10 ways to ensure cloud ERP success

ERP software (Enterprise Resource Planning) has been with us, transforming prospects for a wide range of organisations for quite a while now and yet many people STILL think it’s only for large enterprises. But the word is getting out. With the increasing adoption of cloud services by SMBs – businesses from manufacturing and utilities to financial services and telecommunications are benefiting from the efficiencies of ERP delivered in the cloud.  When you automate, streamline and enhance key business processes with cloud-based ERP you transform your business performance.

Cloud was the game changer which meant expensive on-premise hardware was no longer needed. Instead, reliable fast internet meant access to cloud-based services which were easy to deploy, integrate and upgrade. Specialist IT infrastructure and staff were for many, a thing of the past. Cloud-based ERP systems meant costs were predictable, helping you minimize risk while maximizing return on investment. This is especially beneficial for businesses going through rapid growth and those based in multiple locations.

According to a 2020 State of the Cloud Report 93% of enterprises currently use cloud-based solutions, and use of hybrid cloud systems has increased from 19% to 57% in one year.

Where are you in your cloud journey?

Are you implementing ERP Cloud software for the first time or moving your existing ERP to the cloud? With the number of organisations offering ERP cloud-based solutions, you really are spoiled for choice. However, choosing the right ERP solution for you is only half the battle. With countless stories of ERP implementations gone wrong, how do you ensure that you deploy your cloud solution smoothly? Don’t worry, with the right planning and support, ERP can truly transform your business with little to no fuss. As renowned ERP experts for SMBs, InCloud Solutions have compiled the best advice and the top recommendations on  offer! Following these 10 tips will ensure that your cloud solution is a success at every stage of the process.

“Cloud ERP systems can cost 50% less than on-premise ERP systems for a 100-employee company over a four-year period.”

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Pre-Implementation Phase

Tip 1: Assemble the Right Internal Implementation Team

Putting together a cross-functional team is the first step in ensuring that your ERP implementation project is positioned to succeed. An organised and established implementation team will ensure that you choose the right ERP solution for you and that it addresses all business areas. The team will ultimately drive the overall success of the ERP implementation so involving the right stakeholders is essential. First, your team should include someone from senior management; the executive sponsor will secure executive buy-in, ensuring that the switch to ERP is made a priority in your organisation from the pre-implementation phase to post-deployment. Second, process owners need to be appointed; these individuals will ensure that the solution aligns with their specific process areas and oversee any additional configurations that need to be applied. Third, a project manager will head your ERP implementation project. They will be in charge of coordination and accountability, as well act as the final decision-maker so that decisions are reached quickly and transparently.

Build a cross-functional team composed of everyone who will use the system to guide the process of choosing the right cloud ERP for the company’s needs, identifying reports, and assessing data elements for the integration.

CFO Magazine:

 Tip 2: Hire an ERP Implementation Partner

The ultimate implementation Dream Team involves an effective internal team and an experienced consulting partner – like InCloud Solutions. It is perfectly possible to implement an ERP cloud-based solution internally, however, moving from a basic financial management system to complex cloud-based ERP software will most likely require some guidance – especially if you lack the in-house knowledge. A consulting partner’s experience and expertise can prove instrumental to avoiding the common pitfalls of effectively deploying your cloud solution. Choosing a reliable and experienced implementation partner who are well-versed in the software package and your business is crucial. To ensure a good fit, consider asking:

  • Do you trust the consultant partner and agree with their standards and methodology?
  • Does the consultant partner understand your industry and organisation?
  • Does the consultant partner value communication?

Your choice of consultant can make all the difference to your implementation. As you evaluate potential partners, look for the right combination of skills and experience. Have they worked across multiple industries or do they specialize in any particular industry? Can they provide references for previous ERP implementations that are similar to yours?

If you decide that SAP Business ByDesign is the perfect solution for you, InCloud Solutions has over 30 years of expertise behind us helping over 55 companies deploy this ERP cloud solution in a box effectively and efficiently. As the largest SAP Business ByDesign partner in the UK, we strive to instil confidence through our expertise in ERP implementation, customisation and configuration. As your implementation vendor, we are readily available for consultation at every step of the way. We help prior to the cloud solution’s implementation and after the technology has been deployed, we don’t just disappear! We strive to support our clients from start to finish and then some.

“InCloud Solutions have been extremely helpful to us – quick to respond and always there to answer questions. Support didn’t just finish – they were always happy to answer questions – they’re been really great for that.” – Nick Eichorn, COO, Minerva Research Labs

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If you would like to find out more about how SAP Business ByDesign can help your business, book a free demo or send us an email. One of our seasoned experts will be happy to assist you. Read Business ByDesign customer success stories here.

 Tip 3: Engage Your Employees

Employee buy-in is just as important as drafting your internal implementation team. Without the backing and support of the very people who will be making use of the ERP system, the project will inevitably fail. Ensure that your internal team establish and maintain open lines of communication at all levels of your organisation. Your employees need to understand why your company is making the switch to cloud-based ERP from your current system.

“While any new program can generate resistance, this is more common with ERPs. Remote business units frequently view the financial or other standardization imposed by an ERP as an effort by headquarters to increase control over the field. Even with an active campaign to explain the benefits of the new system, it is not uncommon to find people in the field slowing implementation as much as possible.”

CIO Magazine

Maybe your old system was leading to opportunities missed – perhaps to bottlenecks or productivity lags? Whatever the case, communicate the benefits of your new cloud system, such as user-friendly tools and improved customer service.

Tip 4: Survey your Current Business Processes

Examine each business process by talking to staff to zero in on what works, what can be improved and what is detracting from the overall performance. Mapping out these workflows in cooperation with your third-party implementation consultant will help to analyse the business and its procedures objectively. Though replicating your business common practice is appealing, this isn’t always optimal for the organisation in the long-term. A common mistake is trying to force the ERP to accommodate your current business processes rather than following the cloud system’s established best practices that guarantee efficiency.

