How to successfully kick off an ERP implementation

Published on 25 Nov 2019

Topics: Dynamics 365 Business Central, Dynamics NAV

I’ll be honest, we’ve been doing this Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system stuff for nearly 25 years, and sometimes our industry can make a simple thing appear harder than needed. I’m guessing this isn’t news to you?

My feeling is, the IT industry grew up around developing solutions. Often companies discuss specifications, development estimates and requirements. To be fair the customer (you?) creates RFPs inviting vendors to estimate solving everything their organisation ever needed.

In my humble opinion, we need to move to a different place to kick off and start the ERP conversation.

Start with what you can do with your ERP system… not what you can’t!

Dynamics NAV / Dynamics 365 Business Central is a hugely broad ERP solution. It allows an organisation to cover processes from ‘the salesperson has found someone who might want to buy something’, right through to purchasing the goods, reconciling payments from customers and to suppliers, and seeing the results in all its multi-dimensional glory. Why start an ERP project from 'it might not do', rather than ‘let’s see everything we can use it for out of the box’ first. By all means add the obvious app add-ons like nHanced 365 to add great configurability, Continia Invoice OCR scanning and Expense Management, after all lots of organisations have these requirements, but maybe rather than workshops and write ups and design specifications right at the beginning, how about importing master data like customers, vendors, G/L accounts and Items and look at the wonderous things you could do without reverting to modifications?

We love getting stuck in. If you do too, maybe a Hot Week is a good idea to move your idea forward.

So, what do we mean by a 'Hot Week'?

We use our ‘Day in the Life’ ERP implementation process to start with showing our customers what they can do with the latest version, whether upgrading or implementing. It’s always worth using the software to try different ways to tackle a problem. A great example is ‘project functionality’, often this can be solved with Jobs or Service Management or even our nHanced Project Costing, sometimes a bit of each makes sense. Many common warehouse management processes can be configured in different ways, but it’s best to try these in a play system, rather than find out in a live system that you made the wrong decision. So, when implementing, let me recommend you look at what you do with a view that you are probably much more like other businesses than you are different. Look at what you could do in the way that Dynamics NAV / Business Central was designed and is probably used in many other organisations. This will lead you to the gaps in a natural way, rather than you starting out by thinking ‘we’re different, let’s decide how to modify this thing’.

Kicking off an ERP project

A way to start this process, and a common ‘let’s get on with it’ approach is to have a Hot Week. So, what do we mean by a ‘Hot Week’? Two words, one meaning, it’s a week of effort and an intensive period of doing stuff, hence the ‘hot’. In other words, it’s not a workshop. It’s not an opportunity to discuss the things that might not work. It’s a period with a few people, some from your side some from ours, camped out in a room in our customer centre, where our combined efforts get us somewhere quickly. Bring some data, and enthusiasm, we’ll add our passion and knowledge and between us we will get somewhere. Where will we get? We aren’t talking about implementing the whole ERP solution and ready to be going live in 5 days (although we have done this before particularly with pure finance solutions), but we will be in a far better place on Friday evening than Monday morning.

ERP projects, especially at the start, often wander with duration burn as a lack of information flows between people and organisations, the request for some information is met with a delay due to email not hitting the top of your list, the retuned information after your day off and subsequent important meeting meaning the point of needing the information is rather late and other decisions delayed accordingly. Sometimes just getting in a room makes the time more efficient and the duration burn much less. We all just get on with it.

A Hot Week isn't just for starting set up, but it's a great way to start an ERP project. It is also a great way to come and try Dynamics 365 Business Central with your data before an upgrade. A Hot Week is also a good way to solve a bigger single issue for example ‘Could we use jobs and resources to help control our installations?’, ‘Would CRM in our existing NAV enable us to manage our sales process?’. Instead of philosophising or writing up a big spec document, get in a room and get on with trying it out. We love using the software to prove or disprove its use. We love getting stuck in. If you do too, maybe a Hot Week is a good idea to get you started with ERP and move forward.

One of our customers recently came to us and said, ‘I’ve got an idea for a system to manage people’s ideas for change in our company’. So, we sat in a room, did some prototyping, he put his input in, we played with the software and at the end of the time we both knew the idea was sound and we knew how to finish off the solution. In the words of the Lion King ‘it starts’, it’s just a question of how it starts.

Finally, a big part of the project is the same old stuff. Training people, importing data, testing and planning how to get the new system live without impacting day to day business. The bit that can be flexible is that early bit. How do we want to communicate that a process is ready for another user? How do I highlight problems? How can we make the screens easy for the user by configuration? What is our flow of information? My recommendation has not changed on this for a long time, use the application, play with it, try different things, avoid great big documents, be practical. The end result will be better, I promise!


Learn more about our Enterprise Resource Planning services here

Download our free ‘Alternative guide to buying ERP’, by clicking here

Our ERP pricing guide addresses the main ERP implementation questions, download here

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Written by
Ian Humphries
Ian Humphries

Ian is Founder and Chief Architect at TNP. He is one of the most experienced Dynamics NAV guys in the UK starting with version 1.0, so in the distant past when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Having had a life as an IT Manager of both manufacturing companies and distribution companies prior to his Dynamics NAV life, Ian understands the reality of IT solutions and projects needing to be pragmatic and not full of techie jargon. Ian had spent several years helping to build the largest NAV solution centre in the UK. Keen to get back to dealing with customers, users and his beloved Dynamics NAV product, he left to set up TNP and is now involved on a daily basis with our wonderful customers and products. He is constantly looking at new technologies to enhance our customers' use of Dynamics NAV (and yes, he gets crazily excited about new stuff!). Random Fact: As a keen musician, he owns a staggering 57 different instruments and plays them all to the same very poor level...