ERP health is important to any organization - an unhealthy ERP system can bring many possible challenges that can quickly spiral out of control. Data inconsistency or inaccurate results can cause frustrated users to deviate from processes and further degrade the quality of the information within the ERP. These workarounds and data challenges also make upgrades more challenging and can result in more costly upgrades and significant delays in completing them. Over time, it can get to the point where an organization will need to re-implement or get a new ERP solution to meet the original implementation project's objectives.
Conversely, when an ERP system is healthy, it becomes an essential tool for a successful healthcare operation. Team members are happy to use a healthy ERP as it makes their job easier and provides them with actionable, accurate information they can use to improve efficiency.
Here are some key steps you can take to ensure your ERP system stays healthy:
1. Keep current on upgrades- Don't wait to upgrade. When using older versions, you miss out on new functionality and will continue to be challenged by bugs and inefficiencies. It is crucial to complete upgrades as soon as they come out to stay on the most recent and complete version of the software. While it can be a challenge to keep current, it will only get more difficult the longer you wait.
2. Document and follow processes– Create and maintain complete and accurate end-to-end process documentation of all activities completed in the ERP system. Documented processes help to ensure consistency and make it easier to identify and resolve problems. In addition to documentation, ensure that the processes are distributed to the staff and followed consistently.
3. Test system speed – When a process or report takes too long, users avoid it, find a workaround, or skip what could be a vital step in the process. To find bottlenecks in processes, it is important to regularly do system speed testing through a combination of random tests and in response to user feedback. Investigating speed issues can lead to happier and more efficient end-users.
4. Clean up your licenses – Are you paying for software modules that you don't use? When purchasing ERP software, organizations will often buy every module; however, many are not implemented or used. This "shelfware" increases annual support costs, which can quickly exceed the cost of purchasing it in the first place. To reduce your support costs, review your ERP licensing at least once a year, and remove any solutions that will not be implemented in the next two years.
5. Maintain architecture map – ERP solutions typically integrate with dozens of other applications in a healthcare environment. Changes to one system can break interfaces or lead to bad data. Maintaining a documented system architecture is critical to ensuring full awareness of all systems that impact or are impacted by the ERP. This documentation will ensure it is clear how a change in one system affects all others.
6. Monitor support trends – What are the common issues reported by end-users? Evaluating common issues is vital in making support more efficient and proactive in identifying these system issues. Reviewing support issues weekly allows for trends to be identified early so that action can be taken.
7. Metrics and Reporting Governance – Ask three different people to give you a critical metric, and you will get three different answers. ERP systems have hundreds or thousands of canned reports, and with data dumping to excel, there is no limit to the number of ways that someone may choose to interpret a metric request. Avoid number conflict and ensure accurate measurement through standardized metrics and reporting. Creating a governance committee to maintain standard data definitions helps to create consistency in language and reporting across the organization.
8. Training – Training does not end at go-live. If new employees learn "on the job," they often pick up bad habits and miss essential process steps. Existing employees should have ongoing training that includes new best practices or functionality. A healthy ERP system consists of a robust training program with both formal training for new employees and continuous training for existing staff.
9. Continuous Improvement – Six Sigma is all about increasing quality through constant improvement. Your ERP solution processes should be consistently challenged to find opportunities to eliminate inefficiencies and improve quality. Problematic processes can be tested and changed in Kaizen workshops. A culture of continuous improvement and innovation can help maximize the value of an ERP solution.
10. Think ahead – Strategic planning is important for every ERP customer looking to the future of their ERP system. This planning includes evaluating 3rd party solutions that will work alongside the new ERP as well as new modules within the ERP. If there are concerns about the future fit of the solution, thinking ahead includes careful planning about how and when to change. Governance should carefully monitor the industry to predict and anticipate future challenges.
Following these steps will go a long way in ensuring that you will get the return on investment on your ERP system and that it will have a long and healthy life at your company.