What are the Phases of an ERP Implementation Plan

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Implementing an ERP involves the intricate processes of planning, configuring, and deploying the system. This complex undertaking spans several months due to the system's support and automation of diverse functions.

Implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a multifaceted task with widespread implications for various aspects of a business. A meticulously crafted implementation plan is paramount for success in any significant initiative. Organizing the implementation into distinct phases, each with well-defined objectives enhances the likelihood of success.

Conversely, embarking on an ERP implementation without establishing a clear project direction, scope, and structure increases the probability of encountering substantial challenges later.

Understanding ERP Implementation:

An ERP system amalgamates diverse business functions, such as financial management, human resources, sales, and manufacturing, to yield benefits like heightened productivity and efficiency. Implementing an ERP involves the intricate processes of planning, configuring, and deploying the system. This complex undertaking spans several months due to the system's support and automation of diverse functions.

Achieving a successful implementation necessitates carefully defining organizational requirements, redesigning processes to leverage the system, configuring the ERP system to support these processes, and rigorous testing before user deployment. Navigating these steps on schedule demands meticulous planning and a systematic implementation approach.

Phases of an ERP Implementation Plan:

A standard ERP implementation plan unfolds six distinct phases, each with specific objectives. While the unique nature of each business may lead to some variation in these phases, the typical ERP implementation phase lifecycle includes discovery and planning, design, development, testing, deployment, and support.

1. Discovery & Planning:

The initial phase of ERP implementation involves thorough research and system selection, establishing a project team, and defining detailed system requirements. The project team is crucial in laying the project plan, ensuring resource allocation, making design decisions, and managing day-to-day project activities. This team typically includes an executive sponsor, project manager, and department representatives. 

Involving senior management is vital for securing necessary resources and backing for organizational change. The team may also enlist external consultants or ERP implementation partners for expertise. Clear goals, such as a faster financial close or improved operational insight, guide the detailed analysis, including documentation of existing workflows and system development.

During this phase, the organization may choose an ERP system, deciding between on-premises or cloud-based options. On-premises systems involve buying and installing hardware and software in the organization's data center. At the same time, cloud-based ERP is accessible via the internet as a subscription service, offering faster implementation and requiring fewer in-house IT skills.

2. Design:

Based on detailed requirements and an understanding of current workflows, the design phase focuses on creating a comprehensive design for the new ERP system. This includes designing more efficient workflows and business processes that leverage the system. User involvement in the design phase ensures they understand and accept the new system. Gap analysis identifies process intricacies requiring customization, and the team collaborates with the implementation partner or supplier to address gaps.

3. Development:

Armed with precise design requirements, the development phase begins by configuring or customizing the software to support redesigned processes. This phase may also involve integrating with existing business applications not replaced by the ERP system. For on-premises ERP systems, hardware and software installation is necessary. Simultaneously, the team develops training materials to help users adjust to the new system. Planning data migration is crucial, involving the extraction, transformation, and loading of data from multiple systems. Careful consideration is given to avoiding the blanket migration of all historical data.

4. Testing:

Testing and development occur concurrently, with the project team testing specific modules and features, addressing issues, and retesting. Rigorous testing of the full system, including end-user activities, encompasses migrated data and introductory end-user training. Vendors and training materials created during development support user training.

5. Deployment:

The culmination of efforts, the deployment phase marks the system going live. Potential issues may arise, requiring the project team's immediate availability to answer queries and assist users. An implementation partner aids in troubleshooting. Some data can be migrated ahead of deployment, while other information, like current transactions, migrates just before going live. Organizations may choose simultaneous or phased module deployment, and some run older systems in parallel temporarily to minimize risk.

6. Support & Updates:

Post-deployment, the project team shifts focus to user feedback and system adjustments. Additional development and configuration may be needed for new features. Ongoing training is essential for new staff. On-premises ERP systems require periodic software updates and potential hardware upgrades, while cloud-based systems may receive automatic software updates from the vendor. Nurturing the ERP implementation post-deployment is crucial for user satisfaction and realizing desired business benefits.

ERP Implementation Best Practices:

Merely adopting a phased implementation approach doesn't guarantee success. Adhering to ERP implementation best practices in each phase is equally crucial. The overarching best practices include:

Thorough Planning:

Avoid underestimating the importance of planning. While the temptation to dive into design and development quickly may be strong, it's imperative not to rush the initial planning and discovery phase. This stage lays a solid foundation for the implementation project, ensuring high-level support, a clear plan, and adequate budget and personnel allocation.

Comprehensive Support and Training:

Project team members should not consider the deployment date as a culmination. For system users, the deployment date is just the beginning, emphasizing the critical nature of post-deployment activities. Adequate resources must be planned and allocated for technical support, issue resolution, and updates. End-user training ensures employees are comfortable with the system and familiar with new workflows, especially if external consultants are unavailable. Diligence in these areas ensures organizations reap the full benefits of the ERP system.

Careful Data Migration Planning:

Avoid the common mistake of migrating all historical data indiscriminately. Some information in older systems may be obsolete or unnecessary. Assess the value of 10-year-old order information and verify the relevance of every supplier on the list. The ERP system transition allows one to clean up and rationalize organizational data. A clear plan should be created to meticulously examine legacy data, eliminating old customer accounts and rectifying data inaccuracies.

Effective Communication:

Communication is integral throughout all implementation phases. The project team should prioritize regular communication to convey the reasons for the ERP implementation, its goals and benefits, and what to expect at each phase to everyone in the organization. Two-way communication is vital, with the project team listening attentively to user issues before and after deployment.


In conclusion, implementing an ERP system can be one of a company's most substantial investments in time, money, and resources. The success of the ERP system is contingent on the implementation approach. Developing a robust plan and continually reviewing and optimizing business processes after the initial ERP go-live date, along with gradual feature and functionality additions, contributes to achieving long-term success with the ERP product.