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Time for a Change: Upgrade vs. Re-Implement Your ERP System

By March 7, 2016Article

Now that 2016 is in full swing, it’s the perfect time to circle the wagons with stakeholders and put some concerted thought into whether to tackle that much-needed upgrade to your organization’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. But how do you know whether you should look to perform an upgrade or take on the challenge of a full re-implementation? Let’s answer that question by taking a look at some of the most important factors to consider when planning to refresh your organization’s ERP system. 

When making the important decision to upgrade or re-implement, it is helpful to start by asking the following questions about your current ERP system:

  • What version of ERP software are you currently using? Is it a fairly recent version, or is it a relic?
  • Is your data clean? What is the size of your database? Do you need to review and purge old data and could your organization benefit from a clean slate?
  • How quickly do you need to complete this process and what are the resources available to put toward completing this project? How much have you budgeted for this effort?
  • How many customizations do you currently have within your system? Can these customizations be replaced by newer, standard functionality?   

Your answers to these questions can help you narrow down the decision of whether upgrading or re-implementing your ERP solution is the right choice for your particular organization. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, and much of the decision comes down to the unique state of your current system, how you use it and how efficient and effective it is. Let’s take a closer look at some of these considerations and how they can affect your organization’s decision on whether to upgrade or re-implement. 

What version are you on? 

Upgrading may be a simple task if your organization is operating on a recent version. But if you’re considering replacing a version that has been retired for some time, the upgrade process may not be as easy as you’d like. If your organization has implemented a good amount of tailored customizations, automated processes and special reports into an aged ERP version, then upgrading could compromise your processes; therefore, re-implementation is likely your best bet. 

Otherwise, if you’re on a recent version, upgrading may be the quickest and simplest means by which to give your system a full refresh without having to reinvent the wheel. 

Is your data clean? 

As more data is produced and becomes available for use, organizations in kind are becoming more interested in the best methods of collecting, reporting on, analyzing and implementing that data to help them improve their internal processes. But without clean data to pull from, analytics quickly lose their worth. When it comes to updating, many organizations look to the speed of the process first; and at first glance, an upgrade may appear to be the best and fastest way to reach the end goal of refreshing an ERP system. 

Without the need to re-enter master data, many organizations make the common mistake of assuming that an upgrade is their best option. But there are many risks involved in upgrading a system that houses questionable data. Unless the current data in your system is impeccable, updating with imperfect data can bring old issues into your new system and compound previous problems. Your data will not receive the benefit of the close review, and you also won’t be operating under the guarantee that you are entering clean data into a clean system. Re-implementing offers your organization a chance to optimize your data and offload any legacy information that is no longer relevant. 

How customized is your system and do you need the latest standard functionality? 

Upgrades provide organizations with the ability to piggyback off of current customizations and keep their system’s processes intact. With historical data and a tailored system at risk, an upgrade may be the better option (again, check to ensure that your organization’s data is clean and your old version is a close cousin to the latest available upgrade). Meanwhile, a re-implementation will require that customizations be built again from the ground up. 

Upgrading your system may allow you to expand on existing functionality, but you often lose the opportunity to collect on all the latest bells and whistles. A re-implementation tends to introduce a system that is faster, richer and more intuitive than an older system that receives a facelift via an upgrade. These improvements can offset the burden of time necessary to re-implement by immediately introducing new, untapped efficiencies and increasing the productivity of your workforce. If your organization uses many customizations, check to see if a re-implementation might simply render those customizations unnecessary. 

Upgrades can be faster and less costly in the long run, but a re-implementation can replace these outdated customizations with the latest standard functionality and offer your organization a solution that is more flexible and better able to suit the latest business ecosystem. 

No two ERP systems are alike, as the data that is entered, the customizations added, and the current version make a large difference in the best option for an organization faced with the decision of whether to upgrade or re-implement. Upgrades can be faster, cheaper and less likely to require a full data re-entry and redevelopment of customizations and tailored reports. On the other hand, it’s possible that many of those customizations are no longer needed, and a re-implementation with the latest features may render those customizations unnecessary. 

A re-implementation can also lower the risk of copying faulty data over from one version to the next and can provide an organization with a clean slate from which to move forward upon. 

Ultimately the decision is up to each individual business, and only you know what decision is right for your particular organization. But with information about your data quality, your database size, your customizations, your version and your time and available budget, you can select the choice that allows your organization to move forward in 2016 with an ERP system that’s ready to take on anything.   

Aaron Continelli, president of Cre8tive Technology and Design, started things small in 2005. What began as a one-person consulting firm has now become a staff of 58 with three office locations. Specializing in ERP system sales and services, Cre8tive Technology and Design became an EPICOR Partner (Value Added Reseller) in 2007. Since then, Cre8tive Technology and Design has emerged as one of EPICOR’s ELITE and won the 2013 Americas Partner of the Year as the Top Revenue Producer.