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Avoiding Common Pitfalls in Your NetSuite Implementation

Every transformation in your organization carries the risk of becoming a disruption, an upheaval, or, most catastrophic of all, an outright disaster. The bigger the change, the bigger the risk. Adopting new software systems is no exception, whether you’re completely migrating to the cloud, adopting a new ERP, or switching your CRM. 

In fact, because ERP implementations promise some of the biggest possible wins for your organization, they also carry massive potential pitfalls. NetSuite implementation projects can be delayed by an extra 30% of the project timeline, or the costs can balloon to 300% or 400% of the original budget.

However, there are several steps your organization can take to minimize those risks while still striving for all the advantages. Along with choosing the right ERP system—NetSuite, for many organizations in every industry—you can develop an implementation plan, coordinate with third-party experts, and prepare your company operations in advance. 

Proactively sidestep the biggest pitfalls in NetSuite implementations by understanding the most common problems and the right way to resolve them before you even begin your implementation project.

NetSuite Implementation Can Provide Tremendous Value for Your Business

Hearing about big expenses or resource-intensive projects is scary for risk-averse organizations and decision-makers who will end up holding the reins. But focusing on just the negatives will cause you to lose sight of all the positives. After all, 95% of businesses that implemented an ERP saw business process improvements. Their organizations became more efficient, productive, and fast-acting. 

ERP platforms can systematize and automate increasingly large portions of business tasks, from transferring data across fields to automatically triggering tasks and workflows. 

There are two core facets of ERPs that make them so valuable for businesses:

  1. Automation: When your business operations can instantly synthesize new data and turn it into sales, manufacturing orders, shipments, and invoices, everyone benefits. Customers receive services and products faster, business teams collect revenue with less friction and fewer costs, and strategists can use data-backed insights to drive the business in the right direction. Whether automation replaces core employee to-dos or supports human-powered work, it reduces inefficiencies and makes work happen faster.
  2. Customization: During well-managed NetSuite implementation projects, the software isn’t simply unboxed. Instead, implementation teams can add in strategic modules for advanced functions, create custom fields and functions, and integrate key parts of your organization’s tech stack into the platform. No two businesses work identically, so NetSuite is designed for organizations to build on it, customize it, and create new functions in SuiteScript. This ensures your new ERP actually fits your business’s needs, and there won’t be straggling manual tasks holding your operations back.

But NetSuite Implementations Can Also Bring Severe Challenges

Because NetSuite is such a powerful platform, it needs careful handling during the implementation stages. For example, what if the custom formulations and SuiteScript codes go wrong, erroring out or pulling in the wrong information? What if the automations start triggering steps that don’t make sense or that are rife with mistakes? 

Any ERP can cause business-critical problems, and many of them trace back to the implementation stages. Some of the biggest issues that might result from a poor implementation include:

  • No training: Employees don’t know how to work within the platform, leading to incorrect processes, low employee morale, and bad data.
  • Visible and invisible errors: While visible errors can immediately cause problems, invisible errors are even worse. Poor integration and setup can lead to unrecorded revenue, twice-recorded revenue, and data records that don’t sync up, all happening behind the scenes until your next audit uncovers them. This could even corrupt your company’s past data.
  • The ERP simply doesn’t work: If you start using NetSuite in its default settings or have implementation handled by an uncertified third party, it won’t work with your business. Instead, your teams will find themselves doing manual work in an unintuitive system, or they will have to continually fight standard settings to get the functionality your organization needs. 

Related: Guide to NetSuite Development Project Planning

Many of these problems emerge as the result of avoidable pitfalls. By taking stock of what your company needs before, during, and after your NetSuite implementation, you can minimize the risk of encountering these bad outcomes. That process starts by understanding the common pitfalls that lead to these situations and what steps you should take to avoid them.

Avoid These 4 Common Pitfalls During NetSuite Implementation

Luckily, some of the biggest and most frequent pitfalls can be avoided with a strong implementation plan. Before you contact your procurement team about getting NetSuite for your organization, develop a comprehensive project management plan that includes:

  • A discovery stage, even if you’re managing the project internally. Consult all of your departments to understand what they need, what problems the current system has, and what must-have and wishlist customizations they’re looking for. If you’re working with an external implementation team, this element is even more important.
  • A data architecture stage, especially if you’re moving to an ERP for the first time. Organizations accumulate large piles of data, and your tech stack may already have some integrations that push the data between different programs. However, if there’s not a single source of truth for the data and no clear ecosystem that governs how and why the data changes over time, you have untrustworthy data. Creating a cohesive data management strategy and ecosystem is the foundational step to having an ERP that manages complex business operations.
  • A development stage where customization takes place. Your development team will refine NetSuite from its out-of-the-box form into the right tool for your business. This can include configuring new dashboards, integrating it with other programs, installing additional modules, and custom coding projects. Here, there will be creation, testing, and refining, all before rollout.
  • The actual “implementation” where everyone starts to transition to the software. You may have one of several different rollout strategies. You may run duplicate systems for a while, or employees may move over in staggered batches. This should involve training, helpful resources, and clear support channels as everyone gets comfortable with the new processes.
  • Ongoing support. Even once the dust settles, challenges still lurk ahead. Invest in ongoing support, whether through internal experts or third-party services, to answer questions, ensure efficiency, and manage users and licenses. In the future, you might also need iterative development projects for new functionalities or operations.

