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8 tips for a successful cloud ERP project plan

Although the cloud can bring many benefits, migrating to cloud ERP is not without its challenges. Here are the top eight project tips for a smooth transition.

As a project leader, addressing potential cloud ERP implementation challenges upfront is critical.

The potential issues begin from project inception and continue all the way through to the finish. Missing a step or delaying an important decision can have grave consequences on the project timeline, cost and viability of the implementation project as a whole.

Here are eight of the top cloud ERP project tips so you can avoid as many problems as possible.

Form the right team

Creating the right cloud ERP implementation team helps guarantee the cloud ERP implementation is a success.

Proper representation from groups within and external to your organization will ensure you have many perspectives and you don't miss important requirements.

You will also want to know the people assigned to the cloud ERP implementation project have the time to dedicate to the project. For example, if people are already working full time doing their regular jobs, expecting them to make the necessary contributions on your ERP implementation may not be realistic. As a result, the project will suffer.

Create accountability

Assigning roles is critical to creating accountability for particular outcomes, which, in turn, is critical to success. One way to maintain accountability throughout the duration of the project is to have a project plan with the name of the person accountable next to each item. This ensures each team member knows what they are responsible for completing and facilitates quick updates during team meetings.

Also, you will want to consider how various team members should report new challenges and how the team will efficiently address them.

Manage risk

Project risks will always be present. How you manage them can have a very positive or negative impact on your project. To track the project's risks, you will want to develop a risk management log early in the project and review it on a regular basis. Engage the project team in identifying and helping to resolve the risks. Keep in mind that some risks may require the support of senior management and others may be complex and unable to be solved quickly.

Stay focused

As you run into project challenges or have new employees hired into your organization, some people may want to revisit the project as whole or just key decisions. For example, there may be questions about why the buying team chose one vendor over another. While there may be valid reasons to revisit some key decisions, try to avoid going down this path unless absolutely necessary. It can severely impact the project schedule or derail the project altogether. You'll likely miss an opportunity to address a business need.

Understand how to optimize the system

Every ERP system has benefits and drawbacks. Each ERP buying team must prioritize the most important features for that organization.

That means you'll need to decide how to resolve the limitations of your preferred ERP system. You may decide to accept the limited functionality in a certain area or approach another vendor who offers an application that can fill the gap.

If you decide to approach another vendor, consider those that have a relationship with your chosen ERP vendor. Their application integration is likely better than what exists between vendors without a relationship.

Address data migration issues

Shortly after the project kickoff, you'll need to consider data migration issues.

Depending on your current systems, the length of time you've used them and the requirements of the new ERP application, data migration can be a complex and time-consuming undertaking. You will want to develop a strategy early and assign resources to this important task. If you don't do data migration correctly, you may have inaccurate or incomplete data in your new ERP application. And trying to fix the data after you've migrated it is much more difficult and time-consuming than doing it right the first time.

Address data sharing

You'll want to plan early on how the new ERP application will share and receive data from other organization applications.

Depending on the applications, you may be able to use APIs to pass data from one application to the next so they transfer data in near real time. If real-time data transfers are not required or possible, you may be able to use a Secure File Transfer Protocol server and data file.

Don't forget change management

One of the most overlooked components of a successful cloud ERP implementation is change management. Many large software implementations face pushback from users who are not on board with the change. If you don't address change management early, resistance can grow and seriously derail cloud ERP rollout success. To address the possible opposition, consider the following components of change management.

Readiness assessment. Determine whether employees are looking forward to a change in ERP applications or if they enjoy using their current application. If people do not like the current application, they are more likely to welcome a new ERP. However, don't underestimate the resistance some users will have when it comes to change, even if they don't like the ERP application they are currently using.

Communication plan. Develop a communication plan that includes many different communication channels, including an FAQ update throughout the implementation and after go-live. Sharing information about the need and goals for the project on a regular basis will help users accept the change. Create a compelling story so they become more likely to embrace the new system.

Subject matter experts. Identify subject matter experts and project champions throughout your organization who believe in the new cloud ERP system. Have them share positive information with users in their respective areas. Having influencers within your organization support your ERP implementation will help sway some users who are on the fence.

Training. User training ahead of and after go-live is important to getting users into the system and using it correctly. To ensure the system is capturing data correctly, consider running regular data audits after go-live so you can address issues early and update training materials and share them with users.

Application adoption. Disable applications you're replacing to ensure users don't continue to use them, rather than using the new ERP application. Also, you will want to make sure employees create spreadsheets to track information outside of your ERP application.

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