Skip to main content
Back to News

ERP Implementation Process: Preparation, Configuration, Customizations, and More

Implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a major undertaking that requires in-depth planning, careful preparation, and strong project management to improve your chance of successful adoption. For promotional product distributors managing thousands of unique orders across hundreds of clients annually, ERP tools that integrate order and inventory data seamlessly are especially critical for scaling operations. Following best practices in ERP implementation promotes employee and leadership buy-in while maximizing the value delivered by your new ERP solution.

Related: What is enterprise resource planning (ERP)?

Steps in the ERP Implementation Process

The key steps involved in ERP software implementation typically include:

  1. Preparation: This involves gathering requirements, evaluating your current systems and processes, developing goals and metrics, selecting an ERP vendor, and organizing your implementation team. Thorough preparation sets the stage for a smooth implementation.
  2. Configuration: Your ERP vendor or partner will configure the system based on your operational needs and preferences. This involves setting up the parameters, fields, user access rules, and workflows required to support your business processes.
  3. Customization: Some customization is usually required to ensure the ERP system aligns well with your established processes and to incorporate any unique needs. Common customizations involve custom reports, data migration requirements, and specialized functionality enhancements.
  4. Testing: Rigorously testing core functionality, integrated applications, data migration, and custom reports/features across multiple rounds. Testing verifies everything works as expected before client acceptance and go-live.
  5. Training: Training your employees on how to use the new ERP system is critical prior to the go-live date. Determine training needs for each department and job role that will leverage the ERP solution. Instructional design and change management are key in this phase.
  6. Go-Live: Officially launch the configured ERP system across your organization on a predetermined go-live date once thorough testing validates system readiness and employee training has been completed.
  7. Evaluation: After go-live, evaluate usage metrics related to adoption, ROI goals, pain points, and additional training needs, and gather user feedback. These insights shape ongoing enhancements and integration efforts.

Related: Learn about the pros and cons of ERP solutions.

The Importance of Preparation in ERP Implementation

Since an ERP implementation touches nearly all parts of an organization, ensuring your teams are aligned, your data is available, and all requirements have been gathered prior to configuration is imperative. This up-front preparation prevents delays, promotes stakeholder buy-in, and enables the delivery of an ERP system that truly supports business objectives.

Key aspects of preparation include:

  • Defining ERP Goals: What issues do you intend to solve with a new system (e.g. eliminating manual processes or disconnected systems)? Build consensus on specific goals to align objectives across the organization.
  • Assessing Current Systems: Document your current systems, technologies, integrations, and pain points extensively. These insights guide requirements gathering and gap analysis. A third party can help objectively evaluate current state systems and challenges.
  • Data Gathering: Pull data on all organizational processes (order management, sourcing, etc.), key transactions, reporting needs, and user roles from across the business. This shows where customizations or enhancements are needed during ERP configuration.
  • Implementation Team Selection: Assemble cross-functional teams spanning IT, key department heads (accounting, sales, etc.), and ERP vendor consultants/technologists. Use consultants with expertise implementing in the promotional products distribution industry whenever possible.

How Does Configuration Fit Into the Process?

Once the software has been selected and teams are organized, ERP configuration kicks off implementation in earnest. Teams collaborate to configure system parameters and business rules that govern each process within the ERP platform — from order management workflows to inventory management business logic.

Configuration aligns the ERP solution with your:

  • Core Business Rules & Logic: Configure payment cycles, discounting rules, order workflow steps, inventory reorder points, and more based on how you operate.
  • Organizational Structures: Model reporting hierarchies, business units, locations, and approver groups, and configure user access controls to automate security policies.
  • Formats & Interfaces: Connect complimentary systems, ensure data formats integrate smoothly across platforms, and model user dashboards/interfaces to match preferences for productivity.
  • Industry Best Practices: Provide guidance incorporating standard workflows or data models where helpful to simplify support and upgrades. Draw on what has worked well for similar businesses in your vertical.

By configuring ERP software specifically for your environment and stakeholders during this phase, you enable smoother end-user adoption and quicker ability to leverage the platform.

Why Customizations Are Crucial

Despite their best attempts during configuration, most distributors require at least some level of customization for a well-tailored ERP platform. Sources of ERP system customizations include:

  • Unique Business Needs: You may require proprietary integrations, specialized data models, or custom algorithms that don’t align with out-of-box tools. These scenarios often require custom development work to bridge gaps.
  • Industry-Specific Functionality: General-purpose ERP software lacks niche functions tied to vertical needs, like remarking capabilities for promotional product distributors. Customizations fill these gaps.
  • Legacy Tool Integrations: Interfacing with aging technologies or complex systems during your transition period involves integration workarounds until replacements launch.
  • Enhanced User Experiences: Although configurable, user interfaces rarely match internal tools out of the box. Custom front-end development aligns UX with ingrained preferences for greater adoption.
  • Reporting Requirements: Despite robust reporting engines, some dashboards, KPIs, or report layouts involve deeper data analysis or visualization needs better addressed via customization.

