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No matter how many months you’ve invested in an ERP project — from selecting the right product to targeting the ideal work operations, you could run into a massive failure if you don’t clean your data as part of the process.

Companies implementing ERP face major complications if they pair a new ERP system with obsolete data, according to Alexandre Crettol, director of services for SolvAxis in Switzerland. SolvAxis is one of the businesses in Forterro’s global network of ERP companies.

“It’s a key issue and it leads to a high risk of failure if it’s not done properly,” Crettol said. “Data cleansing is so important.”

However, companies undergoing ERP projects often are reluctant to invest the time and resources to data cleansing. That was the case with a recent SolvAxis client that was faced with an ERP project delay because of a massive data cleansing project.

“It required a huge amount of time preparing the data for the data transfer,” Crettol said. “It delayed the project by two months, but at least at the end of the day, it worked perfectly. Without that time investment, the new ERP system probably would not have worked. The faulty data would have caused problems.”

Some areas that you need to consider for data cleansing include:

- Outdated, inconsistent customer data

- Obsolete product codes

- Data that has not been entered into legacy system

- Duplicate data

- Changes in vendor information

- Closed purchase orders

- Incomplete data fields

“You must invest a lot of time to have a good data transfer,” Crettol said. “For example, your system won’t work properly if you start transferring data from one system that contains duplicates. You’re just taking a bunch of bad data and recreating the problem in the new system. It’s not a good idea. The project will fail.”

Data may not be the only area that requires regular updating, according to Jean Christophe-Piguet, a support consultant for SolvAxis.

He encourages customers to create a document of their business processes that are essential to keeping operations running properly. “It’s easy to say, but it is not easy to do in reality,” he said. “People are changing roles. Sometimes processes are changing. These can all lead to a loss of information.”

Once data cleansing is completed as part of your ERP project, it’s a good idea to set up a regular schedule to keep it maintained.

“It’s a tough job, but you need to invest that time,” Crettol said. “It’s more than a recommendation. It’s essential.”