If you’re beginning an ERP implementation, you’re probably wondering, “Who needs to be on the ERP project team, and how much time will they need to dedicate to the project?”

Providing a detailed answer will require an understanding of what it takes to build a winning core team.


Who Should be on Your ERP Project Team?

Depending on the size of the organization and the scope of your project plan, your team might range anywhere from 15 members to just a few. At minimum, you need representation from each of your organization’s functional areas. Look for people who understand multiple parts of the business, not just their own little world.

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If you’re using ERP consulting services, the consultants likely will recommend that you secure a certain level of commitment from certain internal groups in order to augment external resources. Leveraged appropriately, the following groups can facilitate a more effective ERP selection, implementation and/or business transformation:

1. Executives

Every successful ERP project needs an engaged executive team. Executives must be ready and willing to kick-off the project and remain active participants.

It’s important to have an executive sponsor for your ERP project. This person will be heavily involved in the selection and implementation process, giving guidance when difficult decisions arise. Executive sponsors will encourage employee buy-in by displaying unwavering commitment to the ERP project.

2. IT Team

An ERP project should be a collaborative endeavor, where your IT team is heavily involved. Your IT team will be essential, not just in implementation, but also in maintaining your ERP system.

However, as the demand for skilled IT professionals continues to rise, many companies are finding it difficult to procure IT resources for their ERP projects. If your team is lacking IT skills, consider providing training opportunities or look for outsourcing opportunities.

3. HR Team

You might not know it, but the human resources professionals that you employ might be some key contributors to your ERP project. HR professionals can help you obtain external resources for the ERP project. Many companies need external resources for backfilling.

In addition, HR has their ear to the ground and will often know about the roadblocks employees encounter. This is helpful for identifying pain points as well as processes that are redundant or inefficient. Your HR department also can be of great assistance with organizational change management.

4. Employees who can Help With ERP Selection

ERP selection involves requirements gathering. Your project team can prepare employees for requirements gathering sessions by developing workshop guides, which get employees thinking about their processes. The project team also is responsible for conducting requirements gathering sessions and ensuring all essential requirements from all departments are documented and prioritized.

ERP selection also involves business process reengineering and ERP vendor demonstrations. Your project team can ensure the right people are involved in these activities. While these people may not be project team members, they should be heavily involved in the selection process. Involvement facilitates project buy-in and organizational alignment.

5. Employees who can be Change Agents

Change agents are team members across the organization who support your ERP implementation strategies and goals. The most important change agent is the project manager. This point person should be capable of leading the project team and demonstrating accountability and transparency.

Change agents are responsible for communicating goals and status updates to employees. Change agents create excitement and help diffuse rumors by being accessible and willing to answer questions.

6. Employees who can Manage Training

Other change agents are the team members responsible for training. They often take on the role of the “super user,” – people who not only buy into the change, but who also know how to make the most of the new system.

Super users might host workshops or provide personalized instruction and assistance to ensure employees are ready and able to operate the new ERP solution. While super users don’t replace formal training, they make it comfortable for employees to ask questions.

Project Team Personality Traits

Organizations must identify skill sets and personality traits that contribute to business transformation success. Professors Kenneth Benne and Paul Sheats published a study, Functional Roles of Group Members, in which they identified key personality traits that contribute to strong teams. Here are five of those personality traits:

1. The Cheerleader

This team member should encourage other project team members to participate and recognize them for their contributions. This role is useful for encouraging engagement on both the project team and throughout the organization.

2. The Peacemaker

This member helps project team members reach a consensus when compromise is necessary. Peacemakers focus on the success of the organization as a whole. This role is useful when defining and prioritizing business processes.

3. The Sergeant-at-Arms

This member ensures the project team meets deadlines and expectations while adhering to the organization’s core values. This role can help develop strong project controls and governance and gently remind team members of these guidelines.

4. The Good-Humor Man

This member helps relieve the tension and anxiety of business transformation. The right amount of jest can lighten the mood and reenergize team members.

5. The Contrarian

This member is a critical thinker and innovator who is not afraid to share their opinion. This role can challenge project team members to think about the project from a people and process perspective instead of a technical perspective. The contrarian can also ensure that the project team preserves the organization’s competitive advantage during business process management. They are long-term thinkers who can help align the ERP project with the organizational vision.

How to Build an ERP Project Team

It is important to start building your ERP implementation team before ERP selection to avoid falling into the trap of poorly resourced teams, lack of representation from key business areas or low accountability. Below are a few things to consider when assembling your project team:

1. Seek Executive Sponsorship

Executives can have a strong influence on who is selected to serve on a project team so it’s critical that executives are on board with the goals of the project. The project manager is responsible for ensuring that executives are well-aware of project scope, project budget and project resource requirements – and aligned in terms of overall goals and project priority – so that executives can make informed decisions when helping project managers choose team members.

2. Look for Strong Communicators

Some organizations build their project team based on who they believe to be the smartest or most technically skilled. While technical expertise and operational knowledge are important, communication skills are also valuable, especially when the project team must execute a change management plan.

