ERP implementations need a leader
For any project to be successful, it requires a leader, and an ERP implementation is no different. Projects involve people who take on roles, responsibilities, tasks, and decisions. They are a true team, and everyone’s actions (or inactions) affect the team and project. The ERP Project Manager (or ERP Implementation Manager) is the leader of this team, and is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the implementation.
Who is the right person for ERP project management?
This answer is different for every company, as the person is typically pulled from their “regular” job and tasked with the responsibility of the project. Being a Project Manager on an ERP implementation is a career builder that looks great on a resume, and can help you move up the ladder within your company. The ERP Project Manager gets the opportunity to learn all about the business that is implementing the ERP, and will have decision-making power in how that business will be run going forward. Previous knowledge of how the business operates is helpful, but certainly not required. In some cases, it can be a benefit to have no pre-existing knowledge of the business.
No matter your background, the right person for ERP project management is someone who is organized, can delegate, and is able to bring people together for consensus on critical business process issues. At its core, an ERP implementation is developing business process procedures using the ERP as a tool.
How does the ERP Project Manager get started?
ERP implementation project management is complex and it’s important to start off on the right foot. Once ERP has been purchased, the first step is to assemble the ERP project team. Ideally, the project team will include representatives from the major functional areas of the business, such as finance, manufacturing, inventory management, production, purchasing, sales, engineering, etc. (There could be many more, depending on the business doing the ERP implementation.) This group is typically the “core” team.
When choosing the core team, the ERP Project Manager should carefully consider the options. The core team members should have extensive knowledge of their functional areas, and should be respected by both the management above them and the rank-and-file employees below them. Core team members should be empowered to make decisions about how the business is going to run in their area. Additionally, they should be able to work as a team when integrating processes across the company (for example, the purchasing team leader should work well with the financials team leader when creating a process that spans both divisions).
Related: Common Structures of an ERP Team
What comes next?
Typically, the ERP Project Manager works directly with either the company that sold them the ERP solution or an implementation channel partner. Either way, these companies will have an implementation methodology. This is a framework of activities that needs to be followed to have a successful implementation. The ERP Project Manager should familiarize themselves with this methodology, as it is the path forward.
It is important for the ERP Project Manager to take direction from their implementer. These companies implement ERP for a living. Why pay them to help you implement, and then tell them how it should be done? You are investing in their experience and should trust it—you wouldn’t pay someone to redo your kitchen and tell them how to do it step-by-step. This is no different!
Are you ready to be a tiebreaker?
As the project begins moving, decisions will be made, processes designed, and compromises hammered out. This is all part of designing the best solution for the company. However, there are always going to be issues that the core team cannot agree upon. This is when the ERP Project Manager must get involved. It is critical that the ERP Project Manager asks questions, pushes back, thinks outside the box, and does everything possible to make sure the team members have considered all possible outcomes to an unresolved issue. If all of this has been done and the team is still at an impasse, then typically the ERP Project Manager has to make the final decision. At this point, all team members need to put the team and the project before themselves, and support the Project Manager’s decision.
What’s important now, and what’s not important now?
The largest risk posed to an ERP implementation is scope creep, or a project that starts with too large a scope. The ERP Project Manager must manage this. As the team becomes more educated about the ERP system, they’ll see more ways the software can help the business. This is fantastic, but it can work against you. If you add activities to the project that make it too big, you won't go live with the functionality that is critical to the company.
A good ERP Project Manager understands the difference between “critical” and “would be nice,” and keeps the team members focused on the primary objectives of the project. The items that are not part of the primary objectives don’t go away, though! Part of project management in ERP implementations is keeping this list of ideas alive and adding to it whenever the team members bring up such things. It then becomes a continuous improvement punch list you can attack once the primary ERP functionality has successfully gone live.
Think of the ERP Project Manager as a coach. The coach is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of the team. The coach must have enough detail to understand problems, but must also empower members of his team to make a good decisions. An ideal ERP Project Manager has people, leadership, and organizational skills, and knows how to apply them in a variety of situations.
If you are considering (or are being considered for) an ERP Project Manager position, check out our eBook called “ClearFocus: 6 Steps to Successfully Implement Your ERP.”
If you’re searching for an ERP solution, I suggest downloading our eBook called “How to Select ERP...and not regret it.” Or, if you’d prefer to have a common-sense conversation with someone who is not a salesperson, click here to schedule a free consultation with Visual South's president, Jack.