A successful ERP implementation relies on the engagement of many stakeholders, but the involvement of executive-level leadership is especially critical. Considering the vast number of variables that affect an ERP implementation, effective governance from the very top of an organization is an absolute must. A tried and true method for organizing and deploying executive involvement in an ERP implementation is organization an executive steering committee. This group, which is generally comprised of executive-level individuals from ERP stakeholder functional areas, provides several key functions that are integral to ERP implementation success. So what exactly is the role of an executive steering committee? There are several answers to this question all of which are correct:
Role #1: To provide direction and alignment. Perhaps the most critical role of the executive steering committee is overall leadership. Effective ERP implementations are aligned with organizational trajectory and culture. The executive steering committee ensures that a project stays on course and achieves the desired benefits through championing the project within the organization. The committee helps secure buy-in at all levels of the organization and helps drive project branding. In this way, the ERP project becomes an extension of the enterprise itself, rather than a time-consuming obligation that gets in the way of regular operations.
Role # 2: To approve project changes and decisions. In a perfect world, ERP implementations would proceed as planned without ever needing course adjustments. Unfortunately, it is exceedingly rare that an implementation as large as an ERP project proceeds without hiccups. While proper planning and expectation setting can mitigate the need for extensive changes, the scope, budget and schedule changes that invariably occur require executive-level approval in order to be executed. This is also true of forward path decisions that have an effect on the entirety of the project. When an important decision needs to be made, it is escalated to the executive steering committee to ensure the best course of action for the organization.
Role # 3: To provide leverage for execution of strategies. Related to role #2 is the leverage that the steering committee provides as executives in the organization. When changes or strategies are proposed by a project team, the leverage of the steering committee can be a powerful force in efficient execution. A common example of this is securing resources such as subject matter experts (SMEs) for each functional area. Securing project time during a busy work day can sometimes be opposed by a given SME’s department manager. The executive steering committee has the clout to ensure that the right people devote part of their work day to the ERP project when necessary.
Although there are a multitude of other functions that an executive steering committee can provide, the above roles are the most common and arguably the most critical functions of the steering committee. Identifying, organizing and deploying the executive steering committee is a crucial component of a successful ERP implementation, and those organizations that pay necessary attention to this step will be rewarded for their effort. Learn more by watching our on-demand webinar, Lessons Learned From Best-in-Class ERP Implementations.
Written by Ian Doubleday, ERP Consultant at Panorama Consulting Solutions.