It appears that among common challenges of ERP integration, ERP documentation tends to be a ‘black box’ and the most problematic issue facing both ERP consultants and business owners. The global ERP market is evolving at a rapid speed and is not likely to give up its power over the next few years. Businesses want to stay in tune with the latest ERP trends so as not to trail far behind. As of today, ERP solutions get the lion’s share of the attention from SAP consultants, engineers, and project managers, as well as implementation specialists. In today’s article, we assembled top tips for successful ERP Implementation documentation to follow in this year.

6 ERP Documentation Best Practices to Follow to Avoid a Disaster

It is increasingly important for companies to be aware of common ERP implementation failures to prevent themselves from getting into trouble. It occurs that companies are struggling to select and implement ERP systems in a way that they would consider a success. In 2015, a study conducted by Panorama Consulting revealed that 21% of companies considered their ERP rollout a failure. In 2016, a revised study showed a decrease in the percentage of respondents that view their project as a failure from 21% to 7%. The year 2017, however, demonstrated a 19% increase in respondents characterizing their project as a failure. This year is going to show the same tendency, albeit there has been an increase in the percentage of organizations relying on SAP and ERP consultants who assist companies in implementing ERP solutions. Check out a few examples of ERP flops which you can learn from.

There is a number of reasons why ERP implementations are sometimes doomed to failures, and we have gathered some eye-opening facts. So, ERP implementations are not successful because companies usually fail to:

  • Assess business processes and define business strategies
  • Set short and long-term measurable goals
  • Prepare a Risk Management Plan
  • Establish a List of Requirements
  • Choose the right tools for successful ERP implementation
  • Create an ongoing training plan

Have a look; all the statements mentioned above deal with documentation. At each stage of an ERP implementation project, it is important to have a proper document prepared, since it provides transparency by ensuring that every employee in a company shares the same vision on ERP implementation, and of course, it guarantees documentation consistency across all processes. So, ERP documentation starts with a simple listing of the business goals and, in fact, never concludes. It is an ongoing process. Documentation reflects every new change introduced to a system. It develops as the project progresses and updates as the system upgrades. All in all, one may differentiate between two types of ERP documentation. There is end-user documentation, which focuses on explaining to users how to do things, and system documentation, which is developed for the people who administer the system. There exist many challenges when it comes to creating appropriate ERP documentation. It can be a burdensome process, and getting the right level of ERP documentation prepared can be difficult.  Here are some tips on how to start creating your ERP documentation step by step as your project develops.

Tip #1 Get Your Business Processes Documented

The first thing which is advisable to do before starting an ERP implementation journey is to identify the real objective for implementing ERP. Thus, you need to take a critical look at your current business processes and decide which are out-of-date and which ones need optimization. Be sure to evaluate and revise your business processes because if you don’t improve them, ERP system will only help you be more efficient at doing things poorly. Moreover, it is important to start documenting your current processes so as not to get lost in the sea of new processes.

Apart from existing or redesigned business processes, there is usually a need to document some standard operating processes that are not known by everyone, such as the processing of some critical reports, scheduled timings of some critical programs, maintenance of some critical database tables, hard-coding done in the programs or lookups being referred to in the code. Such processes are typical of every organization and frequently are not documented at all. However, organizations can derive a lot of value if these get documented well.

Below is a simple roadmap that can help you get your business processes in order:

  1. Analyze the processes correctly. Start with simple processes first and then move to the complex ones. It is better to begin with those which are most important to the organization and proceed with identifying bottlenecks in processes in order to eliminate them so they do not remain when moving to a new ERP system.
  2. Start actually writing process documentation. Don’t forget to complement your documents with images, diagrams, and flowcharts. It is also recommended that you design your own custom templates that will be aligned with your brand and business needs.
  3. Test your documentation to ensure the process has been documented accurately and there are no pitfalls there.
  4. Modify the process documentation based on the testing.
  5. Update your process documentation as your business processes change.

Tip #2 Set SMART Goals

An ERP project starts with a clear definition of the vision and objectives for the organization. SMART goal setting is one of the most effective and yet rarely used techniques for achieving goals in the corporate world. To make your goal S.M.A.R.T., it needs to correspond to the following criteria: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. In other words, goals should be simplistically written, clearly definable, realistic, result-focused, and time-bound. The next step is to document short and long-term measurable goals and definitions of success. It should be a living document, regularly reviewed and revised. Having the focus set up is critical because lack of leadership alignment around desired business outcomes is a common stumbling block.

Tip #3 Prepare a Requirement List

Once the analysis of your current business processes is done and SOP documentation is ready, you may get down to determining the requirements for the ERP implementation process.  A key issue today, for example, is whether to host the application on premise, in the cloud or a combination of the two. (Read more on this topic here). First of all, you need to make up a list of requirements and prioritize them in the right way based on the realistic availability of your resources. The final output should be a concise document featuring you key demands for a successful ERP implementation.

Tip #4 Prepare a Risk Management Plan

Risk planning can help your team identify potential issues that may suddenly arise and take proactive steps to prevent a project coming to a dead end. In today’s ever-changing world, companies should have a risk management plan documented in advance before the project takes off to mitigate potential problems. Here is the list of potential risks that may pop up:

  • Lack of human and material resources
  • Knowledge gap when employees leave
  • Selected technology is a poor match to the problem or customer
  • A delay in one task causes cascading delays in dependent tasks
  • Miscommunication between stakeholders
  • Priorities change on existing project

Tip #5 Choose the Right Suite of Tools

Before embarking on the ERP implementation journey, ask yourself: “Do I have the right technology to implement the ERP system?” Try to get rid of manual work and automate everything that can be automated. There is a large number of software available specific to each industry and function type, and ERP vendors provide their assistance to interested clients on selecting the best fit. Think of the tools you might need at each stage of an ERP implementation project:

  • Business Process Management tool
  • Communication tools
  • Software Documentation tools
  • Project Management software
  • Reporting tools
  • Analytical tools

Tip #6 Create an Ongoing Training Plan

Documentation and training should go hand in hand. There are two big bottlenecks identified within ERP implementations: high costs and the failure of employees to master new tools. While cost can be mitigated to a certain extent by careful valuation of different vendors and assessment of free open-source tools, the other problem can be resolved by introducing profound training documentation to your staff.  The lack of adoption of ERP systems often prevents companies from achieving the expected process improvements. With an ongoing training plan, you will increase the adoption of your new ERP system and realize more business value from your investment.

Wrapping Up

Note, a poorly planned ERP implementation project sucks money, time and resources. Although the above-mentioned ERP implementation best practices are just basic guidelines that are to be followed, they will protect you from common ERP implementation failures. Granted, a number of unforeseen issues will definitely pop up from time to time, since there is no one-fits-all approach to the ERP rollout. However, if you have properly designed ERP implementation documentation, such challenges won’t constitute a big problem at all. Documentation is required throughout the ERP Implementation at almost all the stages to ensure sustainability of solutions and processes. To sum up, we have come up with the following benefits of having ERP documentation written well:

  • Documentation allows organizations to retain valuable knowledge when consultants or employees leave.
  • It brings standardization and transparency to your business processes.
  • Proper system documentation ensures better employee onboarding. Documentation and training are an effective means of communicating information.
  • ERP documentation helps measure your progress towards the set goals and keep track of your activities.