“It’s less costly to properly maintain the ERP system that you have, than to get to a point where you have to start again.”
So, you’ve finally finished implementing your new ERP system. All of your systems are up and running, your data transfer troubles have been dealt with and last-minute hurdles have been vaulted.
What now? If you had an especially harrowing implementation, then you’re probably tempted to throw in the towel and never look back. But, did you know that it’s less costly to maintain the ERP system that you have than to get to a point where you have to start again from ground zero? If you’re part of a small organization that only uses a few features of your system and would like to keep it that way, there are a few simple things you can do to stay on track. However, if your organization is larger and more advanced in its system usage, then a more structured approach will work better.
This can also be an opportunity to take some time to evaluate how well your new system is working. Some things, like dashboards or entry forms, might need small adjustments. Once you’ve ensured that the core of the ERP system is operating the way you want it to, you might want to evaluate if there are ways to get more out of your system. In some cases, this can help reduce complexity and save costs by making other outside processes obsolete.
This can result in reducing your usage of spreadsheets or the number of different technologies you use to operate your business, for example, incorporating your fixed assets into NetSuite ERP, processing commissions online rather than in excel, using support cases, or just getting better reporting. Chances are, you already have existing processes for some of these, so you always have the option to take a measured approach and plan any future upgrades in phases to reduce the impact they might have on your day-to-day operations.
1. User Adoption
One of the most important things to get right after your cloud ERP implementation is user adoption. Make sure that employees give the new processes a chance, before giving up and going back to old processes, like using spreadsheets. Here are 5 ways to improve your chances of adoption:
- Lead by Example – If management doesn’t use the ERP system, then others might take it as a sign that adoption is not important. Having management engaged in using the system is a strong sign of support. It’s also essential for management to communicate to all stakeholders that they are using it.
- Support Your Users – From the get-go, have concise documents like FAQs available and encourage power users who understand the new ERP system to offer assistance. This will prevent bottlenecks during the adoption phase and make support interactions more personal. For example, in large organizations, you can provide general training to all stakeholders and then have any further questions directed to your ERP administrators. This way, your administrators aren’t buried in basic how-to questions in the first weeks after go-live, but they will still be there at points of escalation to tackle the more difficult questions.
- Ensure key information is easily accessible – This is more a part of your implementation phase, but it’s still very important during adoption. If certain KPIs, reminders or links to specific pages are important to a particular role then they should be on your dashboard. Adoption will be better when users have an easy time navigating and finding the information they need on a day-to-day basis.
- Solicit and listen to feedback – It’s important that users feel listened to. This doesn’t mean asking for wish lists or promising that every pet peeve will result in a configuration change. Ask for feedback about specific challenges users are having in a way that makes it clear that you’re trying to identify areas of concern, and then allocate resources appropriately.
- Check-in on slow adopters – There are usually a number of ways to identify when someone is or isn’t using your ERP system or if they’re not using it as intended. They might not be logging in, they might have switched back to using paper cycle counts, they might be creating invoices that aren’t linked to their respective sales orders or any number of other things. Focus on resolving these issues, while taking the opportunity to understand their reluctance to adopt. The solution might end up being technical or that they need more training.
2. Invest in Proper Administration
You can cut costs by having a dedicated NetSuite ERP administrator in-house who can make small changes to things like dashboards, searches, forms and create email alerts. ERP systems usually have an abundance of thorough documentation which helps empower administrators to find answers on how things work, either ad-hoc when questions are asked of them, or ahead of time as part of a training schedule. However, written documentation usually only goes so far. Sending your administrator to a training course can be very beneficial.
Most companies that sell ERP systems offer a number of courses on how to use them. Administrators that make ad-hoc changes without proper training can create all sorts of problems that will cost to fix. They could be making mistakes that are immediately obvious or slowly creating a larger inconspicuous problem by not following leading practices. This is one area where being too frugal can be a false economy. Proper ERP system training can make a world of difference.
3. Safeguard Master Data Quality
Quality master data is the cornerstone of a healthy ERP system. There are a number of ways to ensure you mitigate the amount of incomplete or duplicate data that you have:
1. Use the tools you have – ERP systems usually have some way to assist in this regard, including, not allowing duplicate records of the same name, features that assist in identifying potential duplicate customers, the ability to inactivate/retire old records (e.g. old item masters) and many more.
