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What is an ERP implementation?

The implementation of an ERP system is a key activity for any organization that has decided to deploy a new enterprise system, regardless if it replaces a current on-premises solution, adds capabilities to an existing cloud environment, or is a greenfield deployment that supplants disparate spreadsheets and homegrown software. No matter what type of new ERP system is selected, the success of the chosen enterprise solution—in terms of user adoption, process alignment, data quality, and enterprise fit—depends on having a successful implementation.

This success—measured by understanding and meeting user expectations, business requirements, and project budgets and schedules—requires thoughtful planning and execution with experienced and knowledgeable resources who not only understand the technical aspects of the new ERP solution but can navigate the business and cultural aspects of an organization throughout the implementation effort.

The following outlines five key steps and their supporting tasks that an organization should follow when moving ahead with an ERP implementation project.

ERP implementation defined

Cloud ERP adoption succeeds with a well-defined implementation project

As more and more organizations migrate their on-premises enterprise applications to modern cloud solutions, they often simultaneously consider the tasks required for an ERP implementation project. Companies undergo an ERP implementation for a wide variety of reasons—to change the cost structure of their applications portfolios; reduce the risk of technological obsolescence; deliver growth; and drive innovation while increasing operational agility, resiliency, and efficiency—it is important to understand why enterprise projects succeed and how they can fail.

While there are many different paths to migrate to cloud applications, the formula for a successful ERP implementation is clear. Regardless of whether you are taking a single process, such as budgeting, or moving all your financial applications and processes to the cloud, ERP implementations require thorough planning with experienced resources.

Five steps for a successful cloud ERP implementation project

Step 1: Plan the ERP cloud implementation

Define and establish project categories covering scope, design, teams, and messages.

At first, managing a cloud migration may seem like running any other business and technology project, but the differences are immediately visible when project plans and resources are mapped. For one thing, when compared to most on-premises implementations, the benefits of a cloud project are evident early on in the process.

As the business case for a cloud project gains approval, the cost and schedule advantages stand out. This is also where tasks for cloud projects diverge from on-premises projects. Smaller cloud projects—especially hybrid efforts—receive approval even faster and with less justification, because they cost less and don’t require any capital expense.

The components of a cloud project fall into five categories: project definition, teams, design, rollout, and communications. To deliver success, a project must collect the information across each category before kickoff.

Project definition

This task establishes the foundation for a cloud implementation project. Although it may seem too meticulous, failure to provide clarity and detail at this stage will create problems downstream. Sound planning at the beginning reduces the risk of errors and helps the implementation team prepare for any possible setbacks along the way.

Start with the project’s intent by writing a mission statement that incorporates your overarching objectives. Then create a project roadmap that unambiguously defines goals, scope, risk, a detailed budget, and staffing requirements (both internal and external)—all mapped to a general timeline and task schedule. These tasks are similar across on-premises and cloud implementations. Yet this step moves along more quickly with the cloud, since there are fewer tasks. Gone are tasks associated with hardware, software installation, custom-code testing, and other on-premises components.

Project team

With a cloud project, building a team is easier. No need for hardware architects, custom application coders, report builders, or software installers. With cloud projects, the skills and expertise you’ll need will focus on configuring and applying best practices as well as user roles and responsibilities, so you’ll need business process consultants as well as data analysts. At this stage, it's important to clearly define each project role and its associated responsibilities.

A few membership requirements to consider: Always include a dedicated project manager and select business partners as needed. If you're currently an Oracle on-premises customer, consider Oracle Consulting’s Soar program to accelerate your cloud journey. You should also have a steering or executive committee. Find an executive sponsor who will advocate for the project’s success by removing roadblocks and engaging other senior executives when needed.

Project design

Think of this as your blueprint for success. Primary outputs included in the design document are the applications to be deployed, any third-party applications, as well as any related systems that require integration. The design must also include detailed data definitions, user requirements, and all impacted business processes. Some of these components, such as the design of the chart of accounts, will require significant planning. Having the design in place at the outset is critical. With the design work done up front, you can hit the ground running with configuration tasks. And with modern cloud applications, these tasks have been simplified.

Project rollout

Determine which business units and geographies will be covered and in what order. Also, identify the key requirements to take the new system live and into production. Establishing these go/no-go milestones early serves as a logical check for the project schedule. Some capabilities may be earmarked for future deployment after the initial go-live. This is also where you should include key metrics that will be used to monitor and assess your end result after going live. As in previous steps, there are similarities between cloud and on-premises implementations. But since the cloud delivers more simplicity, you get the added benefits of a shorter schedule and better scope control.

Project communications

Internal communication is vital for your project’s success. Consider branding the project with a project name and logo to build internal recognition and awareness within your entire organization. Build awareness and positive anticipation across your company with regular updates about the implementation’s progress and how the organization will benefit from the project. Change can be hard. Communicating project updates and information throughout the process can help internal teams adjust and get on board quickly.

