Why Your Firm Should Have a Clearly Defined ERP Strategy & Roadmap

calendar iconJanuary 8, 2024

In today’s fast-paced and technology-driven business environment, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system is not just a tool but a strategic asset. However, the journey to selecting and implementing an ERP system is fraught with challenges and complexities. This is where the significance of a clearly defined ERP strategy becomes evident. Before embarking on the selection project, it’s imperative for firms to align their ERP solutions with specific business needs and goals.

Avoiding Early ERP Failure Predictors

Navigating ERP implementation is challenging, with Gartner noting that 55% to 75% of ERP projects fail to meet their objectives, and other estimates indicating a 50% to 60% failure rate. Common issues include delays, budget overruns, lack of expected business benefits, and difficulties in software management and integration. Early recognition and avoidance of these failure indicators are vital. A strategic approach from the beginning of the ERP selection process is essential to ensure the system aligns with specific business needs and growth plans, moving beyond just a technological upgrade to a comprehensive business solution. Here are key early indicators that a company may be on a path to a problematic ERP implementation:

  • Resource Misallocation: Without strategic ERP planning, companies risk financial waste on unnecessary features. For instance, investing in unused modules or inappropriate customizations can drain finances and divert funds from other critical business needs, hindering overall organizational efficiency and growth.
  • Inadequate Stakeholder Buy-In: Lacking a clear ERP strategy can lead to stakeholder resistance, causing project delays or cancellations. For example, department heads may resist changes due to misunderstanding the benefits, disrupting the implementation process, and undermining the ERP system’s effectiveness.
  • Poor Understanding of Needs: Choosing an ERP system without understanding specific needs can lead to inefficiencies. For example, a manufacturer selecting a system lacking essential routing and cost management features may face disrupted supply chains and production, impacting customer deliveries and business operations.
  • Ineffective Integration Planning: Without strategic integration planning, ERP systems may operate in silos. A typical issue is the finance department’s inability to access sales data seamlessly, leading to inaccurate financial reporting and impaired decision-making.
  • Underestimating Customization and Training Needs: Failing to anticipate customization and training requirements can lead to low ERP adoption. Inadequate user training or non-user-friendly systems can result in employees reverting to old methods, causing data inconsistencies and process inefficiencies.
  • Misalignment with Business Growth Model: Not aligning ERP strategy with growth plans can lead to operational challenges. Companies expanding through mergers might struggle to integrate new units, leading to fragmented processes, while organic growth demands might overwhelm the ERP system’s capabilities.

Determining an ERP Strategy is Crucial for Aligning Solutions with Specific Business Needs and Goals

A well-defined ERP strategy is the backbone of any successful ERP implementation. It’s not merely about choosing software; it’s about transforming business processes and systems in a way that supports overall business objectives. The strategy must encompass the entire enterprise, ensuring that the chosen ERP system optimally serves all key business domains. This process involves a comprehensive review of existing solutions, identifying key intellectual property and custom solutions crucial for business operations, and meticulously documenting the organizational structure. Such a thorough analysis lays the groundwork for aligning the ERP system with the organization’s unique requirements and strategic goals.

Define ERP Across Your Enterprise

Embarking on the journey to select a new ERP solution often reveals a diversity of interpretations among an organization’s key stakeholders about what “ERP” encompasses. Originally defined by Gartner as “Enterprise Resource Planning,” a term that evolved from MRP II in the 1990s, ERP’s scope has significantly broadened beyond its initial focus. Today, many stakeholders’ perceptions are still anchored in the capabilities of legacy systems, potentially leading to an underestimation of modern ERP solutions. This narrow view risks omitting smaller, stand-alone, or proprietary systems that could be integrated into a new, more comprehensive solution. Therefore, redefining and broadening the understanding of ERP to align with the full spectrum of contemporary functionalities is a crucial initial step. Such an approach ensures a holistic and future-ready ERP strategy, avoiding the pitfalls of under-scoped requirements. Some key elements into this definition include the following:

Review Existing Solutions Used Across Key Business Domains

The first step in defining an ERP strategy is to conduct an exhaustive review of the existing technological infrastructure and solutions across all business domains such as finance, operations, sales and marketing. This review should not only focus on the efficacy of current systems but also evaluate how these systems integrate with each other, identifying any gaps or redundancies.

Identify Key IP and Custom Solutions

Many organizations have bespoke systems or key intellectual properties that give them a competitive edge. Identifying these assets is crucial, as the new ERP system must either integrate with or replace them without loss of functionality or data integrity.

Review and Document Organizational Structure

Understanding the organizational structure is critical in ERP strategy formulation. This understanding helps in identifying the decision-making process, data flow, and the inter-dependency of various departments, ensuring that the ERP system supports and enhances these elements rather than disrupting them.

