Implementing a jewelry software (or any other ERP) is a huge undertaking and inevitably comes with a certain degree of risk. For example, a recent study from an independent ERP consulting organization, Panorama Consulting, revealed that 28% of organizations reported their ERP implementation as a complete failure, resulting in an abandoned product.
This is somewhat surprising, as for most companies the risks are manageable if they are known ahead of time. Identifying problems that may arise and addressing them early will certainly help mitigate them before they become a point of failure for your project.
Common obstacles and mistakes of implementing a jewelry software
The good news is that companies that have undergone such an implementation process once in the past usually have a certain knowledge and experience in this which helps a great deal in order to avoid the same mistakes during a second implementation.
The bad news is that they have to do it again – ideally, if the right ERP is selected, the implementation is done only once.
Also, many companies never implemented an ERP before, so they lack the right approach and management involvement necessary for such a project to be successful. This is where an experienced vendor can make the difference between a good implementation and a failed one.
To date, we have implemented close to a hundred setups of our PIRO jewelry software – and here are the most important lessons we learned.
#1 The need for consistent and engaged support from higher management
The foundation of every successful implementation project is that the management is committed to the project. One of the first things every project of this magnitude needs is a project manager: one from the vendor side and one from the client side. This ensures that communication is consistent and well managed and that tasks are properly planned and executed.
Senior management commitment to ERP projects (via)
Having an assigned project manager, however, doesn’t always mean that they will still receive the required support from the company owners or upper management and the project can quickly spiral out of control, as the project manager will need to be able to involve several members from the company in the implementation. Using those resources and prioritizing their times can become an issue if there is no support the higher ups and there is no adequate motivation of the staff being involved.
#2 Unrealistic expectations
It is a very common mistake that higher management refuses to acknowledge that the implementation is a time-consuming process that needs to be executed with the highest precision and with the involvement of many members of the team.
An ERP system is not just some software that you install and it runs, like Microsoft Word – it will be the fabric, the foundation of your business and will affect everything and everyone. So if it works, it makes everyone happy; if it doesn’t, it makes everyone miserable. So the most important lesson here is that implementing an ERP system has to result in a thorough, detailed solution where every part of the business is properly consulted and considered, rather than just being thrown together and finished quickly. Since the company is most likely to use the ERP system for many years, it is not worth throwing the project together and taking shortcuts.
#3 Poor project management
One of the greatest mistakes is when there is no dedicated responsible person assigned who leads the project on the client’s side - rather, everyone is involved. This can result in a communication quagmire - as you know, every time there is an extra person involved in any communication, it doubles the communication time and effort.
The project is doing well (via)
So the most efficient way of communication between the vendor and the client is having one and only one person assigned to the project as project manager, from both sides. For this person to be effective, however, it is not enough for him/her to understand the internal operation of the company – that person also needs to have a strong ability for abstract thinking: understanding software systems requires a different mindset than for paper-based management. It is no coincidence that in most cases the IT specialist is entrusted with the task. But smaller companies don’t always have an IT specialist and choosing the right person with at least some technology background can prove to be quite a challenge – however, having such a person as project manager will exponentially increase the probability of success for the ERP implementation.
#4 Unforeseen change requests – customization related challenges
Almost every case of implementation will face questions and modifications that couldn’t be foreseen at the beginning of the project – as the workings of a business are dissected and modeled, hidden things will come to the surface.
These changes naturally have an impact on the project timeline – and the vendor may be asked to handle these change requests.
Now, some change requests can be processed side by side with the implementation, but others will hold up the implementation as there will be a chain of dependencies – until one task is completed another cannot start, such as the inventory cannot be added until all components are correctly set up. So all this, naturally, will delay the project. In such cases, it’s very important how quickly the development team can put these items on agenda, especially since most vendors work several implementations at the same time and not all change requests can be addressed at once due to limited sources.
