Good news, bad news. Your company just signed contracts to upgrade your existing ERP software system, and you have been tapped to lead the project.
Your mind is racing. What do I do now? Who do I need on the project? How much time do I have? These, are just a few of your questions. There are many methodologies, management styles, classes, certifications, and reams of information available online and in printed form to help you in this endeavor. Unfortunately, you were told you are to be live in four months. You don’t feel you have the time to research and determine which methodology you want to pursue.
Here at Cincom, we recognize the dilemma you have. We offer implementation services as part of our ERP solution. Just as you are refining and improving your business practices, we also refine and improve our implementations over time.
What Do I Do First? Identify
Our answer is to identify what the project is, and what the project is not.
Everyone within your organization will have an idea of what the project will entail.
- Your store room folks may want to take this time to weed out obsolescent inventory
- Your receiving folks may want to implement/enhance their use of bar code usage
- Your finance folks may want to deploy a new chart of accounts
- Your purchasing folks may want to centralize purchasing activities (if you have more than one location)
- Your technology folks want all new hardware
- Your engineering folks may want to revamp how engineering changes are processed by your manufacturing folks
- Your sales folks may want to be able to quickly see when a new order could be shipped to a potential client
- Your management folks want it done yesterday.
As your company’s project lead, if you aren’t able to sort through and organize the multitude of project expectations, you will be hard pressed to outline what constitutes your project’s success.
So how do you weed through all these expectations? Find out what has been agreed to by your management. There should be several documents (either formal or informal) that can help you identify this information. Some of these are:
Project approval /business case document. Someone put together a business case for upgrading your ERP – dust this off and read it. This is why your senior management has agreed to spend the time, money, and other resources in performing this implementation. All ERP implementation projects have an underlying business case that identifies the business justification to move forward. This is a wealth of knowledge for the appointed project lead.
Executed contracts. What has been purchased, what services have been arranged, who has which roles, are there any stated timelines. The information within the contracts further refines what your management approved from the business case. A business case may have identified multiple pain points and corresponding actions. Typically not everything in a business case is approved. The contracts will help you identify which were approved and are expected as part of your project.
Spend a little time with your purchasing representative/buyer. There could have been some informal discussions that will help you understand items within the contract. It is also good to keep a relationship with your buyer/contracts person for when you have future questions on what is contained in the contracts.
Spend a little time with your project sponsors. These are the individual(s) who pursued getting the approval for the ERP project. These are the individuals who see the benefits to their organizations and company as a whole. Having their insight into the project will allow you to understand and address their expectations.
Charting the Project
Once you collect the information, the next question to answer “What does the project entail?” This is answered through the the creation of a project charter. A project charter should outline the following:
Name? One of the first things to do as a project starts is to give the project a name. It can be unimaginative (The Upgrade Project) to the imaginative (Project Phoenix). Once the project gets underway, a formal name helps build a team mindset without the project members.
What? A concise explanation of the project, as well as what the project is not. For example:
The Upgrade Project consists of upgrading our existing ERP 1.0 software to its latest version – ERP 2.1. We will not be changing the core software and will minimize the use of bolt-ons. We will not be re-engineering our business process during this process.
When? Specify what the current time line expectations are. You can be certain a time line was discussed during the contract negotiations.
Where? Over the past couple of years, with today’s remote options through teleconferencing and web conferences, setting the proper expectation in this area has gained exposure. Many of our contracts with our clients now specify larger and larger portions of project activities will occur remotely. Having all project members understand that is a key understanding in today’s world.
Who? Specifies the primary players. These would be the steering committees, project sponsors, and project manager/leads. Depending on a client’s culture, this may also include the team members.
How? This area covers some basic project processes. What are the status report requirements, what is the risk/issue management process, etc. As part of Cincom’s methodology, we come prepared with all these to start – recognizing that some adjustments would be needed for each clients’ cultural differences.
Bottom line: When starting a new ERP implementation you need to solidify what the project is and isn’t, what the expectations are by the various internal groups affected by the change, and what to include in your project charter.