Understanding why ERP implementations get delayed

Enterprise resource planning software requires a significant amount of time to implement. The most recent "ERP Report" from Panorama Consulting said the average length of an implementation is 14.3 months. That's a lot of time, even when taking into consideration advanced cloud platforms such as Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015. Even with this in mind, there's still a distinct possibility that the project will go past its original launch date. In fact, it's very realistic: The same report found that 75 percent of all projects get delayed. With this in mind, what is a company to do in order to prevent that from happening? Proper measures, along with an understanding of why these projects get delayed in the first place, can help.

A failure to plan
Panorama took some time to explain the reasons for delays in its report. The most common one has always been obvious: Creating a schedule that is unrealistic to execute within a given time frame, which registered at 14 percent of all projects surveyed by the firm. Often, companies are either trying to minimize the impact, or they believe the sales cycle conversations with ERP vendors which downplay the length, as Eric Kimberling noted in an article for IT Toolbox. Either way, there is a failure to appreciate the necessary amount of time to complete the implementation. Realistic expectations can help mitigate that.

Planning can also create delays in other ways. For example, during the planning process, it's important to consider the non-technical or business side of the implementation such as reworking significant amounts of workflows so that they match up with the software. However, the implementation may get too focused on the technical aspects to consider these important features, and let them fall to the wayside. Time comes around and they find that the employees and management aren't actually prepared for the software, which means that they have to delay finishing it to address their needs.

Fundamentals that weaken
There are other reasons that cause delays in ERP implementation, often related to structural issues that even planning may not be able to fix easily. As Rick Carlton suggested in ERP Focus, there are a lot of infrastructural faults that can appear at any time during an ERP implementation, usually at the hardware level. The type of implementation doesn't matter, as even a cloud-based installation can run afoul of local hardware on premise. Such a fundamental failure is often not due to lack of planning but not enough testing to ensure everything works properly.

Similarly, a delay can be necessary if, at go-live, the system fails when it's supposed to be running normally. That's usually due to lack of testing of the software while running at complete load. In other words, it has been tested with all of its functions being active. Testing should be rigorous in the days leading up to the launch, so that these errors don't occur.

However, the most common problem is personal: Workers aren't educated on ins and outs of the software. Even something like addressing workers can be overlooked. Without an organizational change management system in place, employees will likely stall the start of the software either through mere ignorance or fear that their jobs are at risk.

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