Executive buy-in is one of the most critical success factors of an ERP implementation. Executives provide the vision, strategy and decision-making capabilities necessary to reap all of the business benefits possible from a new or upgraded ERP system. But even executives aren’t perfect. Sometimes they are simply to busy to be involved in an ERP project; sometimes they believe it’s solely the dominion of the IT department and sometimes they just don’t understand how important enterprise software can be to their organization’s current and future health.

Whatever the reason, it’s always troubling when the C-suite begs off or “insources” an initiative of this magnitude. Lower level staff are left with the onus of making difficult decisions that affect the operations of nearly every aspect of the company. Further, they often must make these decisions without the resources, information or big picture operational understanding that their bosses either have access to or have developed over years in the field.

Recognizing the value of the C-suite’s involvement is the first step towards getting it. If you’ve been tasked with overseeing an ERP implementation and told the buck stops with you, don’t accept it. You need executive support, buy-in and feedback to achieve ERP success and it is job number one to get it. Following are some tips to help:

1. Find out what the executive team actually wants from the ERP system. This may sound simple, but even the process of making them sit down and hammer it out will increase their involvement. Explain that you simply cannot move forward without knowing what they want, when they want it and how they want to measure it.

2. Make their job easier. Don’t leave it to the executives to figure out what they need to do to see real benefit from an ERP system. Educate yourself first about ERP implementation and organizational change management best practices and then call in a third-party consultant like Panorama to explain and help with the process. C-suiters may be more prone to listening to an independent expert than someone on their own staff; recognize it and outsource — it’ll make your job (and their jobs) a lot easier.

3. Get some numbers together. If the top brass aren’t grasping the seriousness of the situation, turn to the quants. Pull figures from our 2012 ERP Report or Clash of the Titans: An Independent Comparison of SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics and introduce them to just how difficult it is to bring an ERP implementation in on time and on budget or to recognize full business benefits post-implementation. Don’t gild the lily; ERP failure statistics are pretty compelling and can go far in selling the need for involvement and commitment at the highest levels.

“Managing up,” as they say, is one of the trickiest and most delicate operations an employee can undertake. The point to get across is that you want the ERP system to — if not revolutionize — at least better the organization’s way of doing business and to achieve it, you need input and buy-in from the real decision-makers. It’s your job on the line if the system fails, so don’t pretend this is negotiable.

To find out more management techniques, watch last week’s webinar, Five Key Organizational Change Management Challenges With ERP Implementations, and register for this week’s, Crossing the ERP Adoption Gap — a joint presentation from Panorama and Allen Communication Learning Services.

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