When managing an ERP project, the traditional view is to schedule activities and tasks, to create work breakdown structures, to organize meetings, set agendas, complete reports and update budgets. The skill is in the planning and in the control – or is it?
“Cathie, sometimes you have to manage around the problem!” Those words resonated with me at the time I heard them and I have applied this logic ever since. Managing ERP projects, is 80% managing around the project and only 20% planning and control. You only have to look at critical project success factors to know this is the case. The success factors aren’t about the accuracy of a Gantt chart, they are about sponsorship, commitment, resource, process knowledge, budget and culture. In fact when I start any new ERP project, the first thing I do is plot the project risk against my project environment measures.
Organizational culture: If the culture is one of “make it happen”, “can do” and “bring it on” then your project is already off to a good start. You need positive challenge and a willingness to engage to make the project successful. Without this, people just won’t complete the activities you have so carefully scheduled for them.
Organizational politics: Every organization has its own dynamic. Who are the key influencers in the business and how do they perceive the implementation of a new ERP system? You need these people’s buy-in, and you need commitment and sponsorship from the top. You must find the ‘seeker of value’ within the organization.
Previous projects: We are a product of our experience. Unfortunately, if the company has a history of failed projects or projects that are always delivered late, it will be very difficult to get the team motivated. The best way I have found to overcome this is to bring out the competitive nature of people: “let’s be the first team to be on time.”
Resources & skills: If people know what is required and have the skills to do it, they need much less management. Ensure people are adequately skilled before starting the project, make sure they understand the implementation methodology, and explain key ERP concepts like data, integration and MRP. Before people are expected to start testing processes make sure they know how to write a test script and how to record testing information. Support the team by providing them with the skills they need to train end users. Most project team members won’t have an ERP background, they will be key users or managers, don’t expect them to start “User Acceptance Testing” just because it’s written in the project plan.
Process: Businesses with clear processes always find it easier to implement ERP. Even if the process needs to change, companies who understand the initial process, why it needs to change, and what the new process will be, always adopt new ways of working much more quickly than those that don’t. First step is always to understand the end goal – “what will good look like.”
Organizational Strategy: It’s always much easier to implement ERP in a company that knows where it’s going; whose people understand the bigger picture and why they are asked to do certain activities.
Finance: Finance plays a huge part. Yes, companies need to keep a close eye on the budget and not spend money without due care and attention, but they can’t afford to starve the project of valuable resources at critical times. Invest in using more consultancy time in the education, design and prototyping phases, it will result in higher skilled people and a lower total cost of ownership in the long run.
Concurrent projects: Be aware of what other projects are happening in the company. Too often organizations try to bite off more than they can chew. Is the company going after a big contract that if won, will take up all the resources at a critical point in the ERP project? Is it trying to implement CRM or PLM at the same time? Is the company planning to move offices? Merge departments? All these things have an impact on the resources available to ERP.
So, my advice is worry less about the mechanics of project management. Get the environment right and let the project manage itself! If people have the skills to implement ERP and they want to implement ERP, then it will happen.