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For a lot of businesses, implementing new technology can be a daunting thought, but here’s why this shouldn’t be the case. In episode five of season two in our ColumbusCast podcast, our Business Development Manager, Laura Gilbank sits down with Stewart Wilmot, Head of IT at Natures Way Foods, to discuss ERP projects.

With a wealth of experience in implementations under his belt, Stewart covers the lessons he’s learnt, from the good, bad and everything in between.


How do ERP implementations affect your business?

ERP software touches every part of your organisation, impacting everyone from leadership to everyday user level, making this a large change management project. This is how Natures Way ensured their most recent ERP implementation was a success:

  • Having an open feedback loop with their teams and taking everyone’s viewpoints onboard
  • Documenting previous successes and talking to others about what they learned about ERP implementations
  • Taking the initiative to carry out the project

What are the biggest challenges associated with ERP implementations?

Stewart mentions one of the biggest takeaways from Natures Way Foods’ last implementation is to spend the time upfront to carry out a business analysis before the project is underway. If you skip critical aspects to the overall project delivery (this includes the timeframe, resource management and mapping), this creates difficulty in tracking the progress and overall success of any implementation.

Let’s look at some of the other biggest challenges that can arise:

  • Limiting the ERP project to one department - as mentioned before, it needs to be a business project with stakeholder buy-ins across the board. If the focus rests purely on an IT or finance department, this limits the chance of success due to the lack of support when the implementation goes live
  • Not spending enough time with upfront analysis – it’s easy to focus on the technology part of the implementation. However, without a full understanding of what certain technologies can do for your business, you’ll struggle to challenge the processes that you’re currently doing and what they could be
  • Not working with an implementation partner – with our expertise, Natures Way was able to get a complete system that was designed to fit their needs based on their functional requirements
  • Having an implementation at the wrong time for your business - external events such as labour shortages, Brexit, and Covid bring up their own challenges, which may halt the overall progress of your project. This could lead to increased costs and a lack of belief in your change management processes

ERP implementations

Why change management is critical for a successful ERP implementation

An effective change management strategy ensures that the right people are on board for the right part of the project. Natures Way acknowledged that change should be a continuous process with no end point, ensuring teams were aware of any updates to keep the change management cycle alive.

For example, this is the value that an ERP upgrade provides Natures Way:

  • Motivation towards employees thanks to digitally enhanced ways of working
  • Enhanced customer experiences with a centralised database, offering one version of truth
  • Improved business performance to improve waste reduction

For Natures Way to get the most out of their upgrade, stakeholder mindsets need to be aligned with the goals of the project. Read more about how an ERP system can create value for your food business here.

The top takeaways of Natures Way’s past implementations

Here are some things that you can learn from Natures Way’s past implementations:

  • Prioritise spending the time upfront – this includes gathering the right people on board with the project and seeing whether you have the resources available to account for any issues that may crop up
  • Start to lay out the foundations to map your processes out early doors – this prevents any confusion within your different teams by ensuring your communications strategy is strong throughout the ERP implementation
ERP implementations

  • Choose the right partner for your project - with the Columbus team maintaining effective communication across the board, this enabled Natures Way to be in a position where they felt supported throughout their entire implementation journey. Our consultants were viewed as an extension to their internal teams, easing the pressure of their projects go-live
  • Know if your business is ready for a new implementation – due to the time it takes for the project and the resources required, how feasible is it for your business in your current situation?

Why testing is key when embarking on your ERP journey

Testing is always critical before a go-live, leading to problems if you underestimate this step. Ultimately, it ensures that the new system won’t impact your other integrations or processes before it’s too late after a go-live. UAT (User Acceptance Testing) should be carried out regularly, allowing you to validate changes and gain complete understanding of how the software works.

Key tips when testing your ERP system

  • Keep a log of prior tests so you can learn from past mistakes when you come to make further changes
  • Try to “break” the system – this seems counterintuitive, however, how else will you really know your system is resilient when you come to use it every day?
  • Allow enough time to implement your ERP solution with and without security permissions –if this is left until the last minute, new rules within your system can lead to issues down the line if you haven’t got enough time to identify them and test it thoroughly
  • Think about your next steps – Natures Way discussed with Columbus their different resource and cost models after the go-live, so from the testing phase, expectations can be kept concise with the end result

ERP implementations

Learn more about turning your ERP project into a success through our podcast

Listen to our episode with Natures Way by scrolling to the top of the page or by searching ‘ColumbusCast’ in your podcast app, so you can gain more insight on:

  • What you should be doing before testing your implementation
  • How Natures Way monitored their progress with their ERP project
  • The biggest challenges and takeaways your business can learn from

Your checklist to choosing the right ERP implementation partner

What’s more important than picking the right ERP software? Stewart sees choosing the right partner as the key to success before considering any new project within your organisation. Find out more by downloading our checklist on how you can do this today, covering:

  • The benefits of working with a partner instead of carrying out the project in-house
  • Tips to help you choose the right partner, from the ability to handle unexpected challenges to the relationships with your teams
  • Your next steps

How do you choose an ERP implementation partner?

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