As a merchant, if you’ve been through an ERP implementation, you’ll know how complex it can be. Given that your back-office system works at the heart of your business to keep all your operational, commercial and logistical plates spinning, it’s no wonder that there’s a lot involved.
Implementing a new ERP system in your merchant business can be challenging and is often very time-consuming. Even once you’ve been through the selection and purchasing process, getting the system up and running for your workforce is far from straightforward.
Modern ERP systems are often hosted in the Cloud, making implementations much easier to do remotely. They can be much quicker to implement than legacy, server-based systems which required lots of time on-site and a lot of hands-on training and updating. However, just because remote installation and updates are now possible, it doesn’t make the process a walk in the park.
We are always working on ways to improve the implementation system for our customers and have introduced new ways of working, such as the Business Process Review, as part of our implementation process to make things go more easily and ensure that expectations on both sides are properly met. When you fully understand up front exactly what you need your system to do, it’s much easier to make sure it’s doing it.
It's worth noting that because of the complexity of a merchant ERP system, and the level of customisation required for optimised performance, we could probably fill a book or two with detailed recommendations for smoother ERP implementation. But in the interests of time, we’ll go with the headliners!
So, here are our top three tips for a smoother and less frustrating implementation process.
1. Product data is king
Arguably the single-most important ingredient in a smooth ERP implementation process is the quality of your product data. Having a good product file is an incredibly significant factor, both for implementation and for the ongoing quality and functionality of your whole system. The bottom line is, the better your product data files, the better your system will be.
Using a good digital PIM system will speed up the implementation process when working with a cloud ERP system. Yes, an ERP system may require more product detail than a PIM would ordinarily provide but it does hold a great deal of information which can be carried across automatically, rather than having to manually migrate every data point. There may still be extra details to add in but if the majority is easy, the time taken is significantly reduced.
It really is worth taking the time to get this information set up properly up front. The better the information held in the system, the more effectively your software will be able to help you organise and manage your business.
The other thing to note here is that high quality product data at the core of your system will make external integrations much, much easier in the future. Increasingly, merchants are using a wide range of third party digital tools for selling, stock optimisation, financials and marketing, so having top quality data in place makes those connections an awful lot easier to create and maintain effectively.
2. Testing, testing, 1,2,3
It’s so important to rigorously test your system before it goes live. You want your staff to be completely comfortable using the day-to-day features, and understanding how to troubleshoot the exceptions and anomalies which crop up outside the norm.
But it’s also vital to make sure the system is actually doing what you need it to do, so it needs testing over a period of time that lets you get a really good idea of how it handles everything – not just the front-of-mind functions. It’s hard to think about every tiny process in one go so it’s important to build in plenty of testing time to make sure everyone who will be using the system has a chance to get comfortable with it before it goes live.
The bottom line is, the more testing you do before you go live, the smoother and easier things will be once you're up and running.
3. Keep an open mind
Change is often difficult and uncomfortable but it’s important to embrace the differences between your new system and your old one. Going into a new system with the expectation that it will do everything the same way as your old system, but with a prettier interface, is a recipe for disappointment. After all, if your old system did everything you needed it to in the best way, you wouldn’t be looking for a new system in the first place.
Moving from one system to another can be a real challenge and old habits, as they say, die hard. But a new, modern ERP system is not just a recreation of a legacy system – it is often completely different from the ground up, so you need to set your preconceptions to one side and remain open-minded about doing things differently – and ultimately better.
Going through a detailed Business Process Review is a great way to audit (and challenge) the processes you already have in place, and it often uncovers previously unnoticed efficiencies. This not only gives you a much better chance of getting a system that fully meets your business’ needs, it also means you’re well aware of the need for the changes and can see the impact really quickly.
Your ERP provider will no doubt offer plenty of training to help your implementation go well. Ideally, additional training will also be available further down the line, as no-one can take in the full system capability in a few days of training.
Online, self-help resources can really help you get the most from your system and learn the more advanced features as and when you need them. Modern ERP systems like Merchanter are powerful business tools with a huge range of features and functions to help you optimise your business efficiency, productivity and profitability. So make sure you’re getting the most value out of yours by regularly refreshing and augmenting your skills with the training resources provided.
Keep communicating with your ERP supplier. We are here to help you every step of the way and are deeply invested in your success. These systems are the life-blood of your operations and your relationship with your provider should not be a one-off transaction, but an ongoing partnership. So, ask questions, make suggestions and give plenty of feedback. Cloud systems have the ability to be constantly evolving - but if you don't ask, you may not get, so keep the communication flowing!
If you would like to test out Merchanter for yourself to see what all the fuss is about, just register here for login details and we’ll give you 30 days’ online demo system access completely free of charge.