If your plan goes into detail across all of these phases, your implementation will be in good shape. Make sure it explicitly eliminates the following problems.

Pitfall 1: Not Getting What Your Business Actually Needs

Your NetSuite ERP is in place, but it doesn’t actually target the shortcomings of your previous setup, or it doesn’t account for what key departments were looking for. For example, your ERP might not pull data from Marketo or your CRM and automatically feed it to marketing automations or help ticket software systems. 

It may not offer the complex shipping options a 3PL business needs or give you granular control of regulatory audit data fields, as a cold storage warehouse facility needs. For whatever reason, it comes up short, and your company is still using manual workarounds.

How to Avoid It

This pitfall is best solved by early preventative measures. 

  • Perform a comprehensive needs assessment so you know what every team (and the whole organization) needs. You might prioritize and deprioritize certain things, but you have a clear and complete idea of what your ERP should do.
  • Make sure your third-party NetSuite experts have a detailed discovery stage. They’re ideally bringing industry knowledge and NetSuite expertise to the table, but that should inform how they assess and learn about your business. There’s no replacing a personalized discovery stage and approach.
  • Have team representatives test it. Instead of waiting for the official rollout, have members of each department test out features and workflows while they’re in the sandbox. Developers can change direction then and there instead of having to undo work.

Related: 5 Benefits of Advanced NetSuite Support Services

Throughout the project, set checkpoints to make sure NetSuite is developing in the right direction.

Pitfall 2: Poor Employee Engagement and Buy-In

Many employees view change as a negative—and there are a lot of reasons for this. If you announce the new ERP right before rollout (which 13% of businesses do), then it will be disruptive and scary. Employees may not have any experience with NetSuite, and they’ll wonder if their jobs are at risk. Other employees, hearing the word ‘automation,’ will also be nervous about their jobs. As a result, they may resist adopting the new platform and disengage completely.

How to Avoid It

There are three must-have elements in any plan to avoid this pitfall. First, keep employees informed. 56% of businesses inform employees early on about the change, and providing regular updates minimizes the disruption. 

Second, make training part of your implementation. Give employees easy resources, hands-on training, and access to help throughout the entire adoption period. Not only does this help employees use the ERP successfully, but it can increase their sense of job security. Third, get feedback. Ask people what they need in an ERP, how they feel about in-progress changes, and what support they need. 

Pitfall 3: Chaotic Data

ERPs are all about efficiently generating, using, and managing data. However, many organizations lack the data architecture and data management plans to do so successfully. Data may map to the wrong fields, be corrupted by the migration process, or simply be unreadable in different systems. This will result in failed automation, bad reports, and inconsistent views of the same data across different dashboards or platforms.

How to Avoid It

Start by creating a data migration strategy, which could include cleaning up data in your current tech stack, being ready to dedupe records later, and creating a data ecosystem so you aren’t holding onto bad data later. Depending on the state of your data, you may need to organize everything before beginning the actual ERP implementation project.

Pitfall 4: Not Having a Post-Implementation Plan

Many organizations simply look at the finish line, not what sits beyond. When you don’t plan for post-implementation costs and challenges, even the most successful implementation falls flat. You may run out of money for development projects in subsequent months, not account for ongoing support needs during day-to-day usage, and not know what to do when key teams in your organization don’t like working with the new ERP. You’re left facing low morale, dissatisfaction, and an ERP that becomes less and less usable as support tasks go undone.

How to Avoid It

Luckily, the solution for this pitfall is one of the simplest: account for post-implementation problems. You might hire a support administrator or managed services for wrangling day-to-day problems and licenses. Set internal expectations about future development projects and costs. Ultimately, let your organization’s key stakeholders know that any high-performance ERP will always require care and attention.

Achieve a Smoother NetSuite Implementation With an Experienced Partner at Your Side

Creating a detailed plan is one of the best ways to minimize mistakes and avoid pitfalls. The right NetSuite implementation partner can help by assessing your business’s needs, having an in-depth understanding of common implementation problems in your industry, and knowing how to manage implementation from start to finish. At Limebox, our NetSuite-certified team of developers, coders, and implementation specialists will create a comprehensive plan that goes from the discovery stage to post-implementation support. Reach out today to implement NetSuite the right way.


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