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iStock_000030504824MediumAccording to our 2014 ERP Report, nearly one in five respondents (16%) indicate that their organization’s ERP project was a failure. That is a lot of good intentions gone wrong, not to mention millions of dollars and thousands of man hours. With failure rates this high, many organizations shy away from ERP implementations and actively decide that manual entries, paper spreadsheets stored in three-ring binders and legacy software from 1995 are preferable to starting an ERP selection and implementation.

I won’t lie. ERP selection and implementation seems overwhelming at first and I’ve often heard the excuse, “But it’s hard,” from top-level management as their number one reason for not starting an ERP implementation. However, sometimes we just have to put on our big-boy and big-girl pants and solider on.

One of the best ways to help alleviate some of the “but it’s hard” syndrome is to hire an outside Project Management Office (PMO) to provide project management oversight. In a nutshell, a PMO is a small group of people who standardize and follow project management policies, processes and methods to ensure a project is on time, within scope and on budget. Most PMO Managers are certified in PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge) or PRINCE2 (Project in Controlled Environments). These certifications are consistent with several standards such as ISO9000, U.S. Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) and CMMI.

In my biased opinion, an outside PMO can make an ERP implementation a success and can also snatch a failing ERP implementation from the jaws of defeat. Here are a few reasons why:

A PMO’s sole job is to ensure project success. In most organizations, an ERP implementation is among an array of tasks on an employee’s to-do list. Employees have their day-to-day duties to perform before they can contribute to any side-projects like an ERP implementation.  All of the tasks on a PMOs to-do list all relate to project success. A PMO that cannot make a project successful will not last long in the industry.

A PMO has seen all of the scenarios play out before. The best PMOs have many years of experience in a given industry. They have worked with large organizations, small organizations and those that fall somewhere in between.  These PMOs can tell great war stories about how they turned a project around, made a strong personality stand down and walked uphill in a snowstorm both ways on a sprained ankle carrying three laptops to meet a deadline.  Because they have seen it all before, they know how to mitigate a situation and even prevent an issue from becoming a serious situation.

A PMO can both pull rank and ignore rank. Because the PMO generally reports directly to the uppermost management, PMOs are given wide latitude in whom they can talk to and what they can request. Although PMOs strive to foster strong relationships among the workgroups, at times, they have to be the bad guys to get work done. This means that they don’t have to (and shouldn’t) work through the layers of management and office politics to accomplish tasks. The PMO can go straight to the source of information to get what they need, and if an employee won’t comply, the PMO will have upper management’s backing to persuade the employee to reconsider. Rarely do internal employees, even internal PMOs, have this type of leverage to get work done because they usually must play the within the parameters of organizational politics to keep their boss(es) happy.

Every organization, especially those in the public sector, should hire an experienced PMO who is focused on ERP success. To learn more, visit our Project Management Oversight page.

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