Managing an ERP implementation is tricky business. Most organizations who set out on this journey aren’t experienced at managing a transformation of this magnitude and complexity and aren’t even sure where to begin. The first step is to recognize this fact and to understand that establishing the proper management structure is critical to the success of the ERP implementation. Failing to do so will almost always result in a failed implementation; and it should be noted that even being able to define success or failure, let alone measure it, is a challenge if not properly managed.
So where should you begin? Get help, get help, get help! Did I say get help? Absolutely! It is paramount that you seek the expert guidance of an independent ERP consultant to plan your project. An ERP implementation may be the most important endeavor your company will ever take on – your very livelihood may depend on it so why do it alone? Seek advice from those who specialize in ERP implementations and those who have been through it before. While it may not guarantee success, it will definitely increase your odds and save thousands if not millions of dollars in the process.
Following is a typical scenario of an organization that chooses to implement ERP software without outside guidance:
- The company is growing fast; its current systems can’t keep up or support future growth.
- There are many disparate systems; redundant data is ramped.
- Access to data is slow; reporting is backward-focused and unreliable.
- The functional stakeholders look to the IT department for help.
- The IT manager takes on the challenge of finding a new ERP system.
Sounds good so far, right? Yes, so far, it sounds great but this is when it starts to go downhill. The IT manager begins researching and calling ERP vendors, then quickly becomes overwhelmed with a huge array of available products and services. Which vendor is right for our business? Which products do we need? Which technology is the best fit? How do I evaluate if the ERP software is going to meet our needs? The IT manager can’t possibly know the answers to these questions without first determining strategic business objectives, documenting the key business processes, determining desired functionality, documenting business requirements, etc. – but how does the IT manager go about determining this? Who is going to help?
If the IT manager is fortunate enough to make it through the software selection process (most don’t), it’s only natural that the IT department should manage the implementation, right? WRONG! No doubt most IT managers are technically savvy enough – after all, how else could they make it as an IT manager? So let’s continue our scenario of an organization going it alone:
- The IT manager does a good job of installing the ERP software but then hits a roadblock getting the functional leaders to decide how the solution should be designed.
- The functional leaders are content letting the IT manager take on the task, with little support – after all, they have a business to run!
- The IT team does its best to design the system based on its limited knowledge of the business.
- The significant organizational change management aspects aren’t understood, leading to poor communications, training and adoption of the ERP system.
- Due to the poor communications and lack of functional area involvement, multiple phases of “rework” result.
- The business executives are hesitant to support or approve the system design.
- As the system is redesigned, the project is delayed and costs are escalating out of control
I’m sure you can see where this is going . . . and believe me, you don’t want to go there!
The problems of going it alone are many and always costly. In our sample scenario, we’ve only scratched the surface. Want to find out how to properly manage an ERP implementation?