Let us agree to agree that if you are going to “upgrade” your current “ERP” business management software, you may as well follow a procedure based on “best practices.” However, our agreement to agree could end right there for the simple reason that we may not be speaking the same language. That is why I have put three terms in quotation marks.

The Language of “ERP” “Best Practices” “Upgrades”

Let us look at each term separately and together.

ERP

While we all probably know that “ERP” stands for Enterprise Resource Planning, some of us may still have a slightly different take on what that means. Is ERP synonymous with accounting software? NO. It is not. And yet, when I ask a prospect if they are currently using an ERP software system, I still occasionally hear: “Sure! I use FreshBooks.”

No, no, no! FreshBooks is accounting software, not ERP software. Accounting software, at its core, is what we used to refer to as bookkeeping. Accounting software programs help companies record and report their financial transactions. With accounting software, business users perform accounting activities related to the general ledger, accounts receivable, accounts payable, purchasing, invoicing, and payroll functions.

Accounting software also enables business users to write and print checks, track checking account activity, and update and reconcile balances on demand. Most accounting software supports online credit checks, invoicing, bill payment, direct deposit, and payroll services. Some accounting software offers more sophisticated features such as job costing and estimating, time tracking, multiple company reporting, foreign currency reporting, and perhaps some budgeting and forecasting.

ERP software, on the other hand, provides centralized, integrated software applications to help manage and coordinate the ongoing activities of the enterprise, including manufacturing (BOM, shop floor routing, etc.), distribution (Supply Chain Management, logistics, warehouse management, etc.), accounting, finance, sales, product planning, human resources, sales marketing, customer service, field service, retail, project service automation, etc. The ERP system installed at each organization is typically configured or customized to match the business processes and requirements of each company. Most cutting-edge ERP solutions incorporate CRM.

Best Practices

In the context of software upgrades, the term “best practices” can be a bit tricky. Certainly, there are some universal best practices for conducting a successful upgrade, specific steps that must be followed in a particular order for an upgrade to be accomplished smoothly. However, many, if not most, providers of ERP software systems have also developed their own upgrade process.

It is logical to assume that the upgrade process may differ based on which software is being upgraded. Is it QuickBooks, Sage, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, NetSuite, Infor? There are structural differences, not to mention something as necessary as the code language. Other factors must come into play as well, such as the age of the solution that is being upgraded, on-premises or cloud, the number of third-party add-ons that have been installed, whether they are standalone or integrated.

Best practices are not a one size fits all ERP business solution.

Upgrades

Here, too, the term “upgrade” may have different meanings to different people. An upgrade most commonly refers to a move from an older version of the ERP software to a newer version of the same software. However, people also use that term to mean a move from an on-premises version of a given ERP business management software solution to a cloud version of that software. Or, perhaps even what would better be called a migration from one solution to another.

We frequently hear from clients who want to upgrade from a legacy ERP solution that is no longer supported to an entirely different software product, for example, moving from QuickBooks to Microsoft Dynamics or from Sage Intacct to Infor. Thus, the term “upgrade” can be used in the more general sense of moving from ERP Software A to ERP Software B. This could be a small step up or a giant step to an entirely new integrated ERP solution.

Having defined the three terms separately, we can now move on to discussing the holistic topic at hand.

Best Practices for Upgrading Your Integrated ERP Business Solution

In our day-to-day work with manufacturers and distributors, with clients and prospects, Strategic Systems Group (SSG) receives many different kinds of requests. We have clients and prospects who are running legacy ERP solutions for which new versions are no longer being released, and the software vendor is no longer providing support. Although we might believe that these prospects and clients would be better served by migrating to a current solution, we will nonetheless do our best to continue supporting them if that is their firm desire.

Upgrades are more common and could involve a relatively straightforward progression from a recent version of the ERP software to the most current version. Or, the upgrade could be more complex because it requires moving from a much older version of the software to the newest release.

With increasing frequency, we are helping our prospects and clients migrate from legacy or limited functionality ERP solutions, which are often on-premises, to cutting-edge, fully integrated ERP systems in the cloud.

Each type of upgrade or migration requires a different approach. Even so, there are some commonalities or, shall we say, a universal set of best practices and processes for conducting a successful upgrade. At a high level, these are the top 5 best practices:

Step 1. Conduct a Needs Assessment

A needs assessment is a critical first step that should be conducted without any preconceived notions. In other words, do not assume that you know what your prospects or clients need. You might even be surprised! A thorough needs assessment should include input from every constituency – executives, managers, IT, finance, operations, HR, sales, marketing, customer service, every end uses. Your goal is to understand their pain and how they want to alleviate it. What are the deficits of the system currently in use? What are their goals? What would their ideal solution look like? And oh, by the way, what is their budget? That can be a reality check.

Step 2: Evaluate Current Processes

Take a good look at current business processes and identify areas in need of improvement. Some current processes may be serving them well. Others may find kludgy and cumbersome. What workflows are currently in place? What workflows could or should be added? What is slowing the system down? Where are the gaps? What are the functional requirements that will support their new business goals? Probe. Question. Document. Optimize.

Step 3: Archiving, Migrating, and Cleaning Data 

Data tends to grow and propagate like a weed. An abundance of data is often the root cause of slow performance. Therefore, an upgrade is the perfect time to evaluate your data. How much historical data needs to be migrated? Is it clean? If not, clean it up before archiving or migrating it. We understand that some legacy data is essential for compliance, particularly if you are in a highly regulated industry. That is what data archives are designed for. Attempting to migrate every bit and byte of your data will slow down the upgrade process. We have seen data migrations that take days to migrate! Let us help you avoid that based on our expertise in this area. Take a moment to read our recent blog on this topic: 18 Best Practices for Data Migration

Step 4: Identify the Obstacles

Avoid failure by identifying the obstacles that will derail or add complexity to an upgrade. We already have to a few, such as cumbersome processes and excessive quantities of data. Another widespread obstacle is the existence of customizations that required changes to the software code. However, it is also common to find that the new software solution obviates the need for those existing custom features.

Step 5: Map the Upgrade Process

An upgrade is a process that can be plotted step by step in advance. It is not a project that should be undertaken without meticulous planning, testing, and go-live simulations. Follow our best practices, and your upgrade will be a resounding success.

Post-Upgrade Best Practice 

To ensure the highest possible user adoption rate, be sure to include adequate end-user training on the new ERP software solution as part of the overall upgrade plan, and oh, by the way, as part of the project budget, too.

Getting to Know Us

When Strategic Systems Group (SSG) embarks on an upgrade, we take the time to get to know all about you. The flip side is that we want you to know all about us, too. We have been conducting ERP software upgrades for almost 30 years! You are in good hands with SSG.

Please contact SSG at (310) 539-4645 or via our contact form today!

Related Article

18 Best Practices for Data Migration