Part four of this blog series examines the final three critical success factors: targeted data migration strategy, thorough system testing, and knowledge transfer.
Targeted Data Migration Strategy. Data migration is generally regarded as the most time consuming of all the implementation activities and the area frequently blamed when the Project timeline is not met. A well-defined data migration strategy helps streamline the data migration process. The strategy will address the processes and activities involved in the migration of the data such as: data elements, the amount of history of that data, the data volumes, the means/mechanism for cleansing that data, consolidating that data and tools used to upload that data. The strategy will outline how this data will be provided, the mapping rules, the volumes, what tables will be leveraged to house this data, if an intermediary staging environment will be needed or how this data eventually makes its way into production and the timeline for it. The strategy would also include how error handling is addressed as well as the procedure for handling delta data, where data may change between the time that is provided for upload and the point at which it resides in the new ERP system.
Thorough System Testing. Thorough system testing, where there are four cycles of testing, a pilot state, a performance series, iterative testing and a Mock-Go-Live, is recommended. Thorough testing is required for any successful implementation since the goal is not to just see if the software works, but also if the system is meeting the company’s business needs and producing the output expected. If schedules are tight and there are budget overruns early into the implementation, there is a tendency for companies to cut the number and the depth of system testing during the implementation. This is simply a bad idea since cutting any of the testing cycles increases the risk that important functions addressing the company’s key business requirements were not included in the system. Even worse, without adequate testing, the system may not be readily accepted by users and that lack of user adoption can have a significant impact on the future success of the system; that is why we also recommend testing metrics and statistics should be included in either status reports and/or reported in Steering Committee meetings.
On average, a standard implementation should account for one full month of system and regression testing. That said, it is commonly recommended that iterative testing remains a constant throughout the implementation lifecycle. That includes, for example, the testing of each modification and/or integration and standard business processes. Additionally, a two-week Mock Go-Live (a day in the life) is recommended to further reduce the risk of an improper configuration or an impeding software defect just prior to launching on the new ERP system.
Knowledge Transfer. This success factor should be considered a process and not just an IT project milestone. Essentially, knowledge transfer starts at the very beginning stages of the implementation and goes beyond the Go-Live stage. Knowledge transfer should continue as an iterative process – in the form of classroom instruction, project-specific workshops, solution design sessions, functional specification reviews, one-on-one “how to” sessions, e-learning and how-to videos for new and existing workers — throughout the lifecycle of the ERP system. During the implementation, document management systems, SharePoint and other collaborative technologies should be used as the foundation in a company’s knowledge transfer platform. A few weeks preceding the Go-Live date, Process owners or Power users should schedule end users for training, preferably two hours a day for at least two to three consecutive weeks, which typically is the least disruptive schedule to a business. During the Go-Live period, the consulting team should also be on-site for 2 weeks or longer to help out in further knowledge transfer as the employees use the system. Then, future knowledge transfer activities can be transitioned to the support team.
It’s important to note that every company’s business processes and IT environment are different, and these critical success factors outlined over the course of this blog series hopefully will serve as a framework, not as a silver bullet, to use for a smooth ERP implementation. Also, as with any implementation, ultimately the success of an ERP implementation doesn’t rest solely with the Consulting team, but primarily in the hands of the company itself, the system’s true owner.