Determine Requirements and Organizational ERP Readiness

Navigating the selection of an ERP system requires a clear understanding of an organization’s specific needs and readiness for such a transformation. This understanding encompasses an analysis of technical requirements and the compatibility of the system with existing processes. The approach also involves assessing the company’s readiness for change, establishing a realistic timeline for deployment, securing executive sponsorship, and setting a well-defined budget. A careful evaluation of current operational workflows, technological infrastructure, and future growth projections is crucial. This ensures the ERP system selected is not only technically apt but also aligns with the organization’s culture and strategic goals. Such a comprehensive evaluation is vital to ensure the ERP implementation aligns with and supports the broader objectives of the organization. Consider these elements below to understand if your organization is ready to begin the process.

Identify and Determine: Need, Time, Sponsorship and Budget

A successful ERP strategy requires clarity on the need for the system, the timeline for implementation, strong leadership sponsorship, and a well-defined budget. This clarity helps in setting realistic expectations and aligning the ERP project with the organization’s financial and operational capabilities.

  • Review Existing Solutions: A thorough review of existing solutions is pivotal in identifying not only inefficiencies, redundancies, or gaps in current systems but also in pinpointing non-ERP legacy systems that will not be replaced. Recognizing these systems is crucial as they must effectively integrate with the new ERP system to maintain continuity and efficiency in business operations.
  • Determine ERP Requirements: This step involves a detailed analysis of business processes to ascertain the specific functionalities needed in the ERP system. It’s essential in ensuring that the selected ERP solution aligns with the business’s operational needs, addressing key process requirements and contributing to overall business efficiency.
  • Determine ERP Architecture: The chosen ERP architecture must be compatible with the organization’s technological landscape, including the architecture of non-ERP legacy systems that are not being replaced. This consideration is crucial to ensure seamless integration and uninterrupted data flow between the new ERP system and existing legacy systems, maintaining operational coherence and data integrity.

Create an ERP Strategy Playbook

Navigating the complexities of ERP implementation without a strategic guide can be like sailing a ship without a compass. Creating an ERP Strategy Playbook is essential in providing this direction, outlining the strategic approach, customized solutions, and a clear integration plan. This playbook is crucial in tailoring the ERP system to unique business needs and ensuring seamless integration with existing operations. It anticipates potential risks, devising strategies to navigate through the challenges of ERP implementation. The playbook includes a realistic timeline, marking every critical phase from vendor selection to system customization and user training, leading to a successful go-live.

This strategic guide is vital in ensuring that the ERP journey is methodically planned, risk-averse, and aligns with the organization’s long-term objectives, facilitating a transformation that bolsters business processes and operational efficacy. A comprehensive ERP Strategy Playbook should include these strategic elements united into a clear roadmap communicated to key stakeholders and maintained by the organization as things change.

  • Customized Solutions and Integration Plan: The ERP strategy must include custom solutions tailored to the organization’s unique needs and a comprehensive integration plan. This strategy ensures minimal disruption during implementation, providing a smooth transition and maximum operational efficiency post-implementation.
  • Risk Assessment and Mitigation Strategies: Effective risk management is an integral part of the ERP strategy. It involves identifying potential risks, such as data migration complexities and user resistance, and creating strategies to mitigate these risks, ensuring a smooth and successful ERP implementation.
  • ERP Selection and Deployment Timeline: A carefully planned selection and deployment timeline is a critical element of the ERP strategy. It should encompass all vital stages of the ERP journey, from vendor selection and system customization to training users and the go-live, ensuring a well-managed and structured implementation.
  • Detailed ERP Strategy and Roadmap: At the end of the planning phase, developing a comprehensive ERP strategy and roadmap is crucial. This plan outlines the entire ERP implementation journey, detailing key milestones, timelines, and the roles and responsibilities of all parties involved, providing a clear path forward for the successful deployment of the ERP system.


A clearly defined ERP strategy is not just a prerequisite but a critical success factor in any ERP project. It ensures that the ERP system aligns with the specific needs and goals of the business, maximizes the return on investment, and mitigates the risks associated with ERP implementation. By taking the time to carefully define an ERP strategy before starting the selection project, firms can ensure a smoother transition, better user adoption, and ultimately, a more robust and effective ERP system.

If your organization is seeking guidance in navigating your digital transformation journey or currently struggling with “Anything ERP”, including aspects such as ERP strategy development, ERP validation and selection, or ERP project assurance, Cherry Bekaert is here to assist. For a detailed discussion on how we can support and enhance your ERP initiatives, please contact our Digital Advisory team.

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