A new study has shown that 58 percent of public finance officers have been or expect to be disappointed with their organizations’ enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Discontent about large-scale projects isn’t surprising, but those who have had some success revealed a number of best practices to better handle the process.

Conducted jointly by Microsoft and GFOA Consulting, the research arm of the Government Finance Officers Association, the survey collected responses from 268 members of the organization. Those respondents who had modern ERP systems offered these tips to achieve successful ERP implementations:

  • Size matters — Smaller organizations have less complex requirements and therefore fewer problems and delays.
  • Due diligence paramount — Agencies that spent more time during the planning and setup stages of ERP implementation tend to experience more success.
  • Buy-in crucial — Successful implementations tend to feature good top-down leadership with endorsement of the project and strong communication skills.
  • Relationships matter — Make sure your vendor is a close partner in the process, along with the company implementing the software.

The study, titled The Real Impact of ERP Systems in the Public Sector, had a number of other keys to ERP implementation success. Some of the recommendations included staying flexible, setting appropriate expectations, partnering inside and outside the organization and keeping employee staffing levels high during the project.

“For too long, public-sector organizations have had to rely on inflexible ERP systems that hinder their ability to support transparency, open government, compliance and fiscal accountability requirements,” said Charlie Johnson, Microsoft Dynamics Government ERP managing director, in a statement. “Just as today’s citizens have higher expectations for the services they receive, so should public-sector organizations from their solution vendors.”

Additional findings in the study included 75 percent of respondents believing their ERP implementation will or did fall short of expectations, 69 percent did or expect to experience project delays and 60 percent felt the functionality of their ERP system was not up to par.

Taken in the aggregate, of the 139 organizations taking part in the survey that had new ERP systems put in place from 2002 to 2011, expectations were met only 42 percent of the time. Eighty-four organizations planned to get a new system within the next five years.

For those entities looking at purchasing a new ERP system, predicting costs is a struggle. The survey reported that respondents “had widely varying ideas about the real-world cost of ERP systems” ranging from $500,000 to $10 million.