All these change-related considerations should be also addressed on a contractual level, even before starting the implementation of the project – and these considerations need to be FAIR in order for the project to be successful. This is very important, and it is one of the major reasons while such implementations fail. For example, if it is found out that the inventory system needs to be customized to a larger extent than expected in the original evaluation, and the vendor is not properly compensated for those changes, they may just give up on the whole project, resulting in a loss for both parties – and this can happen in any phase of the project.
#5 Data accuracy is not ensured
Two very important tasks should be mentioned in regards to data. One is the cleanliness of those, the other is importing the data. Often the database gets distorted and contains many unnecessary data accumulated over the years. It may be useful to take the time and clean the database before migrating it to the new system.
Data analysis (via)
Data migration or data import occurs in most cases when an old system is being replaced with a new business software. The main issue at this stage is that the old system’s outdated data structure needs to be converted and mapped into the new system.
Also, there may be data that need to be imported from several disparate systems, so the data needs to be “unified”, meaning that the output of the cleaning process should produce data that is formatted for the new system. This is especially important if the data imported will be used to run historical reports, meaning that you want to use the new system to run reports on data entered in your old system, possibly many years ago.
What’s very important here is that the time needed to convert and transfer all data into a new system is often under-estimated. It is important to clarify the scope of the data migration – like how many databases, how much data and how much work is involved in cleaning and preparing data – as well as whose responsibility will be to complete this task. This could be a very arduous process, but it is entirely manageable.
We have done dozens of data migrations to date – some of them very complex, moving data from decades-old systems, others simple like importing data from Excel sheets – and one thing we learned is that the key is in having the right understanding of the data and the proper tools to do it.
#6 Resistance to change
It is important that the staff is prepared accordingly for the change. They need to be instructed about things that will change and the benefits these will bring on the long run. It would be unfortunate for the project to fail because the staff resists change.
Effective employee communication (via)
The ideal would be to achieve that the people are excited about going live with the new software.
#7 Ineffective communication
You may be underestimating the importance of communication in the implementation process but a lot can depend on this. No two clients are the same, some of them get a grasp on the operation of the system very quickly, while others need more time.
Sometimes certain information only comes to light after the configuration is completed, and it turns out that there are processes that should work differently. This doesn’t mean a lack of professional knowledge, this is entirely a communicational problem.
Because the project managers are under a lot of pressure, they sometimes miss certain details which may result in further delays in the implementation.
In our experience communication is made even more difficult if scheduled meetings get postponed or if there are no daily or weekly milestones set in the project agenda for both sides. If I send an e-mail but receive a reply in two weeks’ time, that’s a bad omen and it foreshadows a negative outcome for the entire implementation. So communication is an absolute requirement for success.
#8 Testing, testing & testing
As with every complex process, it is important to test assumptions. So while the implementation itself could go smoothly, it’s only in the test phase when certain issues may come to light. So it’s important to test the entire system before completely switching over – this way you can avoid slowing down or even stopping the business if any critical issues are encountered.
A critical thing here is to have the actual users of the system involved in the testing, as they will be the ultimate validators of whether things will work or not – after all, they will be the ones using it every day, for years to come.
In our experience, again, it is good practice to run the new system and the old system side by side, possibly for several weeks, to make sure everyone is comfortable with the way it is working – then there will be no surprises after it goes live and the switch-over will be smooth as well.
Also, it is much better to delay a go-live date than to switch too early and bring the entire business to halt if a critical issue is encountered.
As every software vendor, we also had a couple of projects that ended with delays or in a failed implementation. We strive to learn from these cases, try to pass on these experiences to our customers so that they don’t make the same mistakes as others did.
When you ask the question of why your ERP project is delayed or why it doesn’t go according to plan, it is worth slowing down and taking a deep look at the problem: are you waiting for a change request that may or may not be critical to the ultimate success of the project, does your data need a lot of cleaning and massaging for it to go into the new system, is your project manager up for the task and getting the resources she needs? Usually, it’s not enough to blame the vendor – it takes two to make a thing go right
I hope this was informative for those who are going to implement a new ERP system. Are there any other pitfalls that may arise in your situation or have you faced any other difficulties? Please share your experience with us so we can learn from each other's mistakes.