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3 ERP Project Documentation Strategies to Empower A Successful Implementation And Reduce Risks Of Failure

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Peter Drucker, a well-known management expert, once said, “If something fails despite being carefully planned, carefully designed, and conscientiously executed, that failure often bespeaks underlying change and, with it, opportunity.” This holds true in the bustling world of business, especially in the context of ERP implementation. When setting up an ERP system, sometimes, despite our best efforts, things don’t go as planned.

But, here’s the interesting part: each setback can be an opportunity for learning and growth. 

Whether it’s an ERP implementation or another important project, one of the key factors in turning these hiccups into stepping stones to success is careful planning and effective knowledge documentation.

This becomes even more crucial when we’re in the thick of things, as even a tiny misstep can cause significant disruptions. Thus, to transform potential risks into real opportunities, we need to remain vigilant and strategically manage every action we take.

This article will guide you through the entire process, ensuring you’re fully equipped for the task ahead!


ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) implementation can be a complex and risky process. Despite the potential benefits, many ERP projects fail to meet their goals. In this article we will explore three critical ways in which ERP project documentation can empower a successful ERP implementation and reduce the risks of failure:

  1. Understanding Legacy Systems: Knowing the existing business processes inside and out before migrating, and involving the right people who are familiar with the old system.
  2. Training and Resources During Migration: Providing proper training to users through various methods, including in-person, online, or step-by-step guides. Emphasizing customization and experimentation in a controlled environment can lead to more effective implementation.
  3. Post-Implementation Documentation: Using comprehensive and role-specific documentation to foster continued success after the go-live phase. This involves maintaining up-to-date guides and manuals and addressing current issues and regular maintenance.

By adhering to these best practices and understanding the reasons for common failures, businesses can navigate the complex world of ERP implementation with greater confidence and success.

Why ERP implementation fails

According to a 2023 report by the Panorama Consulting Group on business software and ERP implementations, barely half of all ERP projects are completed on time and within budget. 

Approximately 38% of projects exceeded the budget and almost 10%  even significantly exceeded the budget.

Similarly, roughly 30% of projects took longer than anticipated and in 11.5% the project was completed significantly later.

The main reasons for exceeding the budget were 

  • underestimated project staffing,
  • expanded project scope and
  • technical and data issues

The timeline could commonly not be met due to

  • technical issues,
  • expanded project scope,
  • resource constraints and
  • organizational issues.

Our experience working with customers has taught us that several factors can hinder the successful implementation of an ERP system. Among these, inadequate planning, insufficient budget and resources, and lack of proper user training often top the list. However, the issues don’t stop there. Missteps, like failing to choose the most suitable ERP solution from the get-go or aligning with an incompatible implementation partner, can also derail the entire process. This emphasizes the importance of making informed decisions at every stage to ensure smooth ERP implementation.

Inadequate ERP implementation causes long-term problems

It is worth noting that inadequate implementation can have dire consequences for your business.

Instead of improving business efficiency, the new system will be a hurdle for employees to complete processes. Maybe you had to save on the training which means that your team experiences difficulties completing the processes in an optimal manner. This likely means that employees reject the new system, leading to suboptimal performance and low morale. 

Pressures may have led you to neglect the process and test documentation, which means that errors and technical problems that arise are not easily traceable.

Moreover, improper implementation can cause a discrepancy between the actual needs of your business and the solutions of the ERP system. 

That is, of course, if you ever even reach the go-live. Many businesses experiencing difficulties in the implementation abandon the project in its entirety. In this case, the implementation has failed completely. The consequences: Huge financial losses, disrupted business operations, resistance to future IT projects among colleagues. 

3 Ways How ERP Project Documentation Helps With Successful Implementation

While ERP implementation bears lots of opportunities, it is also risky business and requires meticulous planning. From our customers we know that documentation is one of the most crucial and similarly underestimated aspects for ERP implementation success. 

Here are three best practices you can put into practice with your ERP rollout.

