Unfortunately, ERP implementations still aren’t any easier than they were 15 years ago when I started in the ERP world. Despite the enterprise software industry’s best intentions to mitigate risk with cloud ERP systems, implementation accelerators, and other tools, ERP failure rates are still high and most projects still take more time and money than expected. For example, our 2012 ERP Report, which will be released next week, shows that nearly half (44-percent) of all ERP implementations fail to deliver at least half of their expected business benefits.

The even more troubling trend we’re seeing at Panorama Consulting is an acceleration of ERP failures and lawsuits. We are seeing a spike in demand for our ERP consultants to provide guidance to implementations that have gotten off track or to attorneys involved in lawsuits related to implementation failures. We have a very solid and exhaustive process for helping clients assess their implementations and create a project recovery roadmap, which clients are taking full advantage of in recent months. While this is good news for us in that there is more demand for our services than ever, it is bad news for the industry and the organizations looking to implement new enterprise software solutions. Whether it’s software from SAP, Oracle, Epicor, Infor, or any other ERP vendor, the reality is that it is still difficult to implement a new system effectively without stepping into a landmine or two along the way.

The good news is that there are ways to get an ERP implementation out of the gutter. As we’re demonstrating with three clients we’re currently working with, there are a number of things you can do to get your project back on track. Here are three tips that are likely to make a difference on your troubled ERP implementation:

1. Look to organizational change management for low-hanging fruit. While it is tempting to blame your vendor or the ERP software itself, we find that most ERP failures result from organizational change management issues. In fact, if you evaluate the organizational change, communications, and training activities that you are and aren’t doing as part of your project, you are likely to find significant deficiencies and opportunities for improvement. It’s usually people that make a project fail, not the software, so more effective organizational change management will help mitigate this challenge. We often look to areas such as organizational impact, job design, process definition, customized training, and targeted employee communications as opportunities to “fix” the people side of the ERP implementation equation. Not only is this “people side” crucially important and often overlooked, but it is typically less costly than buying an entirely new ERP system or customizing to force the software to address the organizational resistance you may be facing.

2. Revisit your implementation plan. Most ERP implementation plans are flawed from the start. Unrealistic expectations, unclearly defined milestones and resource requirements, and missing key activities are some of the common problems we see when clients ask us to get their projects back on track. Organizations too often rely on a project plan provided by their ERP vendor or system integrator, which usually focus too much on the technical components of an implementation on not enough on the business, process, and organizational aspects required to make a project successful. Implementation success is never guaranteed, but failure is guaranteed without a realistic and complete plan.

3. Know when to fold ‘em. Like Kenny Rogers once said, you’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. It may be time to hit the reset button on your enterprise software initiative. It may also be time to ditch an attempted ERP implementation and replace it with software that is a better fit for your organization. Or it may be a matter of some of the less drastic changes outlined above. One of the benefits of working with an independent ERP implementation consulting firm such as Panorama is that we help our clients make objective assessments of whether it’s time to head a different direction with the organization’s ERP strategy.

While a troubled ERP implementation is never fun, it is not as bad as an ERP failure and there are always ways to get your project and your team back on track. With the right expertise and toolset, your project can be recovered and even rejuvenated.

Find out more about both ERP failure and ERP success by attending my interactive webinar tomorrow, Lessons Learned from Failed ERP Implementations.

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