Many things can hamper the successful implementation of a new accounting and ERP system. Although our team specializes in Deltek Costpoint implementations, we believe the following six mistakes can create significant pitfalls for the implementation of any system.
1. Poor Communication
Poor communication can hinder the progress and success of any implementation. A clear understanding of the overall objectives, timeline, and steps involved in an implementation is vital to ensure all team members are working towards the same goals. If effective communication is not established in the beginning and throughout the project, tasks can be missed, efforts duplicated, or siloing of information. Additionally, a lack of communication can lead to decreased morale and motivation.
It is vital to establish the importance of consistent communication from the outset of an implementation. Regular status meetings and methods of exchanging information should be instituted early to help align the team’s goals. It is also important to remember that for an implementation, the communication should involve more than just the main team members within your company. Communicating with your implementation partner is critical to ensure the project stays on schedule. Communicating the project status with management and end users of the new system is also essential to keep them informed and enthusiastic about the new system. Thus, placing a strong emphasis on good communication is vital to side-stepping this first implementation pitfall!
2. Undefined Objectives
The success of an implementation can be severely undermined when the final objectives have not been defined and communicated. This is especially true when implementing a new accounting/ERP system. In most cases, a company is moving to a new system to benefit from new capabilities and/or features to overcome issues with the current system or improve efficiency. However, if everyone is not clear on exactly which issues in the current system are being addressed or which areas efficiencies are trying to be achieved in, there is a high potential for confusion, wasted resources, or duplicate efforts as the project continues. If different parties think different issues are being addressed, and those expectations are not met, it can cause frustration on the part of the final users.
Establishing at the start of an implementation those areas within the current system that are causing issues or inefficiency, along with how the new system will address them, is vital to a successful implementation. Within many accounting/ERP systems, one area affects other areas, and by establishing clear objectives early on, it is possible to ensure the configuration of all the areas works together to meet those goals. Make sure to involve the end users in creating the final objectives, as they usually have the greatest knowledge and will be most impacted. It is also important that your implementation partner is clear on the areas most important for your company so that a plan to address those items is very clear. Creating these clear objectives will make it easier to measure progress, set realistic expectations for everyone, and dodge the dangers of another pitfall!
3. Nebulous Plans
Poor, different, or ill-defined plans can severely undermine any project. An implementation plan acts as the blueprint for everyone involved. It helps determine what action needs to happen, what resources are needed when, and what items are dependent on other items. A nebulous plan without clear objectives, steps, or action items can lead to wasted time, duplicate efforts, and items being missed entirely. Furthermore, team members can become unclear on roles, action items, and deadlines. Also, without a plan, it is difficult to determine progress, measure timeframes on when items will be completed, and/or identify potential issues.
The implementation plan should be comprehensive without being overly detailed. It should have items that can be measured or verified when complete. Specific team members should be identified for tasks and timeframes for completion. Although there could be multiple plans for different areas within an accounting/ERP system, it is crucial that everyone is working towards the same overall implementation plan. Investing the time and effort in the beginning to establish an overall, measurable plan is crucial for bridging this implementation pitfall!
4. Misaligned Priorities
When the priorities of an implementation team member are not aligned, roadblocks can be created, causing significant impacts on the overall project. Team members might have differing views on what is most important within the implementation and the importance of the implementation compared to other business activities. When not addressed, these disparities can cause people to work at cross purposes and/or individuals to reassess objectives frequently. Additionally, misaligned priorities can create frustration within team members and significantly impact collaborative efforts. The overall priority of the implementation and areas within the implementation should be established and communicated across the company at the outset of the project.
It is essential to also think about the priorities beyond the implementation. It is unlikely that the project will be the only task for the participants; most will also have their normal work activities to perform. This is another reason the plan (discussed in #3) and the requirements listing (discussed in #2) are so important. Letting everyone involved know where different areas fall within the overall plan can help ensure all participants understand which areas need prioritization above other areas. Also, establishing in the beginning the specific requirements the new system is supposed to meet helps ensure everyone is considering the same objectives and not bringing new items to the project. This is not to say that areas or things some people may want or think are important are not. It only means that by making sure everyone is prioritizing the same things throughout the project, meaningful and unified progress can be more easily made, which will likely open the possibilities for the implementation to focus on those additional areas and avoid the pitfalls of misaligned priorities!
5. Incorrect Team
The implementation of a new accounting/ERP system involves many different areas within a company, and not including the right personnel can pose significant challenges to the project. Without the right combination of unique skills and knowledge, important facets of the overall system might be missed or configured without all the critical information. Including too few people can cause undue pressure and burnout on those involved, while including too many people can cause confusion and indecision. Either scenario can compromise the quality and efficiency of an implementation.
It is vital to identify areas most affected by the new system and one to two individuals within those areas to represent them during an implementation. There are some obvious areas that everyone thinks about (e.g., accounting, finance, project control), but if the new system is a fully integrated system (like Deltek’s Costpoint), it is essential to get other affected areas involved. Bringing personnel from Human Resources, Contracts, and Procurement could be vital. Additionally, especially in today’s cybersecurity environment, ensuring the IT department is represented and understands the system’s database settings and security options is crucial. If you are in a manufacturing environment, having personnel involved in those various areas is also essential. However, on top of identifying the different areas, selecting the right person or people from those areas is also necessary. You need to identify those individuals who have knowledge of what is currently happening, what the current issues are and can assist in crafting the new system to be the most effective. They also need to be individuals who can help envision and communicate a new process to others within the organization. Focusing on identifying the right team in the beginning, can have an enormous impact on the success of an implementation and skate past another implementation pitfall!
6. Insufficient Training
In our opinion, this is the biggest pitfall and easiest to avoid, but one that many seem to miss. Accounting/ERP systems, regardless of their efficiencies and features, rely on users understanding how the system works and how to optimize those features. Inadequate training can lead to mistakes, inconsistency, and potential data integrity issues. Users left to “learn on the job” can develop unnecessary workarounds that lead to the inefficiency that the new system was supposed to eliminate. Additionally, users can become frustrated and disenfranchised with the new system, leading to lower morale.
Investing in comprehensive training ensures a smooth transition to the new system and helps reduce the potential for many issues. Using a “train the trainer” approach can be beneficial in multiple ways. With this method, you can reduce the training costs associated with your implementation partner, as they are just giving the training once to a small, select group; plus, company personnel can now train new hires or deliver remedial training. It is important to remember when selecting the individuals to receive the initial training to find personnel that can understand and retain information, plus be able to present that information to others in an articulate manner. Sometimes, the person who knows the current system best is not the best person to get formal training on the new system. Devoting the time and resources to train your personnel thoroughly will save you even more in the long run and help you circle around the biggest implementation pitfall!
Implementing a new accounting/ERP system is a significant investment. Make sure you also invest the time and resources to avoid these six pitfalls and help ensure a successful implementation that maximizes the benefits of your new system and enhances user satisfaction. Redstone GCI has been assisting clients in planning and executing successful accounting/ERP system implementations for many years. We focus on clear communication with all our clients and believe training people to use their software effectively is one of our most important duties. We have established questionnaires to help identify objectives, clarify priorities, and establish implementation plans that can be easily customized to your business. We are committed to making sure we help our clients to successfully avoid the implementation pitfalls!