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Everyone loves a party and ERP project kick-offs are no exception. It’s a chance to talk about change, envision the future, meet people in your organization you may have had little or no interaction with.  While people may say that they like change, functional areas, country offices and organizations don’t like the change that a new ERP system imposes, unless it is part of the day-to-day DNA.

As the head of IT, once the curtain comes down on the kick-off meeting, there are many icebergs to navigate through. In an international ERP implementation, these icebergs are layered on top of years of good and not-so-good business decisions. Like a politician campaigning, you’ll need to beat a constant drum of communication while navigating daily and strategic factors.

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At a senior management level, you will be required to know what is strategically important for your peers while keeping them informed on how the new ERP system will help them meet their objectives. For periods in the project where things are not going well (and there will be many) these people will be the ones you will need to lean on for additional commitment from their resources.

Across the globe, it’s essential to have good relationships with the country managers. There will be times where they feel that they are not being listened to because corporate headquarters doesn’t understand the local market. A country manager can quickly become a problem child that drains time and money. If and when it makes sense, leverage your local IT staff to assist in resolving issues before they get out of hand.

Outside of the organization, you will have to understand the cultural weaknesses of the implementer, software vendor and third-party software solutions. Take the time prior to the project to understand how these organizations work – What is their culture? Where are their resources located? What is their chain of command? It’s ideal to know this in order to set expectations and manage internal personalities that are vocal and can impact end-users’ perception of the project.

Typically a core team consists of key end-users that understand the daily operations that enable products and/or services to reach customers on time. Be patient with this group because they will likely experience frustration and misunderstand their roles. It will take time for them to determine how to effectively work together.

With all of the external pressures that come with an international ERP implementation, don’t lose the relationship you have with your IT team. Explain the issues that you are dealing with, or they will only see the project from their point-of-view. If they feel they can be successful and have your support they will go over and above during critical moments in the project.

Navigating an international ERP implementation is a challenge so it is important to engage in constant communication. This will calm the fear of change that end-users across the globe are bound to experience.

Written by Geoff McPherson, Manager of Client Services at Panorama Consulting Solutions.

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