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Last week in Chicago, we hosted the most recent installment of our ongoing series of ERP Boot Camp events. Based on feedback and the level of engagement from participants, this was hands-down the most successful iteration of the dozen plus versions that we have hosted.

Although the sessions are intended to provide participants with a week’s worth of intense training in ERP implementation best practices, we always end up learning our share of lessons from attendees. Whether it be unique challenges that they may be facing or best practices that we hadn’t considered in the past, it seems that we are always learning new things from organizations about to embark on their enterprise software journeys.

We had several organizations attend last week’s Boot Camp, ranging from multi-national manufacturers and service providers to healthcare organizations. Here are a few lessons from among the roughly 20 participants, who are all early in their ERP implementation initiatives:

When it comes to ERP implementations, never underestimate the power of business transformation. One company that attended had a particularly interesting take on business transformation. We always tout the importance of treating ERP projects as business initiatives rather than technology-focused undertakings, but this multi-national company is taking this concept one step further: they are treating their ERP initiative as one of several components of an overall business transformation, complete with reengineering their delivery model, focusing on operations-wide business process reengineering and establishing an organizational change management strategy to support the overall transformation. As we have seen with other clients in the past, this type of focus is likely to bode well for this and other organizations that follow a similar path.

Organizational change management is probably more important than you think it is. It was interesting to see how many organizations at Boot Camp were admittedly unprepared for the organizational change management complexities of their ERP initiatives. In fact, in our closing session on day 3, I always like to ask for each participant to share their top 2 biggest lessons or “a-ha moments” from Boot Camp. This time, each and every organization mentioned something that was either directly or indirectly related to organizational change management. Many also stated that coming into Boot Camp, they were primarily focused on the technology aspects of their projects but were more focused on this critical success factor after the three-day training. As they and other successful organizations have found, ERP implementations simply do not and will not succeed without effective organizational change management.

Don’t be fooled by unrealistic expectations. This latest Boot Camp was a bit unlike other events we’ve hosted in that every participant was very early in their ERP initiatives. As a result, most are in similar stages of the ERP software selection process – and the frequent mismanaged expectations that go along with it. We heard many stories about the “quick hit” implementation proposals that will be impossible to execute, the software “best practices” that will eliminate the need for business process definition, the downplaying of organizational change management, and a host of other misinformation common in evaluation processes. One of the keys to a successful ERP implementation is to define a project plan, budget and resource needs that are realistic and give you the best chance for success. Misaligned expectations early in the project typically lead to a domino effect of bad decisions and corners getting cut later in the project.

While there were many other topics discussed during last week’s event, these were just a few of the biggest and most interesting lessons from our participants. The good news is that these organizations are all headed in the right direction and have a clear understanding of where their focus needs to be as they continue down the path of ERP success.

Learn more by registering for our upcoming ERP Boot Camp and Vendor Showdown in Vail, CO in September.