2. Be selective with what data is entered – There are a number of ways to do this, but your usage of your ERP system will determine which options are right for you. For example, if your ERP system integrates with your marketing platform, it might not make sense to sync all of your unqualified leads if your salespeople aren’t expected to act on them and marketing doesn’t use your system. On the other hand, if you are relying on your ERP system for reporting, syncing might make sense. For manual entry, a good practice is to ensure that master records don’t already exist before creating them. Your first line of defense should be training users to check before manually creating new master data.
3. Be consistent with naming – When possible, standardize the formats you use for naming master data. People are likely to create duplicates if they can’t find the original because the name was spelled out in full, an acronym was used, an abbreviation was applied, or some other format was used.
4. Limit custom fields – A form with many optional fields often results in records without the fields being populated. If there are too many mandatory ones then it can become overly cumbersome to create them.
4. Prioritize Potential Improvements
Once your people are into NetSuite ERP and have been using it for some time, solicit their feedback, and determine which changes are worth acting on. Regardless of the exact methodology you use for prioritizing organizational changes, make sure potential changes are in line with company and departmental goals. If one of your goals is to limit custom solutions to those that are essential to reduce maintenance costs, then implementing a highly customized Configure Price Quote (CPQ) solution might not make sense in the long run.
5. Make Deliberate Changes
The final decision to make changes to an ERP system should be centralized as much as possible. This might initially sound like overkill, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be complex. The overall idea behind doing this is to make sure that departments are on the same page, and that changes aren’t being made ad-hoc at times when you can’t afford to have things go wrong, for example, changing your A/R process in the middle of month-end close. It’s also a way to ensure that changes are in line with your company’s direction and not just satisfying a single person or department. If your ERP system is integrated with other technology platforms, it’s especially important to make sure you don’t inadvertently render those integrations inoperative by changing one of their dependencies. Depending on the size of your business this might mean having a dedicated steering committee or individuals that keep in sync to prevent changes that conflict across departments.
Another way to reduce the amount of disturbance caused by small changes is to have release cycles. Make adjustments on regular, predictable intervals as part of your release cycles, ensuring that stakeholders are notified of the changes in advance.
6. Handle Big Changes Separately
Up to this point, we’ve been going over regular administration and small tweaks that can be made by your NetSuite ERP administrator or power users. But, not all your future endeavours will necessarily be little adjustments. You could encounter complicated changes that could affect a number of processes that will require a great deal more attention.
It’s also important to be careful about making a series of band-aid fixes. When a quick fix solution you’re considering seems counter-intuitive, or not in line with leading practices, or may interfere with other processes, take special care. There might be a better long-term solution that addresses a number of other issues as well, instead of building an ERP system that’s held together by rubber bands and glue.
On occasion, the problem you are currently facing might be part of a larger overarching theme or just one big thing, for example, recreating all of your item masters, or starting to use your ERP for something new like fixed assets. For these, it’s a good idea to see if you need external help. Here are a few advantages to doing this.
- There might be better options – Having a professional look at what you’re attempting might result in them realizing that there is a more effective, less invasive or less costly way of accomplishing your goals.
- Less interference with day-to-day operations – Chances are that employees will need to be involved to some degree. But, an external professional can reduce the amount of time your employees will have to be pulled away from their regular jobs.
- Support and warranty – Warranties and ongoing support are another benefits to consider.
7. Write Things Down
It’s important to take note of changes you make to your ERP system after the initial implementation. Especially significant functional changes. Without documentation, you might end up in a position where something becomes difficult to maintain because no one knows how it works anymore. If you need to update, replace or retire custom solutions, you’ll need to know all the functions that they perform. The time required to chronicle documentation or a changelog is well worth the relatively little time it takes to create.
Wrapping Things Up
- Invest in getting users actively engaged in using your new ERP system
- Make sure you have an administrator who has the tools they need to succeed
- Make master data quality a priority
- Decide on changes that make sense for your business
- Implement small improvements using a structured approach
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help from consultants
- And remember – a change log goes a long way
Still, Have Questions?
As a 100% NetSuite consultancy, at Trajectory we work with a number of clients who need help during and following their NetSuite ERP implementations. We help with optimizations, system re-evaluations, new module additions and even re-implementations. Visit our Contact Us page.