By making use of an effective ERP solution for your business, your workflows can be streamlined and operations can be more efficient than ever before. Unfortunately, implementing a new ERP system can be an arduous undertaking, requiring several steps to avoid potential failure. In fact, in Panorama Consulting’s 2014 ERP report, as many as 66% of companies reported that they failed to realize over half the expected benefits of the new ERP system. That number is, quite frankly, disturbing.

In order to avoid falling into the majority here, it is crucial to understand how to make the most of your new system’s capabilities. There are some great articles out there from CIO on this very subject, but we’ve gone ahead and broke it all down into three major categories. Here are our recommendations for getting the most out of your ERP system.

1. Planning is critical: analysis and selection

Picking and implementing an ERP system is a challenging decision and thus requires careful planning. It may seem at first that each of the ERP systems on the market are replicas of one another, identical in functionality and presentation, but this is so very far from the truth. Sure, some may be similar, but upon investigation you’ll find that each one is unique when you get to the granular details, and those details can make a big difference.

This is why analysis is so important, not just of the system, but of your company as well. To understand which system would benefit you most, you must first understand what exactly your company needs to benefit from. So, start by defining the specific difficulties faced by your organization, as well as the desired solutions to each, and use this information to set out some goals for your future ERP. Even after doing this it can be difficult to find a platform that fits your needs straight out of the box. In such situations, it’s prudent to look for a more flexible solution, such as a module based sandbox ERP system that lives within the cloud.

2. Don’t skimp on training: an engaged user is an effective user

Providing proper training for ERP users is critical for three main reasons. The first and most obvious is that people who know how to use a tool will get more out of it. The second reason is that training helps to ease the transition from one tool to another, and reduces the likelihood of users avoiding new features in favour of what they’re used to, even if what they’re used to is an inferior process. Lastly, training leads to a feeling of involvement. Not only does it suggest to employees that their employer wants them to succeed, it also allows users to invest themselves in the new ERP and take ownership of it.

To ensure that your staff has the training they require, lay out a plan of attack and get decision-makers, management and employee leaders on the same page. By ensuing a unified vision and implementing a thorough plan of attack, you are setting yourself up for training success. You should also try to ensure resources for transitioning to the new system, including ways for staff to field questions, are in use for at least a month following the implementation process. Finally, training documents and resources should be accessible and effective, preferably making use of direct instructions wherever possible. This can be done through either training webinars, classroom style presentations or on-scene training sessions.

3. Keep your system up to date (preferably in the cloud)

A committed ERP provider is constantly updating their software, be it for greater usability, improved performance or security upgrades. Neglecting to ensure that available updates are in place is a great way to sabotage your own system. Let’s face it, the last thing anyone wants is having to operate in an outdated software platform. In fact, no-one wants to operate on an outdated hardware platform either.

Though making upgrades can sometimes be costly, the issue can mostly be remedied by the introduction of a cloud based ERP solution. A good service provider is always making use of the latest technology, and by taking advantage of the benefits of cloud hosting, the burden of keeping hardware up to data with the latest infrastructure falls upon the service provider instead of the user.

Approach is the key to success

Taking advantage of a co-operative and helpful ERP vendor can be vital to the implementation process, helping you to potentially save time and get more out of your system. Ultimately, though, getting the most out of ERP comes down to how you approach it; if you approach it by looking for a vendor who will act as your partner while also facilitating your staff’s understanding and ensuring the compatibility of the system with your current practices, the return on ERP investment increases considerably. If you fall victim to common implementation mistakes, you'll almost certainly get less than you expected.