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Many companies look at an ERP implementation as just another IT project. “Get the software in and make it work” executives say, “it’s not surgery!” It actually is more like surgery than they may think. If the process is a failure, there is a very good chance that this failure could lead to the death of the company.

Imagine that you go in for surgery and you see the surgeon standing alone at the operating table. He stares blankly at you with scalpel in hand, without a support team, and without obvious signs of preparation. When an executive tells the ERP vendor to simply “go for it!” on an ERP implementation, he becomes the surgeon haphazardly cutting into a patient. In both cases, failure is imminent. In both cases, for success to occur, there is a lot of management and support that must take place in order to aid in obtaining success.

When preparing for surgery, you need to have your vitals checked. You need to fully understand why you need this surgery, what the risks are, what your ultimate prognosis is, and what expectations you can have for recovery. You need to inform your family and friends why you will be out of commission for a while and you will want to make sure that your insurance is in tact and ready to manage all the associated costs. And most important, you’ll probably want an anesthesiologist in the actual operating room to knock you out before the physician opens you up.

In an ERP implementation, the same preparation work needs to occur. You need to have an understanding of why this ERP software is needed and what benefits it is going to bring to the organization. You need everyone in the organization to understand the process and that there may be a few complications along the way, but that these will be far outweighed by the ultimate recovery. You need to have a documented business case and have the total cost of ownership outlined. You need to have your current system backed up, data ready to convert, and a risk mitigation plan in place should something go wrong.

Once the surgery is underway and the surgeon is performing the operation, there must be a support staff to monitor blood pressure, check and administer fluid levels, monitor the arthroscope, and provide the surgeon with all the necessary tools and medical devices. All of this is unfolding as the anesthesiologist closely monitors your progress and makes sure you don’t wake up to complete chaos and utter pain.

During an ERP implementation, the project management team acts as the hospital staff, coordinating and monitoring everything from project timing to budget and risk management. Just as the surgeon cannot have success without hospital staff support and assistance in managing the operation, and the technical implementer cannot have a successful ERP implementation without a clear roadmap and guidance from a strong project management team.

While Panorama is not a team of surgeons, we do consider each ERP implementation as a critical, do or die event. We do everything we can to ensure your internal project team and organization is well informed, well staffed, and capable of executing a successful implementation that provides minimal risks, a full recovery, and most important – success.

Blog entry written by Brian Potts, Manager of Business Development at Panorama Consulting Group.

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