Right now I am working with a client whom we got involved with “late.” By late, I mean that we would like to be about three months ahead of where we are right now. We are in the midst of an ERP implementation and we have the go-live bearing down on us. We have data migration and testing to do. We have training to do. We have a core team that is performing heroically. They are also a pinch point in our progress because they are our sole source for all of the critical path plan tasks; data, processes, testing, and training.

We are working hard to stay clear about what is “the best possible outcome” and what are the priorities to accomplish it. I have also been thinking about the value of getting and staying ahead of the “power curve” when implementing an ERP software solution. Being ahead of the curve is crucial to both the technical ERP implementation and OCM (Organizational Change Management).

Here is the metaphor that I thought of to describe the situation. Running a marathon. If you have never done it, running a marathon is a pretty simple thing to do. You start running and keep running until you have covered the 26.2 miles to get to the finish line. During the race the normal marathoner takes about 26,000 steps. This is roughly the same number of steps in an ERP implementation project.

My definition of a successful marathon is finishing and not wishing you were dead. It takes about 16 weeks to prepare adequately for a marathon, from a solid level of conditioning. During the 16 weeks, the preparation includes various kinds of training runs over different but increasing distances. The training mileage for the 16 weeks will total about 600 miles.

Every marathon is hard. It is just part of the deal. The genius of preparation is that a marathon runner is going to deal with the pain one way or another. It cannot be avoided, only managed. If a runner does not adequately prepare for a marathon, one of two things will happen; the runner will not finish and wish he had prepared better, or the runner will finish and wish he had prepared better. The amount of damage that a marathon can do to a well-prepared body is significant. An unprepared body risks a variety of injuries, including catastrophic ones. There is no substitute for just “doing the work”. Planning the timing of the work makes it much more manageable.

An ERP implementation is pretty much the same. They are all hard. Correctly planned and broken down, they are not hugely complicated. They are long and demanding. A successful ERP implementation is a lot like a successful marathon; finishing with a good time and with a minimum amount of damage. “Doing the work” in the right amounts and at the right times will always pay a company back.

The OCM tasks are particularly designed to protect the users. In the same way that inadequate training ultimately punishes a marathoner, inadequate and/or poorly timed go-live preparation will result in ERP injuries. The injuries will be felt by everyone; the users, the company, customers, suppliers and even shareholders.

Completing an ERP implementation with success is a very gratifying experience. There is so much that goes into it and it impacts so many different groups of people, it is critically important.

There is no athletic achievement I have had that compares with the feeling of crossing the finish line of a marathon. There is so much that goes into it, it becomes important.

We value the things that are the hardest and ERP implementations are hard – which is why doing them right makes all the difference in the world.

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