Communication is also essential during requirements gathering. Team members will need to be vocal during this phase to ensure the business requirements from their department are represented. Ensuring all business requirements are met in the new ERP system is essential for ERP selection.

3. Make the ERP Implementation the Team’s Top Priority

At key points throughout the project, your project team may need to devote their entire focus to the ERP project rather than their day jobs. In a perfect world, the project team would be fully dedicated to the project during these times, but that’s not feasible for most organizations.

Project managers and executives must help the project team prioritize work, so the project is a top priority. Some organizations staff their project teams with a certain amount of external resources to ensure project team members can more fully focus on the ERP project.

If your organization’s communication about the project have been sparse, your project team probably doesn’t understand the importance of the project’s success. Overcome this hurdle by taking the time to talk to address concerns on an individual basis before assigning responsibilities. If some of your staff are already up to their ears in another major project, respect the preexisting situation and try to limit their involvement in the ERP project until the time is right.

4. Clearly Define Roles, Responsibilities and Accountability Measures

Project team members should be assigned responsibilities in accordance with their strengths, experience level and bandwidth. Begin defining roles and responsibilities at the beginning of the project to ensure accountability and representation from key business functions. Responsibilities can include anything from process definition to end-user training.

You can use a project charter to assign responsibilities for each phase of the project. The project charter defines exactly who is responsible for what as well as how decisions should be made and how issues should be resolved.

In addition to defining what team members are responsible for, you also should define what they’re not responsible for. For example, final sign-off on future state business processes and decisions about the organization’s operational model should not be driven by the project team but the executive steering committee. In several of our expert witness engagements, we have seen steering committees delegate everything to the project team.

5. Avoid Bad Hires

Not only can a bad hire derail an ERP project by not performing their duties, but they can impact the attitude of other employees. These employees may already be on edge because of organizational changes when a bad hire comes along and gives them another reason to resist change.

Many companies don’t know how to hire for an ERP project. They don’t know what questions to ask, how to evaluate technical skills or how to assess cultural fit. Panorama’s IT Staffing services help organizations overcome this hurdle. We offer a flexible array of contract, contract-to-hire and permanent placement services.

How to Find a Good ERP Project Manager

If a company has a weak project manager, no one knows who is responsible for what or whether progress is being made. Here is a list of five qualities a project manager must possess for your ERP project to succeed:

1. Organized

People waste time when they are hunting for lost emails or switching between devices to find what they need. Being organization not only increases efficiency but helps make and reinforce good impressions.

Every workplace has at least one desk that is heaped with files. If keeping a desk tidy is difficult for your project manager, how are they going to handle more complex tasks?

2. Punctual

Punctuality sets the tone for organizational conduct. If a project manager is late to meetings or misses deadlines, this sets the tone for all employees. The best project managers are always early. “I didn’t have time,” is never an unacceptable answer unless there was an extenuating circumstance.

3. Transparent

When project managers are upfront with employees about the status of the ERP project, it helps build trust between management and employees. Additionally, making information available to all employees empowers them to make better decisions and produces a product of higher quality.

Closely related to transparency is receptivity toward the thoughts and opinions of employees. The best project managers listen to the people who are in the weeds, performing the details of a much bigger picture.

4. Experienced in Your Industry

Given the choice between a fledgling project manager with deep industry knowledge or an experienced project manager with shallow industry knowledge, choose the former.

A project manager must have industry experience in order to ask detailed questions about business processes and methodologies. Project managers with no industry experience may have a high-level understanding of how things operate but almost everyone in the company should possess that knowledge anyway. When a project manager understands the inner-workings of an industry, fewer blind spots exist.

5. Communicative

When people do not know what is expected of them, this indicates the project manager is not doing their job. For a successful ERP project, every employee needs to understand their role and should be held accountable.

The best project managers hold status meetings to keep tabs on the progress of various tasks. If a team member needs help completing a task, they can ask during these meetings. Status meetings are also helpful in keeping everyone motivated because employees can see how the project is progressing towards its goals.

What Other Internal Resources Will You Need?

1. Executive Steering Committee

This group includes executives and members of the board of directors. The steering committee communicates the importance of the project and explains how it supports the organization’s mission and vision. The committee also participates in milestone meetings regarding software recommendations, organizational alignment and organizational change management.

In addition, the committee helps select project team members in accordance with the project scope, budget and resource requirements. The steering committee has a good understanding of project goals and organizational vision, so their input is valuable when choosing project team members.

While some department managers may be resistant to lending resources, your steering committee can work with them to ensure the right resources focus on the ERP project when necessary.

2. Subject Matter Experts

Much like the project team, this group includes representatives from each functional area. Subject matter experts participate in requirements gathering, requirements validation and vendor demonstrations. These are your “super users,” “change agents” and advocates for your project.

