Planning a Successful Construction ERP Implementation
January 27, 2022
You’ve found just the right construction enterprise resource planning (ERP) system for your business. Now you have to implement it. While the ERP implementation is generally not difficult so much as it is somewhat lengthy and tightly choreographed, well thought out planning can smooth the entire process substantially.
There are several step-by-step plans and templates that detail how to roll out an ERP; you can choose one as-is or customize it depending on your business and the solution you selected. Regardless of the plan you use, there are a few key items to keep in mind to ensure a successful ERP implementation.
Remember to consider your people first
The thing about technology adoption is that it’s really not so much about the technology. It’s about the people — the contractors, site crews, back-office employees, stakeholders and owners. Technology should serve people, not the other way around. They’re the ones who’ll be interacting with the system every day.
Establish an implementation team. Because this impacts every business function, include people from departments representing each of the modules included in your ERP. Who specifically should be a part of the rollout? What job functions should be included in the team — IT, change management or organizational development? Also, look outside of your construction company; there may be specialists who’ve successfully worked on or guided this kind of implementation for internal teams who can help advise you if this wasn’t already included as part of your ERP system purchase.
It’s also a good idea to designate several champions who are the face and voice of support. Include one or more upper-level executives who can represent management’s commitment to the implementation and ensure accountability and progress. Joining them would be people at the departmental level to encourage peers along the way and give voice to ERP’s advantages.
Involve everyone through regular, open communication. Next, prepare everyone who isn’t on the implementation team about the upcoming ERP adoption. The key, though, is to announce it as early as possible to head off any misinformation and to ensure everyone has the correct details right from the start — and then keep on communicating. The communication channels you use should be those that are familiar and accessible for everyone that will most effectively convey the information they need. It could be any combination of in-person meetings, online meetings, emails, intranet announcements and written resources. The more information, the less confusion and higher likelihood of a smooth adoption.
There’s going to be one big question on everyone’s mind: “What’s in it for me?” They’ll want to know the benefits not just in terms of improving the business, but how it will answer their pain points and help them do their jobs better. The implementation team may be able to help here. All throughout the process, the lines of communication should be open both ways for questions and feedback, along with frequent updates to cultivate employee acceptance and participation.
Assure everyone the ERP is not meant to replace them, but to help them. Even after addressing what’s in it for them, you may have to quell some resistance or skepticism. There may naturally be a few people who won’t relish the idea of this degree of change or who fear technology is ultimately going to take their job. Acknowledging a change like this won’t happen overnight and that high learning curves are expected can help relieve a bit of the hesitancy. Assure them training in the new ERP system will help them leverage it to their advantage to make them more effective.
Don’t rush ERP implementations logistics
Because an integrated construction ERP is meant to help everyone access and use project data, getting the data in order is a must. This is one step you want to carry out carefully, not sprint through it despite the eagerness to ramp up the new system.
Establish timelines for the rollout and phase-out of currently used software or systems. Try to plan the actual launch for a time your business isn’t otherwise involved in resource-heavy activities, such as audits, tax preparation, year-end financials, etc.
Engage cross-functional user teams for input on current workflows. What processes are working? What adjustments would they make that can be configured into the ERP system? This encourages collaboration in identifying process inefficiencies and bottlenecks common to multiple business units. Just going through this process of group engagement surfaces each business unit’s unique role in supporting projects throughout their life cycle, something that was likely lost when working with disjointed solutions.
Outline training for all user groups. Training can help further facilitate employee acceptance and adoption. What kind of training will be provided — in-person or online? What training materials will supplement the formal instruction, in particular those that support specific business functions? Post-training support is ideally in place after the ERP system is officially deployed and can be key to ensuring a completely successful ERP implementation.
Put together a data migration plan. If you’ve been using multiple point solutions to this point, you’re going to have to go through the data for each one. Clean your data and documentation as much as possible prior to migrating everything. Where are all your data sources? Which ones may have duplicated information? Is anything outdated or irrelevant? What format will the remaining data take? Once the resulting carefully culled data has been migrated, it’s time to test the ERP system and verify the data transfer.
Monitor progress and success while still allowing for hiccups
Launch — monitoring the go-live day. Despite all the lead up to this day, the actual ERP implementation activities unique to this day are substantial. Some things to consider:
- To help pick up the slack left by employees ramping up to launch day, what extra support staff or overtime hours might you need to arrange?
- Will the entire system be launched or select modules?
- How is the system performing throughout the day?
- Will the legacy system be ready in the background as a failsafe measure?
- Are support people in place to help iron out glitches that surface in the system or to help employees as they get used to the system?
Post-launch — evaluating progress. The post-launch is just as important as the launch itself. Understand that when adopting any new technology or process, there’s going to be a noticeable learning curve. This could create lags in productivity as project team members get used to the system. As with the launch day, there are post-launch measures and trends to monitor as you assess the progress and success of the ERP implementation:
- How are productivity levels tracking compared to the prior system or methods used?
- Has the data error rate gone down?
- What feedback is coming from users?
- Have you noticed improvements in performance, responsiveness, accuracy?
- Are you noticing an uptick in ROI in your ERP?
Each construction company is different and will have their own unique requirements for their chosen enterprise resource planning system. That will no doubt influence how they plan their implementation. Choosing a scalable system, such as InEight Project Controls Platform, can be the first step toward a successful adoption. When you’re ready to start thinking about your own ERP implementation, let us know — we’ll be happy to walk you through a demo to envision what it can do for your business processes.