Selecting and Implementing an ERP System

Going live with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is arduous and costly – not including the consolidation of disparate systems and licensing costs for the software, but focusing on the amount of effort needed by the implementation teams. Ignore promises from vendors that include – Deploy this ERP software and your healthcare organization will instantly run smoother, reduce overhead costs, and increase your bottom line. Vendors typically do not help organizations develop a realistic short and long term roadmap for success.

I developed a robust list of tips to help organizations optimize their ERP selection and deployment. Below are ten tips on how to select an ERP solution and work towards a successful go-live.

1. Get upper management support.

A lack of vision and support from the top-level of the organization tends to be a trend for companies that struggle with ERP. End users, subject matter experts (SMEs), and middle management must be educated and engaged with the implementation, while being supported by senior management. The CXOs do not need to know the granular specifics on configuring the system, but need to be cognizant of any roadblocks that can cause delays to the go-live.

2. Build a clear and extensive list of requirements before reviewing vendors.

It is important to understand the scope of your project. Define and prioritize mission critical business processes and system requirements in the list – get as granular as possible. The more granular the requirements are, the more robust of a proposal vendors can make.

I suggest following the MoSCoW method to help with the buildout of the requirements list. The two Os have been added to make the word ‘moscow’ readable, they don’t have any meaning themselves. The M stands for ‘Must haves’, S for ‘Should haves’, C for ‘Could haves’ and W for ‘Would haves’.

Making the requirements gathering process a priority will help in preventing scope creep and maintaining your timeline. Invest heavily in a principal solution architect and a principal business analyst. Focusing on this process and engaging with senior management, IT department, and end-users will aid in creating a comprehensive requirements list – before reviewing industry-specific vendors that provide solutions tailored for your business.

3. Include mobile capabilities during selection.

ERP systems are redefining their user interface and user experience (UI/UX) by optimizing their systems to have a more uniform experience across all devices. Be sure to include what functions are needed for your organization for when they are on the go. Also, be cognizant of how the sensitivity of the information is handled and secured through mobile devices.

4. Meticulously review and vet your options before selecting an ERP system.

Insufficient evaluation projects will lead to a less-than-optimal implementation. Ensure that your requirements are specific and priorities are aligned with all levels of the organization. Your options for vendors will be curated and tailored for you if these pieces are in place. In addition, this will guide your organization in a better direction for selecting the vendor that meets the requirements for your organizational problems.

Be certain that during the evaluation project (requirements gathering), participation from your project sponsor, CXO, and SMEs are included – their input is valuable and critical to obtaining a high acceptance rate from end users. Key input should include reporting and KPIs. Implementing a new robust cloud solution gets your organization actionable insight into your data. Do not forget to define your reporting needs before paying and signing the SLA.

A key factor in selecting an ERP solution is support for integrations. Make certain that the cloud solution works with existing legacy and mission critical systems. This ensures that your solution can be leveraged in the event of a phased implementation approach .

Ultimately, select an implementation partner that specializes in your industry, such as healthcare. Leveraging an implementation partner can help ensure that you get the insight needed to optimize your revenue lines when integrating with your EHR’s revenue cycle.

5. Get network feedback.

During your solution selection process, ask vendors for references. Reach out to those past clients and ask them what went right, wrong, and could have been differently. If the vendor cannot provide a few verifiable clients whose implementation went well, it may be best to look into another vendor. 

In addition, reach out to your colleagues in your industry and get feedback from them. Take advantage of any LinkedIn groups or industry associations to get real and specific insight into what other organizations in your industry are experiencing.

6. Build a Change Advisory Board (CAB).

Your organization may have one already within your IT department but it may be beneficial to to develop a CAB specific to your ERP solution. Include key stakeholders from finance, human resources, supply management, and other key functional areas involved with the implementation. As your design and build out your ERP system, an operational support plan will need to be developed. Be sure to include how changes are proposed and prioritized, implemented, and communicated across the organization. These controls will help with running a new system in an adaptive environment.

7. Analyze before customizing your ERP system.

Determine the cost of the initial deployment and potential rework needed to support customizations through upgrades before starting customizations. This can incur a large cost. It may be beneficial to see how your current business processes can be optimized to leverage your vendor’s industry specific system. Optimizing your business process to the vendor’s system capabilities can ensure stability and attain a better return on investment. Not doing so can increase implementation costs and ongoing costs.

In general, most organizations’ basic, core workflows are uniform across the board – such as their AR/AP and procurement processes. The main focal point for creating an ERP was for organizations to take advantage of proven standard processes. If an organization believes that a specific business function needs customization, have them work with the vendor to prove it. Keep in mind that the cost of customizing is not only incurred during the implementation, but also during operations and through each upgrade, patch, release, etc. Keep it simple.

8. Prepare for change management.

Implementing a new ERP solution creates a huge change in the workforce, culturally and operationally. Supporting your organization at all levels is important because these implementations can change the day to day jobs descriptions or potentially eliminate them. It is imperative that controls are in place to manage employee expectations and communicate effectively. Preventative measures like this can aid in adoption, maintain, and improve the workforce morale as your organization goes through this transition.

9. Elect a project champion separate from your project sponsor and provide them with the best team.

You spent all of the time developing requirements, selecting the best-fit vendor, and worked on developing an implementation plan. Make certain that your implementation team is the best and can put in more effort to ensure your solution is made to order. Be sure to free up your most knowledgeable and capable resources that will act as SMEs on the team and backfill them. This will help with reducing burnout and having a high quality system that your organization can reap the benefits of the design and implementation.

10. Provide ample time and resources for training.

Operating within a new ERP system is a huge change. It requires a vast time commitment from all levels of the organization. The implementation team needs to take proactive steps to ease the transition for end-users. Work with your implementation team, project champion, and change management coordinator to help procure tailored training programs based off of departmental needs. Having a readily available support system of a few contacts in each department makes the whole transition a joint effort.

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