With the cloud, you have the advantage of a proven track record of successful implementations as well as technology that has already been embraced by users. Most of us are already using our smartphones and other cloud-enabled applications and platforms, so changing from last century’s on-premises systems to modern cloud applications is natural, intuitive, and exciting.

Find out how Oracle Soar can help automate your move to the cloud

Read our blog on six compelling reasons to move from on-premises to cloud ERP

11 tips for a smooth migration to an ERP cloud—Caesars case study

Caesars Entertainment is going all in with the cloud. Recently, the gaming and hospitality giant moved its financial operations off a 30-year-old on-premises system to Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP and Oracle Fusion Cloud EPM. Caesars’ Vice President of Finance Transformation Michael Mann offers these 11 tips for a successful migration:

  1. Don’t underestimate the data conversion process
  2. Give testing your undivided attention
  3. Involve your partners and suppliers in that testing
  4. Test the application under extreme conditions
  5. Line up senior management support
  6. Tackle change management head on
  1. Dedicate full-time people to specific project roles
  2. Avoid integrations whenever possible
  3. Document everything to pass audits
  4. Enlist people from your cloud vendor for your implementation team
  5. Engage the network team

Read the full customer success story (PDF)

Step 2: Implement cloud ERP solutions

See how Caesars Makes Real-Time Decisions Using Oracle Cloud (2:23)

Configure and integrate. Assess data and reports. Evaluate extensions.

With preparatory work complete, it's time to implement the project design. This is the bulk of the workload in terms of budget, time, and tasks. Implementing the cloud project requires far fewer tasks than a traditional on-premises solution. Jettisoned tasks include hardware activities, custom coding, software loading and patching, and most (but not all) testing and training. Implementing a cloud project typically covers four (and sometimes five) core activities, that are referred to by the acronym CIDER.

Configure

Cloud applications are focused on configuration rather than customization. Which means that it's important to configure data structures and hierarchies, organizations, and user roles and responsibilities early in a project. In most cloud migrations, core business activities can be set up quickly and then coupled with the delivered standard business processes and their workflows.

Integrate

Expect some integration work. Few solutions embrace all business functions, especially in large enterprises. Integrating third-party solutions or legacy systems into cloud applications preserves prior investments and unique capabilities. This is an area where you should partner with your IT colleagues on the project team, as they may have existing integration frameworks. Many organizations take advantage of Oracle Integration Cloud to streamline and simplify any needed integrations.

Data

Moving from on-premises systems involves moving data into the cloud. Once the quantity of data and its definition are defined, this implementation task requires extraction, transformation, and load (ETL) skills covering data quality and normalization tasks. With complex data scenarios, instead of spending time and budget preparing everything in advance, consider using Oracle Enterprise Data Management Cloud to ensure consistency across enterprise data, even across disparate systems.

Extensions

One of the fundamental advantages of cloud applications is that they are designed to be configured rather than customized. However, when necessary, applications can be extended or complementary capabilities can be developed using Oracle Platform as a Service. Preintegration with Oracle SaaS applications removes the complexity for the most common types of integration, and extensions are preserved when the application is updated.

Reports

Oracle Cloud Applications come with many reporting capabilities and predefined reports. At implementation time, sort reporting requirements into two buckets:

1) Identify which reports can be replaced with real-time, onscreen information and the embedded analytics included in the new cloud application.
2) Determine the reports that need to be generated and distributed. As a starting point, consider the inventory of nearly 600 cloud financial reports (XLS) from Oracle.

Take a cloud ERP quick tour.

Step 3: Verify cloud ERP implementation tasks

Check configurations and related implementation items against project definitions.

Once implementation tasks are complete, it's important to check the accuracy and completeness of the work against project requirements. Like on-premises system testing, it's critical to confirm the following:

  • Data quality: Data is the fuel of all enterprise systems. Verify the following four items related to the migrated data: cleanliness (including spelling); conformity to the data dictionary; concurrence with the predetermined period pull; and, most important, be certain the data is correct.
  • Data archive: Legacy systems usually have a lot of old data. So it’s important to preserve your old system’s data. With a new cloud system, you only move the required data forward; you archive the past. Archive data that’s not migrated and preserve data integrity with read-only access.
  • Workflows: These are the activities that connect and drive business processes. Business processes connect with workflows, which drive end-to-end enterprise activities. Verify the primary and branch paths, including the decision logic variations of each workflow.
  • Security: Thoroughly test the four basic operations of persistent storage or CRUD: copy (download), read (view), update (alter and change), and delete (erase) access to system logins, sensitive data, user configurations, account management, and report modifications. Determine and verify security protocols with Oracle.
  • Roles: Check that all applicable job roles, positions, and titles are properly identified and implemented.
  • Responsibilities: Define work activities and tasks. Responsibilities are different than roles. The correct mapping of responsibilities to roles is critical for security and workflows.

Break the custom code habit

Having large amounts of expensive and unsustainable custom code is holding your organization back. Oracle Cloud Applications eliminate IT complexity and maximize the benefits of data. Unlike legacy systems, Oracle Cloud delivers continuous innovation with regular updates of the latest technology, including AI, machine learning, and digital assistants.