Limiting customizations speeds implementation and reduces cost overruns that can plague projects. But strategic custom enhancements matching software to your exact needs also lower change management challenges, driving user adoption in the process.

How Remote Work Influences ERP Implementation

The rise of remote and hybrid work models brings new variables that impact coordinating teams and technologies during ERP implementation initiatives. Adjusting strategies related to communication cadences, documentation, training, and mobile platform access in a distributed environment keeps implementations on track.

The Impact of Remote Work on Project Management

When key players in an ERP implementation operate in separate locations, project managers must adapt approaches to keep contributors coordinated, aligned, and informed.

  • Enhanced Communication Cadence: Daily standups or scrums augment typical weekly status meetings to keep remote staff looped in on issues and next steps when not collaborating face-to-face.
  • Centralized Documentation: Wikis, shared drives, intranets, and project management platforms provide “single sources of truth” for information when navigating hand-offs between distributed team members.
  • Milestone-Based Deliverable Tracking: Breaking larger goals into incremental objectives with clear owners/timelines maintains accountability across dispersed groups and enables course correction before misalignment grows.

What Do Mobile ERP Solutions Offer for Remote Teams?

Mobile capabilities from modern SaaS-based ERP platforms enable remote staff to stay productive when a traditional desktop workstation limits accessibility. Key advantages include:

  • Access Critical Data On-the-Go: Sales, account management, and field service teams can view/update customer records, product information, and transactional data from any device.
  • Receive Notifications Remotely: Messages around inventory reorders, approval requests, or customer invoice status changes reach employees no matter their location via apps.
  • Enter Data Near Point of Transaction: Warehouse pickers, delivery drivers, and technicians capture information on mobile devices at customer sites for faster downstream processing.
  • Limit Device Dependence: Users are no longer tethered to company workstations to access essential ERP functions. Work continues smoothly when traveling, at client sites, or when power/network interruptions occur.

The Unique Challenges of Remote ERP Implementation

Despite adaptations in management cadence, documentation, and mobile access, implementing ERP solutions remotely introduces hurdles around aligning complex configurations across disconnected teams. Challenges include:

  • Provider-Client Misalignment: When vendor consultants or client teams don’t effectively collaborate at a distance, misconfigured software that misses the mark arises, requiring significant rework.
  • Process Interpretation Inconsistency: Documenting intricate workflows, data models, and business rules leaves room for interpretation loss during hand-offs between the analysis, development, and testing phases.
  • User Training Limitations: Delivering impactful instruction virtually prevents hands-on learning and dynamic Q&A that smooth adoption curves. Supplemental in-person sessions are advised where possible.
  • Stakeholder Buy-In Gaps: Getting executives, managers, and end-users excited about workflow changes proves harder without in-person workshops, training events, and conversations to showcase benefits.

While unavoidable in many current environments, limitations around dispersed ERP deployments demand mitigation through improved change management, stakeholder access, and custom-tailored training.

The Ways Efficient Business Processes Can Streamline Implementation

Since ERP software inherently models and interacts with established workflows and procedures across departments, organizations with optimized processes undergo more straightforward system configuration and change management. Streamlining business operations prior to digitizing them accelerates transformation initiatives like ERP adoption.

How Change Management Impacts the Efficiency of Implementation

Change management is the discipline of driving the transition, adoption, and usage of new initiatives (like an ERP rollout) by stakeholders across an organization. Managing changes to tools, business processes, reporting structures, and job roles emerging from large-scale technology disruption minimizes resistance during implementation. Tactics that smooth these people-oriented aspects of ERP deployment encompass:

  • Proactive Stakeholder Engagement: Early and ongoing sessions demonstrating benefits directly to execs, managers, and staff ease skepticism.
  • Intentional Internal Marketing: Multi-channel campaigns steer excitement and urgency around goals of modernization, efficiency, and growth powered by the ERP launch.
  • Contextual End-User Education: Role-based instruction on updated workflows, system access, data changes, and job impacts provides transparency around specific alterations rather than abstract concepts.
  • Adoption Measurement & Support: Usage dashboards identify areas of lower adoption to prioritize additional training post go-live, while digital assistants and Learn portals provide just-in-time support resources.

Getting stakeholders at all levels enthusiastically on board with operational changes emerging from ERP software reduces drag during rollout and improves results in the long term.

