During the initial phase of an ERP project, the implementation team will be primarily concerned with planning activities. Implementation is the hardest part of the entire process, but a well-planned, flexible implementation smoothes the way.
Accountability is critical. There must be accountability at the task level for the ERP Implementation Project to make progress over time. Again, a C-level champion for your project is the best way to resolve conflicts as to which tasks get done. A clear line of authority makes it much easier to get this work done.
The planning phase will also determine what resources are required to facilitate the implementation. These will include funding requirements, physical space, human resources, systems, supplies and time.
Finally, the planning team needs to establish how performance will be measured. How will you know if you are succeeding or failing? Specific metrics should be agreed upon in advance to facilitate the definition of success and also to measure the performance of the project itself and those participating in it. These metrics could include such things as:
- Actual amount spent vs. budget per module installed or department brought online
- Task completion percentages over time
- Personnel educated prior to implementation
This is an opportunity to inject ownership into the system on the part of users. Have the User Advisory Council work in conjunction with system developers and architects to define the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that will be used to measure system performance. Again, the critical aspect of this is getting users to own the performance of the system and increasing adoption rates of its use.
Never define KPIs or dashboards without the feedback of users; it is critical to have them involved to nurture ownership of the system and its performance.
It is also important to establish what accommodations must be made between the system’s capabilities and your organizational needs. This gap analysis is necessary because no solution will fully address the unique requirements, organizational structure and needs that you present. This may best be accomplished by looking at these functional requirements through the lens of business process management (BPM). This is another skill set to include in the team membership.
Once the project champions (upper management) establish and accept the basic plan, the real work will begin. Your system vendor will likely have valuable tools available to help you determine the specifics related to getting your system implemented.
The more complete and detailed your upfront plan is, the higher your likelihood of success. This plan must also include the critical components of change management.
Make a very focused and deliberate strategy of getting users to own the system to ensure its success.
At this point, you will be utilizing basic project-management processes. The foundation of your ERP implementation needs to be built on sound project-management planning, but the execution will require the muscle of your senior-management champion to make change happen constantly during the project.
Define the task list. Using all of the information sources you have available, internal and from your vendor, lay out a task list. Start with the high-level tasks and then expand each of those by identifying sub-tasks and individual required actions.
Identify resources required to complete each task.
Assign accountability for each phase. Once this is completed, start matching team-member experience or expertise to each task. This will help you determine who should own each phase of the implementation project. Don’t forget to include management in this area. The more upper management is visibly involved, the more credibility the project will have. Ultimately, management should sign off on each major milestone as they are completed.
Measure, monitor and modify. Be sure to continually measure the progress toward the project milestones and seek to understand how the dynamics of the group may be impacting exceptional performance in certain areas and shortcomings in others. Be sure to have your C-level champion celebrate the wins and understand what can be learned from the losses of getting tasks done on time.
Always seek to impart ownership of the system to users. What needs to always be kept in mind by project-management teams and the C-level champion is that the ERP implementation must seek to have a very high level of adoption if it is to be successful in bringing greater levels of efficiency and performance into the company. ERP implementations often lead to companies completely redefining their business models over time. So, realize that this system may change how you complete manufacturing, service, support, pricing or accounting processes. Making these changes effective for the long term all hinges on ownership of the system by users.
Removing roadblocks is the job for the C-level champion, and this includes getting the team help when needed. Sooner or later, you will encounter something that is outside of everyone’s area of experience. Do not rule out third-party involvement in these situations. This is particularly true if there are political ramifications or similar sensitivities involved.
Next is scheduling. Assign reasonable and realistic time requirements to each task and subtask. As these assignments are completed, think about sequencing the tasks by identifying the dependencies for each task in terms of what must be done before starting a task and what can be started after finishing a given task. This will serve as the basis for your schedule.
This is an edited excerpt of “Five Tips to Assure a Successful ERP Implementation: A Planning Guide.” To read the full paper, visit http://cincomerp.com/erp5tips.html.