3. Change Management Team

Without the contributions and encouragement of a change management team, the ERP project team would most likely be overwhelmed by project fatigue and conflicting priorities. The change management team is responsible for working with third-party implementation partners to develop strategies that address communication, training and benefits realization.

5 Roles of a Change Management Team

1. Leading by Example

The change management team should not only communicate that the ERP project is a priority, they also should demonstrate this in their actions and decisions.

There’s no doubt that the team will have to make tough decisions, such as postponing or suspending another initiative outside of the ERP project. In order to make such decisions, the team needs to understand the pressures of competing priorities and be able to communicate their concern to the project team.

2. Recognizing Achievements

When the project team loses sight of priorities, reinforcing these priorities through recognition of effort goes a long way. The change management team should regularly acknowledge and celebrate the work being done and sacrifices being made by the project team, SMEs and end-users.

3. Promoting Accountability

Speaking to project team members about their responsibilities will reinforce their accountability to each other and to the organization as a whole. The change management team should encourage team members to hold each other accountable and to voice disagreements constructively.

Regular meetings are a great way to lay everything on the table for discussion and to encourage the project team to come to a consensus. Once a consensus is reached, the change management team should ensure everyone understands the shared responsibilities and reinforce overall expectations.

4. Including Change Agents

Change agents may be a part of the change management team, or they may just serve as liaisons between the project team and end-users. Either way, change agents can redirect employees’ attention to what really matters – the goals and objectives of the organization as a whole and their individual role in the success of the project.

5. Communicating Effectively

Organizations should staff their change management teams with strong verbal and written communicators. Team members should be empathetic but persistent.

What About Outsourcing?

Project managers walk a fine line between the use of internal resources and external resources. A lack of external resources can mean limited expertise. On the other hand, a lack of internal resources can mean poor project ownership and a lack of organizational alignment. Only internal stakeholders can make the ultimate decisions on how your business will run going forward. 

It’s no secret that ERP projects require a dizzying array of skills and competencies. Organizations embarking on business transformations are hard-pressed to assemble project teams that have a vision for how the business can evolve, have business process reengineering and change management competencies, and have a host of other skill sets that are difficult for most organizations to develop internally.

Because of the challenges associated with assembling such a rare and broad set of collective skills, many organizations turn to outside resources to augment their internal skills. Here are a few considerations to help you determine when it may be most appropriate to outsource your ERP project:

1. Focus on People and Processes

It can be easy to take a myopic view of ERP projects, focusing almost exclusively on finding external pinch-hitters with software-specific functional and technical expertise. While these skills are important, they are also somewhat of a dime a dozen. Let’s face it: compared to the people and process aspects of an implementation, configuring and implementing ERP systems are fairly cut and dry propositions.

The business components of implementations – such as change management, project management and business process reengineering – are much more difficult. These skill sets are harder to find. When looking for outside help, it is critical to find a partner that has a comprehensive skill set and a strong ERP implementation methodology.

We’ve found through our implementation and expert witness experiences that ERP success and ERP failure typically has very little to do with how well technical aspects were handled during the project.

Instead, success or failure is more commonly determined by how the business components of a project are handled. While the technical skills may seem more specialized and therefore more important – especially if you’re a CIO or IT manager – it’s actually the more intangible areas that will determine your project’s success or failure.

2. Don’t Outsource Everything

Some companies take more of a hands-off outsourcing approach. While you certainly want to rely on outside assistance wherever it makes sense, you won’t be successful if you don’t step up to the plate to provide a minimum level of internal support and skill sets.

For example, outside consultants – no matter how talented they may be – can’t make decisions about how to run your business for you. In addition, they can’t tell you if the designed and delivered enterprise resource planning system does exactly what you want it to. Only people within your organization can provide these inputs.

Therefore, it is important to identify and recognize those skills and responsibilities that your internal team should provide versus those that can be outsourced to outside parties.

3. Look for the Biggest Gaps

It can be helpful to conduct a gap analysis of the required skills versus the skills you currently possess in-house. The biggest gaps are going to be the ones that you’ll want to outsource to ERP consultants and other external resources.

An independent ERP consultant can be a smart addition to your team. A consultant will often see trends or risks before other members of the team, since they are not caught up in day-to-day activities. Often, teams with previous experience implementing an ERP system, may have a false sense of security. The world of ERP software is dynamic and ever changing.

What’s Your Project Scope?

Your project team structure mostly depends on the scope of your project. Is it simply an ERP implementation or is it a broader business transformation?

Panorama’s ERP consultants can help you determine the scope of your project and the degree of organizational change entailed. This insight will guide the structure and size of your project team.

About the author

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Panorama Consulting Group is an independent, niche consulting firm specializing in business transformation and ERP system implementations for mid- to large-sized private- and public-sector organizations worldwide. One-hundred percent technology agnostic and independent of vendor affiliation, Panorama offers a phased, top-down strategic alignment approach and a bottom-up tactical approach, enabling each client to achieve its unique business transformation objectives by transforming its people, processes, technology, and data.

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