Why Understanding Your Current System Is Important

Analyzing existing processes, policies, software systems, and data schema in detail forms a critical baseline for shaping ERP alignment decisions and customization requirements. Teams with deep visibility into current workflows and technologies more readily identify gaps to address and can:

  • Detail True “As-Is” Landscape: Prevent assumptions around interdependencies, data transcoding needs, access protocols, legacy procedure digitization requirements, and volume metrics that impact configuration.
  • Empower Accurate Solution Mapping: With clarity on business and technical nuances, consultants and architects design optimal “To-Be” state ecosystems — inclusive of appropriate interfaces, extensions, policies, and controls.
  • Right-Size Implementation Resources: Equipped with specifics around data models, feature utilization, transaction modes, and user segmentation, programs properly staff and budget projects spanning custom integrations, migration initiatives, change management, and training efforts.

While gathering volumes of baseline details runs counter to tendencies to “hit the ground running,” upfront current state analysis reduces cost overruns and unmet expectations by shaping pragmatic blueprints, resourcing, and budgets for ERP success.

Improving the Implementation Process With Aligned ERP Vendors

Beyond current state visibility, selecting an ERP partner intentionally aligned to your technical needs and industry expertise also smooths system configuration and user adoption. Consider the following dynamics during the vetting process:

  • Functional Strengths & Platform Fit: Assess how well vendor solutions and technical architecture address defined feature requirements, integrate with existing infrastructure, and support data access needs.
  • Domain Experience Over General Expertise: Seek niche implementation partners boasting proven success guiding promotional product distributors through change, versus generic SIs simply selling licenses.
  • Cultural & Communication Compatibility: Configure sessions, workshops, training events, and project meetings provide forums for aligning visions and assessing collaboration dynamics. These touchpoints ensure fluid dialog between partners around custom requests, ultimately yielding solutions that closely match unique organizational needs.

Selectively choosing implementation partners purpose-built for key processes, dedicated to your sector, receptive to feedback, and invested in your outcomes pays dividends when configuring ERP tools for the realities of your operating environment and objectives.

Exploring the Financial Implications of ERP Implementation

Implementing ERP solutions is an investment spanning planning, project management, blueprinting, custom development, data migration, training, and go-live support. Understanding cost drivers helps effectively budget for and maximize returns on investment.

The Impact of ERP Customizations on Implementation Cost

Because aligning a multipurpose ERP suite to individual processes and preferences requires enhancements, custom development accounts for a significant portion of implementation costs. Scrutinizing each proposed tweak against potential savings, usage levels, and necessity optimizes expenses by avoiding unnecessary modifications.

Cost-Saving Tips for Successful ERP Implementation

Controlling customization scope provides the clearest path to controlling implementation costs, but further budget management options also exist:

  • Phased Rollouts: Stage module deployments across locations or departments to spread capital needs over time while building internal expertise supporting each location rollout.
  • Scaled Infrastructure & Hosting: Optimize server footprint and storage provisioning for current data and transactional needs rather than assuming required capacity. Consider third-party managed service hosting to offload IT resourcing.

How Facilisgroup Helps Promotional Product Distributors With ERP Implementation

As a promotional product distributor managing rapid growth, exploring ways to scale operations efficiently should sit atop your priority list. Without the right technology, expansion can easily outpace your infrastructure. Facilisgroup offers industry-tailored ERP solutions purpose-built to help distributors like you accelerate processes, gain insights into workflows, and focus valuable time on pursuing new opportunities rather than manually managing transactions.

Our Syncore platform is a tech-driven promotional product software that integrates all aspects of operations — from order/inventory management to fulfillment logistics — into a single intuitive interface to boost productivity. Unlike generic systems, Syncore speaks the language (trade shows, sales reps, swag) and understands the challenges (quick turn promo cycles, dynamic branding needs) specific to the branded merchandise distribution sector.

Commercio and Amplifi further extend operational solutions to tackle e-commerce and employee growth obstacles facing growth-oriented distributors. Simplify branded webstore rollout, centralize data insights, and scale your workforce confidently and efficiently with software crafted for distributors by distribution experts.

Schedule a demo to learn how Facilisgroup technology solutions can unlock operational capacity and position your company for sustainable expansion while ensuring customer satisfaction.


What are the main steps in implementing ERP software?

The main steps typically involved in ERP implementation include preparation, vendor selection, team formation, requirements gathering, system configuration, customization, testing, data migration, employee training, go-live, and post-implementation evaluation.

What gets configured in an ERP system?

ERP configuration involves tailoring system parameters, business rules, workflows, reporting tools, and data models to match how an organization specifically operates across functions like order/inventory management, production planning, etc. Configuration aligns software to unique processes.

What requires ERP customization?

Common drivers of ERP software customization include proprietary integrations, industry-specific features, legacy system workarounds, enhanced user experiences, and complex reporting needs. While limiting custom scope is advised, strategic tweaks ease adoption by improving system alignment.

How can you manage ERP costs?

Key tips for controlling ERP implementation costs include limiting unnecessary customizations by prioritizing critical enhancements only, phasing departmental rollouts, right-sizing infrastructure to current data/usage levels, and building internal support expertise across locations.