As software expert witnesses, we’ve had an up-close look at some of the main issues that lead to ERP failure – and they aren’t usually technical in nature.

Instead, the primary reason that many projects fail is ineffective project leadership. A bad project manager can derail an implementation destined for success and turn it into one that ends up in the tank (or in court). 

Today, we’re looking more closely at project leadership issues and outlining the telltale signs of competence vs incompetence.

What is a Good Project Manager?

Before we dive into the traits that make a project manager unfit for the job, let’s talk about the positives. What makes someone a good project manager and how can you determine if those traits exist in your current project manager?

There are a few common characteristics to look for:

1. Project Responsibility

A good project leader doesn’t shrug off their duties. They understand that they are the person responsible for the ERP implementation, and they treat the initiative like a mini-company of which they are the “CEO.”

They’re intimately familiar with the budget and timeline to which they must adhere, and they know how each ERP project team member can contribute. They define roles and responsibilities early, and actively participate at every juncture. 

2. Industry Knowledge

Good project managers are experts in their respective industries. They take a big-picture approach to the project and understand how it fits into the greater market. 

They’re also up-to-date on what their competitors are doing and are bent on doing it more efficiently. While they’re well versed in the latest trends defining their niche, they’re more focused on delivering results than chasing a fad. 

3. Organizational Skills

Organization naturally ranks high on the list of skills a good project manager should possess. Yet, this goes beyond simply keeping things in order.

These professionals know how to prioritize tasks and structure business requirements in a way that ensures no wires get crossed and no deliverables go missing.

Most importantly, they’re not only precise with their documents but also with their time. For example, they can run meetings that are efficient and productive, without wasted downtime. If you actually look forward to a meeting that your manager holds, it’s a sign they’re doing it right. 

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4. Proactive Perspective

A good project manager doesn’t wait until a project derails to take action. They anticipate risks and vulnerabilities before they occur and put steps in place to mitigate them. 

Likewise, they brainstorm what questions or issues might arise during the implementation and clearly address them to instill confidence in their team. At the same time, they provide reports in advance and are exceedingly time-conscious with their tasks. 

What is a Bad Project Manager?

There are two sides to every coin. Just as a good project manager can lead an ERP software implementation to success, the opposite also holds true.

As you evaluate your project leadership, it’s important to know which traits are indicative of an ill fit. Here are the ones to look out for:

1. Offloading Responsibilities

A bad project manager loves nothing more than to say, “I’m just here to keep you guys in order.”

They shift responsibility to each team member without assuming any themselves. More than inaptitude, this reveals a lack of understanding around their role in moving the project forward.

You might hear them complain that they don’t have enough resources or are working off an unrealistic budget or timeline. This signals that they aren’t invested in the effort enough to understand the power they wield.

2. Excuses on Demand

While a good project manager understands the industry and positions their project competitively, a bad one is too busy making excuses to make progress.

They act like they’re always underwater, and they love to talk about the reasons why: there are too many meetings, too many balls in the air, or too many issues to solve.

Instead of adding to their knowledge base, they’re stuck in a cycle of catch-up, unable to innovate.

3. Unstructured and Unorganized

We’ve all been to a bad meeting that went on too long or never articulated its point. When project managers have no sense of time or structure, it’s nearly impossible to define project requirements, hold people accountable, and deliver real business results. 

Without a solid sense of organization, a bad manager is stuck demanding deliverables from team members, and then wondering why they aren’t ready.

What to do if You Have a Bad Project Manager Leading Your ERP Project

Biting your nails as you read the above list? If your ERP project manager possesses those less-than-desirable traits, your project isn’t necessarily doomed. Here are a few steps you can take to fortify your implementation and make sure it succeeds:

1. Bring in Support Competencies

There are several key team members who can offer valuable support to your project manager. These include:

  • Project Planner – Think of this person as the CFO to your manager’s role as CEO. Together, these two can carry out critical duties, keep projects on time and on budget, and maintain quality levels
  • Organizational Development Analyst – This person assumes more of an HR-type role. They’re skilled at identifying and solving the human issues that can negatively impact a project, such as change resistance.
  • Resource Manager – This person manages the resources required for the project and makes sure everyone has what they need. In addition, they serve as the document control expert, maintaining records of:
    • Project updates
    • Standards
    • Methods
    • Lessons learned

 With a solid support system in place, you can be sure you’ve filled any gaps that exist.

2. Provide Opportunities for Continuous Improvement

There are many ways that you can help a sub-par project manager improve:


  • Provide access to project management education
  • Enlist a mentor to offer support and guidance
  • Assign directed PM-related experiences to improve competency

3. Switch Up Roles

If the fit still doesn’t seem right, consider delegating that person away from project management and toward a role that’s better suited for their expertise. For instance, someone who struggles as a PM might soar as a project planner.

The Importance of ERP Project Management

It can be difficult to spot a bad project manager. Often, critical issues don’t become clear until you’re already deep into the project. 

If you think it’s too late to take action, it’s probably not. ERP project recovery can be very effective at turning around a troubled project.

Our ERP consulting firm can provide project auditing and recovery services to help you get back on track and claim the business value you deserve. Contact us below to learn more.

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