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Why executive buy-in really does matter in an ERP upgrade

A director of manufacturing shows how lack of executive buy-in can delay deployment, and shares other ERP upgrade tips.

What are some best practices for a successful ERP upgrade?

Make sure you have support from the top down. One of our upgrades about five years ago was accepted as a strategic project, but it wasn't pushed from the top. It was pushed from the bottom, and it made it extremely difficult to get it done on time.

To me, if I'm a company and that's a strategic objective, I'm going to make sure it's known throughout [the company]. We planned to do the upgrade over Christmas. We closed on an acquisition December 1st. It took me away from responsibility. Two of us were doing the upgrade [and] it took me away for about two months working on the acquisition.

We worked 100 hours a week and we just made everything work over time. But it wasn't as clean an upgrade as it could have been had we had support from the top down to say, "This acquisition, we know it's important to the company, but we also understand that this ERP system -- that drives the company. It runs everything."

The last upgrade we did … I made sure, from the top down, we got the support. [The executive committee] had meetings, and I would present in those meetings, and we made sure it was pushed down.

The next upgrade, instead of it being three months of hell, within a matter of a couple of weeks it was business as usual. It was a big difference between having the support and not having the support.

Don't ignore the details. There [are] so many details, and sometimes you have a tendency to look past [them]. For example, we created a conversion sheet -- I think our last document was 30 or 40 pages long. When you go through your dry runs, you have a tendency on about the third or fourth dry run to just [check off items automatically]. You skip a detail here or there, and something goes wrong. And then it takes you some time to go back and figure out. Is it something else that caused this, or did I miss a step? Those details are very important to go through.

Document everything and make sure you follow your plan. You created the plan for a reason. You went through all that time to put the details in. Follow them.

[Understand] users. I was kind of a brat when I first started on the IT side: IT was right, I don't care what the users say. When you start learning more about what the users do, and actually have an appreciation for what they're doing, work with them. Get them to buy into what you're trying to do. If you're working on an upgrade system, don't just say, "Here's IT, we've got this upgrade, make sure you test and do all your work and then we're going to convert on this date."

Ken Kemp, Director of Manufacturing, Brentwood Industries, President, Syteline User Network Ken Kemp, director
of manufacturing,
Brentwood Industries,
president, Syteline
User Network

Get them [to be] part of the process. When you have the users working with you, and not against you, knowingly or unknowingly, it really can all come together.

This interview was conducted by Executive Editor David Essex at the Inforum 2014 conference in New Orleans. Click here for other Infor news from the event.

Next Steps

Read an FAQ on ERP upgrade best practices

See tips for engaging employees in an ERP project

Know the five success factors for ERP upgrades

Dig Deeper on ERP software selection and implementation

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