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8 ways to avoid business disruption from a new ERP system

A new ERP system can bring business disruptions. Learn the steps project leaders should follow during implementation planning so company work can continue as smoothly as possible.

Implementing a new ERP system is a challenging process for any company, and one of the biggest challenges is often the disruption to normal business operations. Project leaders must carry out various strategies to limit these disruptions so company work can continue as smoothly as possible.

Potential disruptions that can occur during an ERP implementation include employee training on the new ERP system and project team members having less time to complete their normal work.

To limit disruptions, project leaders should take the following steps as they begin planning for an ERP system implementation.

1. Develop a detailed schedule

Once the project is approved and contracts are signed, the project team should begin work on a detailed schedule. The schedule will help guide the project and ensure key deadlines are met while also providing project team members with information about their time commitments. Many project team members will likely maintain some or all of their normal workload, so they should receive as much information as possible about their implementation workload in advance so they can plan accordingly.

The schedule will also help managers with employees who are working on the project, since project team members may be working on other projects at the same time as the implementation. For example, IT staff may be working on the ERP implementation and projects in HR or Finance.

2. Allocate sufficient resources

To avoid overloading project team members, the project leader should carefully calculate how many project members the implementation will require. Doing so will help ensure that employees aren't neglecting ongoing business needs.

The project leader should consider requesting that the company hire external temporary workers or consultants to supplement the project team or backfill employees who will be working on the project.

3. Create checklists

The project leader should use checklists to track tasks so project team members know what others have completed and can plan next steps.

In some cases, an employee may not be able to start their tasks until others have completed theirs, so checklists can help everyone keep track of task statuses and schedule their time accordingly.

4. Develop a roadmap

The project leader should develop a project roadmap that they can share with the entire organization and explain how it will affect different user groups. The roadmap should include key dates and high-level tasks for each stage of the project.

The roadmap can also highlight future phases, which could help managers and others who take care of workforce planning. If company leaders know an employee will be working on the project for more than one phase, they may decide to bring in temporary or long-term help for affected employees and departments.

5. Conduct ongoing risk assessments

To reduce the risk of business disruptions, the project leader should implement a risk assessment process, beginning with the project kickoff and continuing until the new ERP system rollout is complete and the system is functioning as planned.

The risk assessment process will enable the project leader to stay on top of potential issues and those that have already affected the business. The organization may be able to limit unplanned interruptions that could negatively affect the company and project team members.

6. Provide clear communication

The project team should provide employees with clear and concise communication about the implementation as often as possible. The team should tailor messaging so employees get the details they need without overloading them. For example, the general population may need only a simple update that explains how the project is progressing and highlights important dates, while employees who will use the system daily post go-live may require more details so they can prepare.

Once the ERP system is live, the project team should continue to provide users with updates. The key is to get employees up to speed as quickly as possible on the new system while also making sure they receive the information they need.

7. Plan post go-live support

Once the ERP system is live, the project team will need to be able to provide all-hands-on-deck support. As employees begin using the new system, they'll likely have questions and run into issues, so subject matter experts should be available to help.

Because of these demands, the project leader should try to avoid starting the next phase right after go-live so project team members won't feel torn between supporting the previous phase and working on the next one.

8. Provide multiple training options

The project leader should consider asking company leaders to offer a variety of learning opportunities for employees learning the new ERP system. For example, the organization could offer some in-person training, live online courses, e-learning courses and documentation. Employees could save time by only taking training that is directly related to their role. Micro-learning options could also be helpful.

Project leaders should also confirm that learning material is embedded in the ERP system so employees can find the help they need.

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