Companies that install ERP do not have an easy time of it. Don’t be fooled when ERP vendors tell you about a three- or six-month average implementation time. Those short (that’s right, six months is short) implementations all have a catch of one kind or another: The company was small, or the implementation was limited to a small area of the company, or the company used only the financial pieces of the ERP system (in which case the ERP system is nothing more than a very expensive accounting system). To do ERP right, the ways you do business will need to change and the ways people do their jobs will need to change too. And that kind of change doesn’t come without pain. Unless, of course, your ways of doing business are working extremely well (orders all shipped on time, productivity higher than all your competitors, customers completely satisfied), in which case there is no reason to even consider ERP.

The important thing is not to focus on how long it will take—real transformational ERP efforts usually run between one and three years, on average—but rather to understand why you need it and how you will use it to improve your business.