1. Before the ERP implementation: Know any old business processes in and out 

It might seem like a rather obvious thing, but it is astonishing how many companies have no clue how their legacy system actually worked. The reason behind this: Processes exist inside employees’ heads but have never been documented on paper. This lack of transparency often results in lots of time being spent on questions like: “How did we do x in the old system?” or “Can you get it to work in a way similar to y…”. Over time, this will become increasingly cumbersome as more people leave the company or are laid off from the project. You cannot improve processes in your new ERP system that have never been documented to begin with.

Get the right people on board the ERP migration project.

The solution is not difficult at all: Make sure that anyone who knows how the old system worked is part of the migration project. Put together a team of people who were key users in the previous processes and ensure that they document everything from A to Z without leaving any gaps. Yes, every relevant process.

There are lots of ways to do this:

  • whiteboards in meetings where everyone participates,
  • putting all documentation online (especially if you use a Wiki),
  • process maps, or maintaining some sort of documents that explains every process that exists within the system.

This might take up time in the short term, but will save a tenfold amount of time down the line. Whenever someone asks “How did we do x?”, you either know it straight away or your team knows exactly where to find it. 

It is absolutely vital that you know how your legacy system works today. This way when you start changing and adding things, this knowledge can be fed back into your new ERP software. This will help your project run smoothly from day one and you don’t find yourself struggling to get basic information out of your ERP software in the future.

2. During the migration: Provide your users with the right training and resources from subject matter experts

Training key personnel prior to ERP rollout is a crucial factor for success. The reason is simple: Training helps ensure a successful ERP implementation. There will be less risk of burning out your employees and higher chances of successful software adoption. Your employees are an important factor in ensuring that your project will stay on schedule and within budget.

No matter which industry you are in or which vendor for ERP solutions you choose – from Microsoft Dynamics to SAP, cloud or on premise solutions – one of the most dangerous areas of ERP software are interfaces.

Usually, they are built in a generic way and the Panorama Consulting report shows that over one fourth of businesses implement ERP software without any customization. This means that if you don’t know what you are doing, it is easy to completely turn off one of your key business processes. Or worse – do something that has an unintended consequence on another process. 

It is important that you provide your key users with training to teach them how to build the best interfaces and workflows in your new system. Encourage them to experiment – but in a sandbox environment where they won’t cause a major impact until they have learned everything. An interactive demo of processes ot the tool as a whole can be one way to facilitate this.

Training is critical and can be provided in a variety of ways:

a) In-person or virtual live training

In-person training is the most expensive option, but it will put your team in direct contact with subject-matter experts and enable them to ask questions as they go along. This is a good investment for organizations that want their employees to have strong working knowledge of how the new system works, but don’t want to deal with any additional expenses in the future.

Training can also be delivered at your own office, helping to save you time on training days. This makes it easier for you to bring people together instead of having them travel all over the place (like flying into different cities for training). As your company starts to implement the new ERP software, it is important that you continue to offer training in order to keep up your colleagues’ skills. 

If you want to avoid having to do the same training again and again you need to provide follow up material after the training. This can have the form of a step-by-step guide or a written documentation. If it’s not included in the training, make sure you have a key-user who also documents the training for example through a documentation tool. Otherwise, the training will not stick. This way you can avoid having to repeat the same training a few months later. 

b) Online or video training:

Online training is a great investment for small businesses, because you only have to pay for it once. It will give your teams all the information they need about how the new ERP system works and provide them with an overview of what’s coming up in a few months. However, online courses might not be enough for those who don’t have much experience with the systems. Plus it is up to your employees to watch the material, which in our experience with over 200 clients rarely happens.

Spending an hour or more watching videos is not something that employees do enthusiastically. Instead they prefer a specific solution if they encounter a problem.

c) Step-by-step guides 

If your ERP system has specifically , consider adding step-by-step guides for users. These guides should start with basic information that is easily accessible for all employees, and then work their way up to more advanced topics. Such manuals will make it faster and easier for your teams to find the information they need when they start using your new ERP software. They can search for the topics they need and don’t have to scroll through a whole video. 

