To say assembling the right team is a key ERP success factor seems as obvious as telling you to increase revenue to grow your business, or that you have to spend money in order to make money. However, every successful ERP Programme Manager understands the value of having a great team of people behind them, so it is an essential point to make.
To ensure a successful implementation of an ERP system, it is essential that the project has strong support and commitment from senior managers. Without this, ERP programmes fight an uphill battle in getting business-wide buy-in and adoption. When everyone in the organisation recognises that senior teams are champions of the outcome of the implementation, you have a much greater chance of everyone embracing your new system and developing accompanying policies and procedures.
Having a committed executive group is an important key to ERP implementation success. If everybody in the organisation can see that the C-Level execs and steering group are leading from the top, everyone else is more likely to follow suit. There needs, however, to be a balance. Middle managers often find themselves in the impossible position of trying to keep both senior management and operational teams happy, so must also have a voice in the programme governance. Typically, these are some of the most challenging yet important people to get on side.
Always try to be the first to communicate process change decisions. This is not always easy; especially if decisions are ratified by boards on a monthly or bi-weekly review cycles. Make good use of your communication channels and communicate often. No news is not good news, it breeds suspicion. A simple – “we have not made a decision but are looking into…” message addresses this head-on. You cannot always guarantee people will read the communications thoroughly, but at least nobody will be able to accuse you of not trying your best to keep everyone informed
Implementing an ERP project requires an internal Programme Manager and team. Whilst many organisations try to cut costs by getting this to fit around existing responsibilities, you are asking for your manager to burnout and ultimately for the project to fail. Backfill the position if possible, it will end up saving you time, money and a prevent a stressed workforce.
Identify key staff members to take on specific responsibilities and reward them for their hard work. Getting people on side is essential both for the success of the project and for the overall sense of morale in the organisation. Negativity spreads like wildfire so keep people engaged and enthused and this will cascade through the rest of your team.
“Both the key and peripheral members of the ERP team form the departmental spearheads for the project and will drive its future success. Without the commitment of this team, the project has a much higher failure rate.”
If you are working with a third-party consultancy or software partner they will also deploy consultants to guide the business through the implementation. External consultants will probably form a large proportion of the budget so ensure they are productive and can work unhindered. Making them feel like part of the team is essential, so take good care of them, be sure they know where everything is and treat them like one of your own.
Nothing else matters if you do not have the right people on board. ERP’s cannot implement themselves (yet). As with project success in general, it begins and ends with leadership. Putting the best people your organisation has in key project roles ensures a solid project and send a message to the organisation regarding the seriousness of the programme. Longer-term, these people become ambassadors for their work and champion it for years to come, often as they progress through the management ranks.
At some point, something on the programme will almost certainly go wrong. Managers and leaders who can keep a cool head under pressure and help the rest of the organisation stay calm in the process are critical at this point, so look for proven problem-solving skills and an unflappable nature.
“The talent an organisation assigns to its ERP team demonstrates to a large degree its commitment to and comprehension of long term organisation health.”
We have already mentioned this in the ‘Strategy’ section but it worth repeating. Before beginning any ERP project, it is critical to ensure that the entire organisation understands the reasons and strategy behind the decision. If decision makers do not clearly support the need for change, the project will fail. If project members and end users do not understand the objectives, there is an even bigger challenge to overcome.
Articulate and endorse your vision. Spend time explaining why the change is needed and what will happen if things do not improve. Be strong and firm, but also remain open to questions and concerns and treat everyone with respect.
Neil ran his first SAP transformation programme in his early twenties. He spent the next 18 years working both client side and for various consultancies running numerous SAP programmes. After successfully completing over 15 full lifecycles he took a senior leadership/board position and his work moved onto creating the same success for others.