Most ERP software implementations don’t fail overnight. They fail over weeks, months, or even years of poor decision-making and execution.

Unfortunately, most organizations and project teams don’t recognize the signs of pending failure until it’s too late. Much like the “frog in boiling water” analogy, project teams typically don’t feel like they’re failing until they’ve crossed the point of no return. This is because they are too close to the project to see the bigger picture, don’t have the experience base to know any better, and/or ignore many of the pertinent warning signs.

Through our years of helping companies either avoid failure or recover their failed implementations, we have identified some of the most common warning signs overlooked by project teams. Below are just a few of the warning signs you should be looking for:

Your Organizational Change Management Plan is Incomplete and Consists Primarily of Training

This is the most common failure point we see. If you don’t have formal organizational change management activities planned before end-user training, your project is in trouble. Most “real” changes happen (or should happen) prior to training, so be sure you have incorporated a structured communications plan, change impact analysis, customized training materials, organizational readiness assessments, and other critical change activities to make your initiative successful.

You Don’t Have Multiple Iterations of Conference Room Pilots or User Acceptance Testing

Poor testing and user acceptance is the Achilles heel of many system integrators and ERP vendors. A “working” technical solution doesn’t necessarily mean it is going to work for your business, yet your vendor is most likely to focus on the technical aspects of training. This doesn’t really matter, though, unless you’ve fully tested the system to ensure that it fits your business processes, the data has been fully tested, integration with other systems has been vetted, and security roles and profiles are ready for prime time. As a general rule of thumb, you should have at least three iterations of conference room pilots or user acceptance testing built into your project plan.

SAP vs. Oracle Case Study

SAP and Oracle both invest heavily in cloud technology. However, our client was skeptical about cloud scalability and unsure if the products were mature and proven.

You Don’t Have a Formalized Process for Customization or Configuration Requests

Even if you are a collaborative organization that generally listens to the needs of employees, you should be relatively inflexible when it comes to customization requests. You’re on a slippery slope once you start approving customization requests, so we typically advise clients to ensure that the executive steering committee approve all customization requests to minimize risks and rationalize any potential need to change the system. This should be formally baked into your project charter and project governance processes.

Pre-Implementation Planning and Business Process Mapping

Beginning implementation of a new system can be very exciting, so it’s understandable why you and your team members may want to jump in and start doing stuff right away. However, you need to have your ducks in a row up front to ensure that you are making the best use of your time, budget, and resources. Companies that take the time for a pre-implementation phase to map out business processes, define project governance, ramp up project resources, and tighten up overarching implementation plans generally implement more effectively and less expensively than their more impatient peers. It may be in the best interest of your vendor and system integrator to the let the meter start running on their technical resources right away, but it’s not in yours. Remember, it’s your project, so you should set the tempo of the project to fit your needs from the very beginning.

You Aren’t Conducting an Independent Assessment of Your Implementation

Unless you manage ERP implementations every day, you’re not going to notice the inevitable warning signs that are often the “canary in the coalmine.”  Even your technical vendor, VAR, or system integrator isn’t going to notice these same warning signs in their narrow focus on the technological aspects of the project. This is where outside, independent expertise and guidance can save you a great deal of time, money, risk – and heartburn. For example, Panorama provides independent ERP project oversight and project management services to ensure that you are getting the most bang for your buck out of your enterprise software investment.

These are just a few of the dozens of warning signs that you need to watch for in your project. If you’re worried that your project is already off track, then don’t worry: contact me to learn more about our ERP project recovery services to help get your project back on the rails.

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