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However, before you decide which training you want to provide, set up a go live and communication calendar. Having a training calendar in place from the very start will help you address different issues that come up during implementation. It makes it easier to make the right decisions as you go along, knowing which user needs to know what by when, which can save time and money.

Developing and Maintaining Training Materials for Effective ERP Implementation

Training material has to be developed early on, and you need to make sure that you will have enough people in place to train the rest of your company. While most training materials can be developed before implementation, some topics might need to be revisited or tailored to your business as you progress. 

The sooner you address this point, the better it will be for everyone. And once you have created your material, don’t forget to keep it up to date. Consider including a “training and functional reference” section in your ERP implementation documents, so that everyone can easily find relevant materials. You might want to keep this section to an appendix in the front of your implementation documents. If you work with an implementation partner, usually it’s up to them to provide training, but not the follow-up material.

3. After the go-live: Use documentation to help foster implementation success

Documentation is crucial to ensure a successful ERP implementation but equally important to maintain optimal system use after the go-live.

Once your users have received training on how to use the new system, you will need to provide them with additional material to help them with day-to-day tasks and issues.

Choosing the Right Documentation for Your Team’s Needs

When choosing between manuals and online help, focus on the documentation your teams will need most often. The goal is to provide all users with the information they need, as easily and quickly as possible. (A company wiki or knowledge management system can be extremely helpful in this regard.) People are more likely to read articles or instructions that are relevant to their everyday work, so make sure that all your documentation is organized in a way that fits day-to-day working procedures.

Customizing Guides and Manuals for Different Roles

To help you with this task, you should use topic-specific guides and manuals. Each guide or manual can be customized for a different group of people based on their role within the company and the tasks they perform daily. For example, if you have a new team in charge of managing your finances, make sure that each person on the team has access to all that is needed to do the job, including information on budgeting, setting up reports, and working with vendors.

If you have employees who will be taking on new roles or responsibilities, you should also make sure that they have access to the information they need in order to do their job.

Creating Specific Guides for Specialized Team

Keep in mind that some teams might not need certain information, so be sure to narrow down your topics and create more specific guides. For example, if you have a team responsible for creating reports from within the ERP system, or working on special projects, they might not need information about the ERP system itself. Make sure you create separate guides for each of these groups of people and to not overload your employees with instructions.

Addressing Technical Issues with ERP Software

On the other hand, if your company runs into issues with the ERP software itself, you will need to provide them with additional material on the technical dimension of the system. You should also make sure that your teams know where to find this information. In this case, make sure that your manuals and guides have a “current issues” section in the back, so that each team will know where to look for information. 

Most ERP systems need lots of maintenance, and your teams will require their own manuals to keep track of all the information they need. Although you might not think it’s necessary at first, once you start working with the system on a daily basis, little things can sometimes make a big difference in how smoothly everything runs.

Just as documentation empowers a successful ERP implementation, it can also help reduce the risk of an unsuccessful one

ERP implementation can be a risky and difficult process. You may reduce the risks of failing an ERP project by investing in documentation and ensuring that your employees have all the information they need to succeed from day one. 

Documentation plays a crucial role in all stages of the ERP project: before, during, and after, by:

  • Helping to capture existing processes to match ERP functions with the actual needs of the business,
  • Facilitating employee training during the implementation and
  • Maintaining optimal usage and enables troubleshooting after the go-live.

We’re here to help with making documentation of your company’s business processes as easy as possible. Thanks to our documentation software FlowShare you can get started on implementing your ERP system smoothly without worrying about time and resources needed for documentation. 

Simply use FlowShare to capture your processes while focussing on your task at hand. Easily edit your instructions afterwards and make them available to your colleagues. Yes, it really is that easy.

But see for yourself: You can test FlowShare for free for 7 days and create an unlimited amount of step-by-step instructions. No financial commitment or even credit card required. 

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