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Managing Change in an ERP Implementation: The Launch

It’s a few days before the launch of your ERP implementation, and your company is on the proverbial pins-and-needles as it prepares for the much-anticipated go-live date. Hopefully, if you’ve followed the previous tips on kickstarting the ERP implementation; managing the transition, and hiring a qualified ERP consultant, you’re already well-prepared for when your systems are “go” and you’re ready to flip the switch, figuratively speaking.

As you count down the days before your business undergoes what is likely the most significant change in its history since it was founded, here are some last-minute things to review prior to the official launch:

  1. Are you sure you’re actually ready to go-live? Don’t make the mistake of skipping this seemingly obvious step, but you’d be surprised at how tempting it can be to try and stick to a go-live date that was determined six months or more in the past but which turned out to be unrealistic. Hopefully, after many months of planning, communications, training, and testing, not to mention producing and going through countless checklists, you will be able to answer that question with great confidence, but if there’s doubt as to whether or not you and your staff are ready or that the system itself is ready for its close-up, there’s nothing wrong with moving that date back just to make sure.
  2. Training – Providing quality training to your customers is essential to the success of your launch. Before introducing any training program to your new users, you should spend time in one-on-one sessions training department supervisors and team leads. They’ll be able to provide you with final feedback before engaging the masses. If you can, you should always encourage department heads to participate as bystanders and supporters during the training process so that they can help explain how the processes employees have been used to for so many years will be interpreted in their new ERP system.
  3. Having said that, remember that the post-launch period will always have a few hiccups, regardless of how flawless your pre-launch preparation was. You may find that, despite scrupulous scrubbing, the data migration isn’t complete or still contains errors. You and your employees will inevitably forget how seamlessly integrated your system is now, so when someone makes a mistake during the processing of a customer order, the consequences ripples through the system much more quickly. No matter how well you plan for success, know that part of that plan must include contingencies for errors and unforeseen events.
  4. Be relentless in your communications. Perhaps at no other stage in the entire pre-launch period is communications among all stakeholders most important. Ensure that all staff members are periodically briefed on the go-live date, what to expect, who they can turn to should they have any questions, and how to contact the help desk or support team. Ensure that all staff members have help manuals at their fingertips, whether in print format, CD, corporate intranet, or even wiki and that they know how to use it to find the information they need.
  5. Make a list, and check it twice. Or more. ERP implementation checklists are ubiquitous to every system, and they’re especially critical in the weeks leading up to the go-live date. Ideally, the checklist will have been created months before it’s ever needed, as it will undoubtedly have hundreds of details that must be reviewed before the launch date.
  6. Reports and Forms – Regardless of the great benefits users will experience once they begin to grow into your systems, it’s absolutely essential that the reports and forms they’ve been depending on for years will be available in your new software. This will be a testimony to your “listening skills” during early implementation. The way in which your software conducts business and achieves results is bound to be greatly different from how your previous system worked, but your employees’ reports and forms will be the first opportunity to win them in the go-live process and reduce some of their apprehension about missing familiar tools.
  7. Testing, testing, 1-2-3, or however many times you need to get it right. Run “dress rehearsals” and simulations as often as necessary for users to become accustomed to the new system and how it works. Just as important, make sure that each user is actually able to do their job using the system.
  8. Authorizations. Ensure that all users are able to access the system via their individual logins. If they only learned and experimented with the system using “dummy” login credentials during training, or if they only tried it on computers in training rooms, make sure that they are able to successfully log-in on their computers using their own login credentials before the go-live date.
  9. Security. Review the entire system’s security configuration and administration thoroughly, from the security of the data and connections themselves to the data that is available to each individual user. Make sure that users are able to review and/or edit everything they need in order to do their jobs, but that any access to sensitive data is limited to authorized employees only.

Once the go-live date has been reached, of course, the other half of the implementation begins the post-launch date review, which may include additional training, system changes, and the like. In my next post, I’ll go over some of the key points to consider after the go-live date and beyond.