Going from accounting software to Enterprise Resource Planning software is a big decision and an important step for growing businesses. This is an exciting time for your company, but it also might be a bit stressful—especially if you are pushing past the limits of your current product. However, at this stage, the only thing worse than inaction is hastily jumping into a decision without all of the facts—something you can overcome with a bit of planning.
In our last blog, we touched on the basics of communication, noting that by speaking with your users, you will be able to weed out bad fit products, increase project optimism, and instill a sense of project ownership among those most likely to balk at a change.
Notably, this isn’t all. Early discussions and needs documentation could help you to reduce costs and better understand who is best qualified to help you implement a solution.
Why it’s so important to know what you need before you implement
It’s well known that Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software is an investment in the long-term future of your business, and while it will pay for itself over time, the price tag compared to an entry level product like QuickBooks may seem high.
However, these costs are nowhere near as high as the costs that pop up from last minute changes in the scope of a project—something common that occurs when companies rush into a project, only to get distracted by the bells and whistles that could be added.
Luckily, with the right planning and project framework, you can approach your project confidently and well informed, with a “broad strokes” strategy in place before you start looking at solutions.
Knowing where you are and where you expect to be in ten years
In this, it’s important to speak with team members, end users, and department representatives to determine where your business currently stands and where you want it to be.
Outlining a project strategy
After discussing the changes on the horizon with users, the next major step in the ERP planning process—before you even speak with vendors or implementation partners—is to outline the project strategy. In this step, you will only need to outline the general shape and form of your ERP selection and implementation project, later detailing specifics.
Project planning starts with a statement of the purpose of the project, the goals and objectives – another way to state the benefits, not necessarily in terms of monetary return but rather in how it will affect the organization and the users, their efficiency and effectiveness. In essence, what do you hope to achieve in your first few months with the software?
Documenting a starting point
From here, it pays to understand where your business currently sits. What systems do you have in place? How is your data structured? Ultimately, ask yourself, “where does the business stand?” In their guide to Navigating ERP Selection and Implementation, Acumatica notes that “one thing that is often neglected is to take baseline measurements, including things like:
- Inventory levels by type (raw materials, work-in-process, finished goods by type)
- Inventory accuracy
- On-time production completion
- Production lead time
- Customer service level
Additionally, you should look at your current database, identify errors and deficiencies, and plan how much data clean-up is required and what it takes to get it done.
Discussing what features are important (both now and in the future)
Now comes the part where you and your users need to think about their ideal solution. What should a new ERP system accomplish? What processes can it automate? What kind of integration should it provide? What problems does the current system have that you can’t afford to have after implementation?
With the help of your end users and department representatives, identify the specific system functions needed in the new system and break them into the following four categories:
- What is an absolute requirement?
- Which capabilities are highly desirable?
- What kind of functionality is not needed now but important in the foreseeable future?
- Which features are cool or nice to have but are not essential?
The goal here is to think up a minimum viable product, knowing that many of those ‘nice to have features’ might be more affordable or easier to get than you think. Added to this, thanks to the flexibility of Cloud ERP, know that even if you don’t choose to implement a specific feature today, you can always add it in the future.
For example, if you’re a distributor looking to move into the eCommerce world but haven’t officially set out on the journey, you don’t need to implement the functionality at the outset. Not sure where to start? This free checklist will discuss some of the basic features included in ERP software and can be used throughout the entire process to compare products.
What’s next? The journey beyond QuickBooks
The decision to implement ERP at your growing business is not one to be taken lightly. However, with the right advice and product, the move to implement such a product can go more smoothly than you initially expected.
For our growing midsized clients, we recommend Acumatica, a solution that features flexible deployment, scalable resource-based pricing, and the functionality and usability you need. We invite you to learn more about our work, compare QuickBooks to Acumatica using this helpful tool, and contact us to discuss your needs and learn more about your next steps.