“It is very common, and very tempting, to take existing business processes as is and automate them with [an] ERP system”, says Ed Featherston, cloud consultant. While this is understandable, you must take the time to analyze those processes as part of your ERP requirements gathering. Implementing a new ERP system is an opportunity to identify and improve/redesign your business processes. “Automating a bad process only makes a bad process run faster.”

As you map your workflows, make sure to document them in order to highlight points where process flows overlap, as well as establish the impact that any alterations will have on the individual component and the business as a whole. Including various team members in the process will allow you to maximise expertise and identify pain points that a single individual may not realise.

Tip 5: Implement a Phased Approach 

Once you have surveyed your current business processes, prioritise your requirements. The functionality of business flows that aren’t working should be addressed in the first phase so that they can go live as quickly as possible. The functionalities of business processes that currently function but can be improved should wait until phase two – while these are nice to have, they aren’t the priority. Consulting with your implementation partner during this step if you are unsure about which element should be included in which phase.

Tip 6: Plan Ahead

Naturally, switching to an ERP system comes with implementation costs so plan ahead! Consulting with your ERP vendor will help you set clear scoping requirements for the project and establish the expectations of your ERP implementation. A clear strategy and timeline will ensure that your project delivers on-time and on-budget. While small changes are bound to be made, a common pitfall is changing large aspects of the project mid-implementation, causing delays and increasing costs substantially. Try to avoid this if you can!

“According to a recent Softwarethinktank analysis:

  • 35% of ERP implementations were over budget by 0%-25%
  • 15% were over budget by 26%-50%
  • 6% were over budget by more than 50%”

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Implementation Phase

Tip 7: Clean and Prep Your Data Early

Data migration is a lengthy and time-consuming process that is often underestimated – don’t make this mistake. Begin by properly preparing your data ahead of time in order to avoid larger issues and costs further down the road. Diligent data preparation is important. First, diligently analyse and decide which data you want to migrate from the legacy system to the new ERP solution. Don’t transfer what you don’t need – it’s a waste of time and resources. Ensure that the data you then choose to migrate is of high-quality – ‘clean’ per se. Old bills, dry customers and stale product data have no place in your new system. All the information needs to be correctly inputted and correspond to the right field. For organisations that had failed to be so diligent in the past, this step will require time and energy, but it is an inescapable standard that will need to be implemented and applied on an ongoing basis. Nevertheless, testing portions of data with the complex integrations of your new ERP system may still save you time by indicating whether all outputs and components function as you expect before you proceed with the full data migration. Second, decide what data you would like to be present in the cloud-based system that you may not currently have access to.

“Your application analyst should head up this effort as it’s their specialty. Be ready to assist them in:

  • Data cleansing and verification
  • Database setup
  • Mapping legacy data to new database fields
  • Data transfer to the new system
  • Testing and verification of legacy data
  • Testing and verification of new data inputs”

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Tip 8: Keep Track of All Documentation

Save and organise all information of importance regarding decisions made throughout the implementation. You never know what will happen during your ERP project – a team member may leave, or something may go wrong that requires you to backtrack. Keeping track of all relevant documents will ensure everyone on the team remains informed and up to date with the latest developments and you can make conscientious decisions at all stages of the cloud solution implementation process.

 Tip 9: Focus on Training and Support

Implement your user adoption strategy as soon as possible. ERP software is a sophisticated cloud-based solution. If you are upgrading from a legacy system and it’s your first-time implementing ERP, it’s important to not underestimate the time that it takes to adapt and learn the new programme. If employees don’t know how to make the most out of the tools of their new software, then the benefits won’t follow. Ensure that you use a variety of training and tools to match the needs of each role and employee. SAP has an extensive library of training materials, including webinars and videos for each solution eg. Business ByDesign and InCloud Solutions has many Blogs including Tips and Tricks pages to help you. We also offer training and support packages.

Good partners will provide step-by-step training in phases of the implementation so that when your system is ready to go, so are its users. InCloud Solutions offers end-user, classroom and new staff training – so whatever it is that you need, we’ve got you covered!

“The bottom line is this: Users have access to training almost immediately. In addition, for our implementations, we always recommend leveraging all of the other training content available. SAP has an extensive library of videos, webinars, and training materials. We recommend businesses incorporate a training and change enablement component to their projects, so that the users are trained and ready to adopt and use that solution at go-live.”

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 Post-Implementation Phase

Tip 10: Stabilise and Adjust the New ERP System

Following the deployment of your new ERP solution, it’s likely that, despite your preparation, your business will experience a short decline in business performance. Perhaps some poorly cleansed data and infrastructure bottlenecks are disrupting the system; or maybe staff are still learning and adapting to the new interface and its functionality. That means once you deploy the ERP, don’t just stop there. Make sure to fill in those small gaps and stabilise the system.

“Implementing an ERP system takes time, but the work hardly stops once the system is successfully in place,” says Beasley. “Businesses should implement a maintenance strategy to ensure workers are aligned on what needs to be done to maintain and improve the ERP system on a regular basis so it doesn’t become outdated or obsolete.”

CIO Magazine

Final Thoughts

 ERP implementation can seem like a big undertaking for an SMB but don’t be discouraged. The benefits gained are worth the trouble. Following these steps will ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible and that your ERP implementation delivers your desired results. Each industry and business are different so the choices you make should be on the basis of your company and its needs alone. The right planning and decisions made ahead of time will put you in the best position to overcome the obstacles that you will inevitably encounter at some point.

For general tips on how to carry out a successful digital transformation, see our post on Digital Transformation Strategy.