The words ‘ERP implementation’ can give even the most experienced IT leaders, CEOs and CFOs a headache, as they consider the variables to balance: budget, training, testing, leaving old ways behind and, above all, time. This is a major undertaking and often involves a degree of change management.
Many people in your business will be playing leading roles in an ERP implementation project, and you will have a consulting partner at your side every step of the way. Done well, it’s like a well-tuned orchestra, but without the proper prep and planning, it can be intrusive, noisy, disruptive and chaotic.
Overview ERP implementation
There’s no way around it: an ERP implementation requires a significant investment of time. How much time depends on the size of your business, but it will also depend on how well you plan for this investment in your company’s growth.
We know the benefits of an ERP system:
- Enhanced Business Reporting
- Better customer service
- Improved Inventory Costs
- Boosted Cash Flow:
- Better Data & Cloud Security:
- Business Process Improvements:
- Supply Chain Management
Overall, the benefits are unquestionably worth the investment required to implement an ERP system. Rather than being stored in silos, your data and workflows live in a single digital space, so all information can be accessed quickly and simultaneously. Employees and decision makers can see the big picture, at a glance, with support from your ERP provider.
Custom configurations can allow for dashboards unique to your business, needs and objectives.
Getting the right people on board at the start and ensuring total agreement on the business value of this implementation will keep it moving forward.
Pre-ERP implementation considerations
Start the process by spending some time outlining a crystal-clear project direction, what you expect to achieve and who will be responsible for the components. Identify each business division’s goals for this ERP implementation and make meeting these objectives the priority. This will decrease the chances of encountering issues as you go, extending your timeline.
After defining your goals, the next step is equally important: place this ERP implementation in the capable hands of a skilled project manager, who will lead the ERP implementation team. This ensures that the data migration, system configuration, testing, training and going live will be seamless, and one team ensures the timeline is met.
There will be a temptation to cut corners and curtail the planning stage, and try an ad hoc, cross-bridges-when-we-get-to-them approach, because, let’s face it: we all understandably want to get to the action part of change. Impatience will invariably cause a pile-up down the road. The initial stages of an ERP implementation dictate the success of the platform; thoughtful, intentional execution is the name of the game.
A few steps that will shorten ERP implementation timeline
Discovery / Planning:
Get the right cross-functional people in place to identify the issues an ERP implementation can solve for your business and plot your timeline. Focusing on the system’s requirements in this first step is crucial, as is marshaling the resources needed to properly execute the plan.
Examine your current workflows to see how an ERP can simplify and elevate business operations, examining current issues and eliminating inefficiencies. Once you have a clear picture of your workflows and how they intersect, you can begin to customize ERP software specifically for how your business works.
Create a plan to train users; develop training materials and learning sessions to get everyone up to speed.
Start to import your data into your ERP. Data migration is a specific role for people with deep experience.
Test the system and support new users, while addressing any obstacles that arise.
This step may lead to additional developments such as the need for any redesign’s surfaces.
Testing features and reviewing the results collaboratively will enable you to make changes in the pre-deployment process to ensure your customization works best for you.
You’ve imported your data, tested, modified your design and resolved any issues, so it’s time to go live with your ERP. This is an ‘all hands-on deck’ weekend!
Of course post-go live, you’ll continuously gather user feedback and measure success. Plan time for support, troubleshooting and monitoring cloud-based software updates for glitches.
Like anything that fosters growth, the temptation always exists to jump ahead in this process, racing through planning and discovery to get to the finish line. Implementing an ERP requires a different way of looking at growth: it’s the kind of macro shift businesses should undertake with deliberate, methodical thinking. Sure, this will take a few months and will draw people away from their core responsibilities, but the payoff will be worth it, but only if approached thoughtfully.
But how long should this actually take, and what can be done to make the best of the time spent? When can you actually go live?
How long does an ERP implementation take?
The truth is, since every organization is different, there’s no single timeframe for ERP implementation. The size of your company means this process can take anywhere from a few months to a year or, in some instances, even two. If it takes much longer, it’s likely because the plan was incomplete and communication failed, which can happen even for the largest enterprise-grade businesses. If this isn’t a high enough priority for your stakeholders, it will drag and become a distraction, potentially grinding your company’s gears in the process.
Experts at global firm PwC, when discussing best practices for private equity firms in relation to their portfolio companies, estimated that ERP implementation is a year-long process. It’s of note that they call it a “necessary” endeavor.
On PwC’s podcast series Finance 2025, Jeff Mandler, a partner in PwC’s finance transformation practice, provides an even longer timeframe. He gives an example of a company that is “looking at a four-year roadmap” for ERP implementation, starting from the moment they realized they’ve outgrown their current system (or collection of systems.) His approach involves giving the company two to three years on its current platforms “while running, in parallel, that ERP journey.”
In describing his own experience with heading up an ERP implementation at a smaller-sized business, finance veteran Nicolas Nicoleau shares on the blog CFO, that the project lasted 18 months.
Don’t go it alone
Another expert tip for ensuring a successful ERP implementation: Hire an consulting group to help you along on your journey. Times are tough, and it can be tempting to save money by undertaking an ERP implementation in-house, but Nicolaou cautions against that notion. “It’s inevitable that you will have to partner with a consulting firm to assist with the implementation,” he writes. “Much of what will drive success will come down to the quality of the consultants on the project.”
A new ERP system can have a profound impact on your employees and can affect every one of your company’s stakeholders, even if only in a small way. So it’s not going to be – nor should it be – a quick jaunt to the finish line.
Crestwood Associates is an award-winning Acumatica and Microsoft certified partner with proven success in 5,000+ ERP implementations. Our experienced consultants have been advising clients in a range of industries for more than 20 years. We know how to help companies like yours avoid pitfalls and achieve success.
- We have a strong and deep team to support the complexity of an ERP implementation.
- We have experts in various avenues who can help solve problems on complex projects.
- We do not outsource any aspect of the project, saving time and money.
Have you outgrown your current ERP system?
We advise key stakeholders on which technology solutions will have the greatest impact on your business goals by reviewing your system and processes. We then quantify the goals and map out an action plan to achieve them. Contact us today for an ERP Discover and Advise Consultation Request.