10 Tips for ERP Upgrade Success


ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) upgrades are mainly planned to take advantage of new technologies and software functionality that will allow the organization to align its business strategies. Upgrades are usually done voluntarily and is generally triggered by a need for expansion, consolidation, centralization or new functionality.


ERP upgrades is one of the important activities in the ERP software lifecycle and an efficient upgrade has a tremendous impact on an organization’s continuous business process improvement. Because it is such an important part of the ERP post-implementation stage, it is essential that organizations understand and succeed during these activities because a significant amount of time and money will be spent on the upgrade project. Lack of experience in your software upgrade partner or project manager will cause the costs and timeframe of the project to exceed what was budgeted. 


An upgrade is perceived to be a smaller project when compared to the first original ERP implementation, however the upgrade is still a major project and it will help the organization succeed longer after all the work has been completed.


While not comprehensive, without understanding and adhering to the key point points below, your ERP upgrade may have terrible consequences for your organization. Also, ERP upgrades will happen several times over the life-cycle of your organization after the initial software purchase and should be thoroughly understood for subsequent efforts.

Before I provide you with my 10 tips for ERP Upgrade Success, I will mention there are four key phases through which this success is achieved;

  1. Solution Assessment – I start all of my engagements with this phase because I obtain all of my requirements, justifications, objectives and key inputs for my business case. Basically, I have to understand where the client is, from a software perspective, in order to plan where the client needs to go in the new version of the software solution.
    1. Identification of Net Changes
    2. Justification of Changes
    3. Resource Requirements
  2. Project Planning – The entire change management process / construct is documented and incorporated in this phase for approval. (Infrastructure, Hardware, Software, Net Change, Project Plan, etc.) Before the next phase begins, it is essential that you have the commitment and involvement of senior management. Without it, you will probably not meet all of your expected goals.
    1. Milestones, goals and objectives
    2. Tasks Requirements
    3. Organizational Requirements
    4. Resource Requirements
    5. Stakeholder Commitment
  3. Upgrade Implementation – (Change Management, New Hardware, Software Upgrade, Enhancement Retro-fits, Regression Testing, End User Training, Go-Live.)  This phase is where the rubber meets the road and all of the work gets done.
    1. Change Management
    2. Executing Resource Plan for Tasks
    3. Communication Plan
    4. Review Organizational Change
  4. Business Optimization – Post Go—Live Support, Monitoring, Performance Tuning and Additional Functionality / Business Process Improvement.
    1. Performance Tuning
    2. Monitoring and Evaluating changes
    3. Continuing Education and Business Process Improvement


10 Key Success Factors;

  1. Begin with the End in Mind – Start by arranging a meeting to generate new ideas among the organization leaders that stand to profit by the ERP upgrade. Then research and report the findings on things that matter most about the pending upgrade. For instance; what sort of changes in policies, procedure or effectiveness does everyone hope to see when completed?


  2. Active Senior Management Support – Commitment and involvement of senior management in the upgrade is critical to effectively keeping the spotlight on the current workload and gaining the required key personal. Without the dedication and inclusion of senior management, projects seldom accomplish desired results. Insure you establish a Steering Committee with decision making authority that meets regularly and involve them in all key activities and milestones.


  3. Change Management - As I’ve mentioned in other articles, lack of Change Management is often one of the greatest causes of ERP system failures. The same holds true for system upgrades. Change is the one constant we have in life. Often times it is not managed in our professional or personal life. It must always be carefully managed and communicated to key users, management and stakeholders during the entire upgrade project life-cycle.


  4. Project Management – Great project managements is all about making the project turn out as planned.  To have a successful upgrade, you need a project manager who can visualize the entire project from beginning to end, and have the expertise to realize this vision by initiating, planning, executing, and managing resources with the objective of completing specific deliverables within budget and time. This allows him to gracefully leave the upgrade project with a client reference.


  5. Requirements Gathering – When performing requirements gathering, you need to uncover all the information needed from the various stakeholders. Not performing this upfront research adequately can lead to unpleasant surprises, project management confidence erosion, and project failure. Gathering requirements isn't done for the sake of documenting. Project Managers want to reduce wasted time, energy and risk by documenting things in a selective manner. This allows them to drive satisfaction by working effectively with all stakeholders during the upgrade process.


  6. Upgrade Scope Definition - Carefully define your upgrade scope and set project expectations. Generally, a two phased approach is best, with the technical upgrade taking place first, which includes only the required functionality necessary to bring the client "Live" on the latest version of the software. Phase two will include the addition of new functionality and this should be communicated as part of the long term goal. This expectation must be clearly articulated, otherwise your upgrade project will turn into a re-implementation effort.  Explicitly advise stakeholders what is included and excluded as part of the upgrade effort. 


  7. Scope Management – After the scope is carefully defined to capture all the necessary processes to ensure that the project includes all the work required to complete successfully, the project must then be managed to the items on the scope document that all the stakeholders agreed on. To mitigate scope creep, there must be a change management plan in place to modify the scope document and the steering committee must approve all scope changes because they usually effect time and budget. 


  8. Resource Requirements – Carefully articulate the process of identifying and documenting the required roles and responsibilities required for the project. Clients often do not understand the required elements when developing a staffing plan and will often provide you with a junior resource, when a senior resource is required. Identify the common tasks and activities contributing to project success and always seek to obtain a full-time senior client resource for the project duration when possible.


  9. System Testing – I personally believe that the two most important factors that can lead to achieving project success arise at the beginning and end of upgrade project life cycle: good requirements gathering with analysis, and the organize application of testing activities. Currently, there are many tools on the market that automate the test cycle, so there really should be no excuse not to have a formalized end-to-end business process test and acceptance plan. Ensure you have adequate time commitment from test participants and senior management.


  10. Business Optimization - The key concept here is “optimization. Now is the time to aid customers post go-live, with new functionality and processes that can be optimized to maximize returns on their investment in the upgraded software. This is typically the phase two aspect of the upgrade that I spoke about earlier in this article. Working off a prioritized listing of the post upgrade activities from the project plan, we spend time with management and key users, to understand, review and identify areas for improvement in conjunction with the new functionality of the upgraded software.

Dwight Mitchell, PMP, OCP, OCS is the President and Founder of Mitchell & Associates, a leading service provider of J.D. Edwards Cloud, On-Premise, Infrastructure and Management Consulting solutions. The company is also a Platinum Level Partner in the Oracle Partner Network.



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