Written By:  John Belden |  Published:  04/03/2020

Few experiences in the business world compare to managing an ERP go-live. Here's how to set yourself up for success.
5 tips for executing a successful ERP go-live

Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?— Marshall Mathers

Whenever I prepped for a major SAP go-live I would have one song that I played to get myself and the team ready: “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. It was the perfect song to set the tone for an event I knew was going to be incredibly stressful but also hugely rewarding.

After months of work preparing for one weekend, your team has done everything possible to ready itself. You’ve completed configuration, tested with due diligence, cleaned and readied your data, trained and certified your users, put in place your support teams, and put your go-live theme song on repeat. Now you “just” need to execute.

Of course, the perfect go-live theme song is not enough to make the weekend a success, but “Lose Yourself” does impress how important it is to not screw it up. In order to get it right, remember the fundamental priorities of a go-live:

  1. Serve the customer
  2. Protect the shareholder

With these priorities in mind and a theme song pounding in your head, follow these five best practices for a successful go-live:

1. Safeguard customer relationships.

There are a number of things you can do to secure good standing with your customers:

  • Pre-ship orders and supplement inventory for fast-moving stock.
  • Coach your customer service representatives on potential questions and concerns in the event that there is a go-live problem. Well-prepared customer service representatives can make the difference between an informed, satisfied customer and a disgruntled one.

2. Ensure your go-live managers are well trained and well rested.

Few experiences in the business world compare to managing a go-live. Every minute of every hour is precisely planned and even the tiniest blip in the schedule must be expertly addressed. To guarantee your go-live managers have the required support:

  • Schedule three managers with overlapping 12-hour shifts.
  • Execute sufficient mock go-lives and walkthroughs.
  • Bolster the go-live manager’s problem-solving skills by exploring unexpected scenarios in advance of the go-live.

3. Build unambiguous, unencumbered channels of communications.

Go-lives tend to spread project team members geographically across the organization. Nevertheless, communicating statuses and issues rapidly is required to keep things moving on pace (and to quickly stop execution if necessary). ERP teams are getting creative with social networking technologies to enable these clear communication channels.

4. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

This may be a cliché, but there is a reason these words of wisdom have been around for generations. Prepare for your go-live by establishing specific backstop points. Backstop points are specific positions in the implementation where you can stop and reset the go-live without having to start from the beginning. Select appropriate backstop points during walkthrough sessions. Think through specific possible failure points and construct your plan to be able to restore and “re-run” certain segments if required.

5. Prevent the business from starting before the go-live is complete.

Teams are often pressured to start processing business transactions before the final confirmation that all pieces of the go-live have been completed. Unless the scenario of starting the business early has been vetted in practice sessions, this is a very bad idea. Problems that occur due to early starts tend to compound over time.

Whenever I get ready for a major go-live I tell the team I can assure them of two things:

  • There is going to be at least one major problem during the cutover.
  • We will be ready to respond to it.

Protect the shareholder and serve the customer by paying heed to these five best practices. If you are prepared to safeguard customer relationships, train your go-live managers, build clear communication channels, establish appropriate back-stop points, and protect the business above all else, all that's left is to pick the theme song for your implementation. You’ve only got one shot.