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A Project Leader’s Role in an ERP Implementation

9/5/18 10:00 AM

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ERP implementation takes a village, and the village needs a leader

ERP implementations can – and have – failed. We have written many blogs about how to avoid that, how to build the right team, how to succeed, and even what to do post-implementation to stay successful. Here are some examples:

(For more, click here and search on the term “implement.”)

In this blog, I’m going to take a deeper look at the role of the project leader. Implementing ERP is not a solo venture; it’s a team sport. And whether its baseball or business, a great leader elevates the entire team. So, what does that person look like? Here are four characteristics that great ERP implementation project leaders have:


If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there? We’ve heard this before, and it’s true. For this project, the goal isn’t to implement ERP software. That’s only a part of what you are trying to do; the project is bigger than that. The mission is to achieve the business goals that were set. (Don’t have defined business goals? Read this.)

Replacing the old ERP with the new ERP will be an element of your business goals. The new ERP needs to be configured and new processes and procedures developed that support the business goals. Remember, ERP is just a set of tools. On its own, it changes nothing. How you use it can transform companies. That’s why implementing ERP is not the goal. You want to use it to achieve something and having that vision is critical for a project leader.

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Humility is an admirable trait in general, but it’s particularly important here. The project leader probably has not implemented ERP for a living before and there’s a good chance implementing ERP isn’t anywhere in their background. Here is where the humility comes in: It’s fine that the leader isn’t an expert on implementing ERP. A good leader embraces their lack of knowledge and becomes an excellent listener. The people to listen to are the consultants who implement ERP for a living. In exchange, the consultants will have the humility to know they aren’t experts in your business; the project leader is. (If the project leader isn’t an expert with the subject matter at hand, your consultants should have access to someone who is.)

Remember: Embracing your lack of knowledge is a strength, not a weakness. It opens doors to learning and fosters good communication. Besides, the consultants see right through someone who is faking their expertise.


The project leader of an ERP implementation is going to make, or assist in making, hundreds of decisions. That person needs to have the authority to do so. I’m not suggesting you give that person unquestionable authority or toss aside a chain of command. But I am saying if the project leader isn’t trusted to make a lot of informed decisions, you don’t have the right project leader.


The person with the traits above probably also has a full-time job. Therefore, they do not have extra time to spend on an ERP implementation project. Unaddressed, this issue of a project leader’s time constraints will derail an ERP implementation. Notice I said “will” and not “might” derail.

How this is addressed varies by company, but it usually involves removing enough responsibilities from the project leader’s regular job so that 60 to 75 percent of their time is freed up to work on the ERP implementation. I know this is easier said than done, but the project is destined to derail if it is not done.


Everything I write about is based on my real-world experiences. I’ve been around, I’ve seen a few things. If you’d like to have a conversation about your ERP needs, let me know by clicking on the image below.

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Jack Shannon

Written by Jack Shannon

Jack is the President of Visual South and has been working with ERP since 1996 when he bought it in his role as a Plant Manager. Since 1998 he has worked for Visual South with roles in consulting, sales and executive management.