An ERP implementation failure can be a painful waste of time and money. All too often that failure is the direct result of poor planning between your organization and its IT services providers.

Taking the time to define business requirements and create a detailed project scope can prevent an ERP implementation from going off track. Here are four keys for project planning that will help ensure the ERP consultant, ERP vendor and/or systems integrator you hire delivers on time and on budget.

1.   Sweat the details – When a vendor or consultant is developing a proposal for an ERP implementation, it should take the time to create an actual requirements work order. That work order will serve as the foundation for a very detailed scoping document that should allow for a precise “not-to-exceed” cost estimate that clearly allows the customer to see the value in the work that is being proposed.

But be forewarned: Nailing down these details can take anywhere from two weeks to three months if done correctly. Why? Because when done the right way, the vendor providing your cost estimate will actually spend a lot of time “in the trenches,” visiting your warehouse floor and talking to multiple end-users in your organization to figure out their true needs. A vendor or consultant should take the time to learn about and understand your business requirements, even if it means visiting multiple work sites and talking to your end-users across the country.

Before you dismiss this step in the process as unnecessary, remember that this time spent hammering out details on the front end allows the vendor to be accurate with the proposed scope of work and the requirements in its project outline and contract. That level of detail in the vendor’s contract will provide much higher return on investment when it’s time to pull the trigger on the implementation.

2.   Get the right people on board – Staffing can become a roadblock when your in-house IT team — or the vendor you’ve contracted with — decides they know everything about the ERP implementation and how it should proceed. It’s an even bigger problem if they decide there is no reason to share their ideas with the finance or operations departments.

Whenever an IT project manager or ERP implementation provider decides to act alone, you’re almost guaranteed the project plan should go directly to the shredder. Technology is such a critical component of an organization’s success these days. Major IT decisions that impact the entire enterprise should involve all of the C-level executives.

3.   Make sure your vendor can earn your trust – An ERP implementation provider worth investing in will staff experts that can work with customers and have the skills and authority to act in the best interests of the client every step along the way of the implementation. If the person assigned to your implementation is always second guessing what needs to be done and delaying the project to get permission from his or her boss, you’re probably right to dismiss their “valuable” advice.

4.   Ask your ERP implementation services providers to be clear with the project budget – Before you accept any proposal or sign a contract, ask your vendor or consultant to detail how and where the budget will be allocated. When reviewing the proposed budget, be clear about your expectations and make sure the number you’re given will fully cover the proposed scope of work. While you may be tempted to accept a low-ball number with the hopes that you’re getting a bargain, not planning a budget correctly will actually turn out to be more expensive in the long run.

Nailing down the details is a task worth its weight in gold when it comes to major IT projects. Follow these four important tips to create a detailed project scope that will keep your ERP implementation on track and on budget.

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