One of the most important roles provided by external consultants contracted to support the ERP software selection, implementation, and post-implementation processes is the managing of expectations which will arise within executive management, project team members, and personnel throughout the organization. Recognizing, reacting to, and effectively controlling these expectations can have as great an impact on the overall perceived and real success of an ERP project as the effective management of the project plan and attainment of defined benefits.
It is critical that throughout each phase of an ERP selection or implementation project that appropriate expectations are created for all parts of the organization as well as those external entities that may be affected by this change – customers, vendors and other business partners. The key to formulating realistic expectations is the design and execution of a robust and effective communication process that is integrated into each phase of the project, from the decision to transition to a new business system to well beyond the project’s completion.
Once the decision to implement a new business system has been made communication of this decision, the reasons that led to making it, and its major objectives should be made clear to the organization. This explanation should also include the role of the consultants that will be assigned to the project if and when the decision to use consulting expertise has been determined.
Once in place the consulting arm of the project team should provide assistance in establishing a continuous process of communication designed to inform all members of the organization as to the methodologies that will be utilized to execute the transition, the project phases, the various roles and responsibilities of personnel assigned to the project, the responsibilities of those personnel who will be asked to support it, the inevitable compromises that will need to be made to ensure its success, and the anticipated timetable.
Having established this initial understanding of the overall project elements, a communication process must be established to provide the organization with an ongoing and realistic view of the project’s progress including any changes in approach or any impediments which may have arisen which may affect the meeting of expectations. In this regard the role of the consultant is critical in ensuring that a realistic representation of the project’s condition is communicated throughout is implementation. The tendency by internal project team personnel to avoid communicating difficult issues so as to maintain a positive view of the project can in fact have a reverse impact if unrealistic expectations are created and then not met. The consultant’s responsibility to provide an unprejudiced analysis of project’s evolution must extend to ensuring that all communications are unencumbered by any misconceptions so that management is in the best position to make appropriate decisions to positively impact any hurdles that may arise and make appropriate operational or financial decisions in response to them.
The communication tools utilized in managing expectations will vary based upon the needs and capabilities within the organization but should be chosen based on their effectiveness. Such communication opportunities as regular executive staff progress reports, functional department updates, project promotion campaigns, newsletters, etc. are examples but the process needs to fit the structure and culture of the organization.
Only by placing an emphasis on developing realistic and supportable expectations can those resources assigned to carry it to fruition effectively perform their responsibilities and gain the trust and support of the rest of the organization throughout the project’s progress as well as once the new systems, procedures and policies have been established as part of the day to day life of the enterprise. Panorama Consulting recognizes the importance of building proper expectations as a key ingredient to the success of any ERP selection and implementation project and has fully integrated the required communication processes into its methodologies. And just as importantly Panorama recognizes its responsibility to provide its clients with realistic and constructive expectations in fulfilling its role as a consultant and has as one of its primary objectives the meeting and exceeding of these anticipated support functions. Learn more about Panorama’s independent ERP and IT consulting services.
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