Unlike on-premises systems, cloud deployments are easier to verify. The physical infrastructure, security, code currency, applications, and functionality don’t need the complex testing approaches used with on-premises systems. It’s all ready to go.

With cloud projects, verification is focused on CIDER: configurations, integrations, data, extensions, reports. With good design documentation and effective data migration, this is essentially a checklist exercise.

Once the project team is satisfied that the implemented solution matches all aspects of the defined project, it's time for user acceptance. When the project was defined, key stakeholders across business units and executives were identified. They also helped prepare the project’s definitions. Now it’s time to get their signoff confirming that the implemented project matches their requirements.

It's also important to engage business process owners at this stage. They can be the champions of best practices and keep the organization from straying from modern standards. Business process owners (BPOs) are also the vanguard against customization efforts and can advocate for promoting and communicating best practices across the organization. If you don’t have BPOs at this point, this is the perfect time to establish this critical role.

Sometimes there is misalignment. This is the opportunity to revisit requirements and correct the problem. After the fix, be sure to re-engage the appropriate stakeholders.

Step 4: Prepare for cloud ERP production

With business approvals in place, the countdown to a production cloud system begins. Work these three tasks in parallel:

System readiness: Complete the list of final items to be addressed or corrected (known as the punch list) and set initial values in the system. For example, determine the first purchase order number to be issued in the cloud.

User readiness: Provision users with their user names, passwords, and related information. Let them know how they can get assistance when the solution goes live.

Organizational readiness: Focus on completing change management and core training as required. If the project faithfully embraced change management in the initial preparation tasks, users will be ready to go and well informed about their new system.

In the preparation phase, cloud projects have advantages, once again, over on-premises projects. There is less to do, which shortens schedules and reduces budgets. It is also easier to move forward when project team members are evaluating the decision to go into production. When confidence is high regarding the collective readiness for production, there is one final step prior to going live.

In Step 1, the project established “go/no-go” criteria. Review these criteria with the steering committee and executive sponsor. Select an appropriate date and insist on a unanimous decision to confirm go-live. If there are any doubts, investigate them and correct any issues. It’s important to a successful go-live to have everyone on board and communicate the decision broadly, using supporting information where needed.

Implementation customer success

Our experienced Customer Success Managers (CSMs) help you reach your goals faster. Oracle CSMs assist new customers with implementation, go-live, consumption, and user adoption, and more. With deep product and business process backgrounds, CSMs help you get the most value out of your Oracle investment.

Learn more about Oracle Customer Success Managers

Step 5: Deliver a successful cloud ERP deployment

Go-live and beyond. Production, promotion, and celebration.

For projects that have followed the previous steps, go-live should run smoothly. A few isolated problems may occur, but these should be handled by the user assistance team identified in the readiness chapter. The project team, with associated IT infrastructure and network staff, should diligently monitor system performance. At the same time, check with users on their tasks and overall experience.

The biggest difference between a cloud and on-premises go-live will quickly be obvious. There are far fewer issues. With a successful go-live, the end is really the beginning of a new cloud way of doing things. This transformation from a last-century applications approach is a great reason to celebrate the project’s success.

Start by throwing a party. Invite the steering committee, business partners, key business stakeholders, and others who were instrumental in orchestrating the project’s success. Besides having fun, a party is a great vehicle for discussing the ups and downs of the project as a reference point for future endeavors.

And once the party is over, consider these seven additional activities:

Monitor and measure: Review the metrics identified during the initial preparedness step. Regularly measure and report on their performance while considering their value and potential use in other efforts.

Review the project: Take time with the core project team, including partners, to document lessons learned and identify what worked well and areas to improve. Pay attention to company cultural aspects, user acceptance, and change management approaches. Consider presenting a comprehensive project debriefing to the steering committee and executive sponsor.

Stay engaged with Oracle SaaS Support Services: Be proactive and stay connected with the Oracle SaaS Support Services team. They’re a great resource, dedicated to your success, and are included for free with your cloud services.

Establish ongoing training: Ongoing training is important to maximize system productivity and applications knowledge. Establish training programs for new hires as well as deep-dive learning with Oracle’s guided learning.

Join the conversation: Join the Oracle Cloud Community to add your voice to the global conversation around Oracle Cloud Applications and learn from other users across products, industries, and locations. It's the simplest and best way to get involved and be heard.

Be a reference: Remember when the cloud applications selection process was underway, and talking to your peers who had made the cloud journey with Oracle was an important step? Consider speaking to others who are considering the migration to the cloud. Being a reference is also a great vehicle for networking and visibility.

Plan the next cloud project: After a successful cloud project, there will be major interest in new efforts, especially for retiring other on-premises systems and expanding the cloud footprint further. Build from your experience and plan your next cloud project.

Start your journey to Oracle’s SaaS Cloud

Now that you know the steps to ensure a successful move to the cloud, don’t wait. Oracle is ready to help you every step of the way.