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There is no such thing as ERP success without leadership and governance from the executive level. As much as some C-suiters would like to defer involvement in and responsibility for an ERP implementation to their IT department or some other functional area, it is absolutely critical that executive sponsorship is vocal, clear and consistent from day one of the ERP project for without this kind of visible executive buy-in, ERP failure is a very likely outcome.

Some of the key areas of involvement for an executive or executive team before, during and following an ERP system implementation include:

1. Defining success. Executives need to answer what the end goal of the ERP project is and what the benchmarks are that will indicate the project’s health. Success can mean different things to different people (and different end-users), so it is crucial that the executive level take a strong stance on this point or points.

2. Ensuring continued involvement. Rather than taking a hands-off approach and shirking duties to project leads, executives must ensure that they have regularly scheduled meetings to stay abreast of project status. Frequent debriefs allow the top level high visibility into the project and alert them to issues as they arise.

3. Providing oversight. Building on number two (above), executives must not just be aware of project issues but also must be capable of assessing and addressing them in a clear and strategic way. Endless discussion about the vagaries of an ERP system help no one. Instead, the escalation process must be properly defined (and adhered to) so that executive oversight is available when and where it matters most.

4. Knowing roles and responsibilities. Oversight is best provided when the executive level knows exactly who is responsible for what. For instance, who approves changes in scope or budget? Who makes the major operational decisions needed for ERP success? Who is ultimately responsible for decisions related to each business unit? To maintain executive buy-in and involvement, the project charter must define each individual’s roles and responsibilities at each stage of implementation.

5. Developing the ERP team and assessing its performance.  Given that much of an ERP implementation will be enabled by a project team, the executive level must have in place clear expectations, milestones and review processes to assess suitability for the team in the first place and ongoing performance as the project moves along. Getting straight on staff compensation, job functions and measures of success from the beginning will provide a strong foundation for ERP success.

Too often we see executives taking a laissez-faire attitude to an ERP implementation. Whether they’re not interested in the technical aspects, confused by the changes the system will impart, or simply bored by the whole thing, executives who are disinterested and disengaged can be the death knell for an ERP project. What we have found is that much of this behavior is due to the fact that executives are unsure exactly what their role in an implementation should be. Good project planning and documentation can alleviate much of this befuddlement by clearly stating expectations, goals, roles and processes.

To learn more tips for ERP success, please attend our free webinar, Lessons Learned from Failed ERP Implementations on Thursday, January 26 at 10 a.m. MST.