Why you need an ERP Project Manager

Why you need an ERP Project Manager

A few years ago I took on an ERP Project Manager role. It was for a membership-based organisation and they were set on a new path to transform their organisation, and deliver new (and better) value to their members. After careful consideration of all current and possible future requirements, a platform & vendor were selected and a licence for an ERP system was purchased.

Logically, the first thing they needed to do was put together an ERP project team and assign an ERP Project Manager. I was lucky enough to be assigned to run that ERP Implementation Project.

I learned some valuable lessons along the way….

The ERP Implementation Project Team

I learned who the vital members of the ERP Implementation Project should be.

The ERP Project Team will be responsible for the future operation of the business. The ERP has been selected because you possibly need to drive new efficiencies or customer value. Leadership is required. The members of the ERP Project Team must therefore be empowered to make vital decisions about their functional area.

1The ERP project managerShe will be like a coach and help this team succeed.
2One of your business leadersThey need to be the sponsor of the project. They have (presumably) set the company vision and have defined the expected benefits. These will be your beacon throughout the life of the ERP Implementation Project. The roadmap of h.o.w to get to your future state needs to be communicated by senior management. Also, inevitably, things go wrong during these large scale projects and decisive leadership will be needed to adjust the course.
3Representatives of each major business functional areae.g. Finance, Operations, IT, Customer Service etc. Their understanding of their business function is vital in order to streamline the process and operation of the new ERP system.
4The vendor’s project managerThey will introduce you to their methodology for the ERP implementation and work to translate your processes and requirements into a working system.
5A change managerAn ERP implementation is often a catalyst for the fact people’s roles will change and business processes to be redefined. The change manager will ensure all stakeholders are strapped in for the ride.

On the ERP Project I refer to the role of Change Manager wasn’t filled and with the benefit of hindsight I realise this was a a big gap. In fact, in order to fill the gap I started studying Change Management to ensure for future clients and projects I’d be able to close this gap.

ERP Project Manager skills

Along the way I dealt with a large group of stakeholders. Many had conflicting ideas about how the system needed to be rolled out. Many staff were less than excited about the impending changes to their everyday jobs and the legacy provider was outright hostile.

I had to rely on a large “bag of tricks” and skills to navigate this landscape.

An ERP implementation is typically a large investment of both money and time. A ERP Project Team is a must for successful ERP implementation, and each team needs a leader.

ERP Project Management Skills. Leading an ERP Project Team
ERP Project Management Skills

You could choose to pull someone with all the right skills of their day job and appoint them to head up the team, provided you can temporarily fill their role.

Alternatively, you can appoint an external ERP Project Manager who is not intimately familiar with your business and its legacy processes, in order to have a fresh pair of eyes on the business. Having no prior knowledge of the business means process and operations can be challenged and re-assessed.

What needs to be in the ERP Project Managers bag of tricks?;

  • Requirement Gathering. The ERP project manager must be able to guide the process of mapping out all business requirements. Some of ERP requirements might not be needed until a phase 2 or 3, however, ensuring the system is scalable for future integrations is vital at this early stage.
  • Building Trust. They will need to be able to build trust quickly with all stakeholders.
  • Communication skills. They need to be able to translate the company vision and communicate the future state. Difficult technical concepts may need to be explained before the team is able to make decisions.
  • Create Focus. They need to keep the ERP project on track and call out distractions. The primary business needs will determine which requirements are nice-to-haves vs. must-haves.
  • Be / Hold Accountable. They must be senior and decisive enough to keep others in the team accountable. Everyone’s actions and inactions affect the performance of the team.
  • Embed Scope. They must clearly embed the scope with the ERP Implementation partner and manage scope creep.
  • Manage Budget. They must map out the budget and keep on track, negotiate fees and contracts.
  • Mitigate Risk. They must identify ERP Implementation Project risks and have a mitigation plan at the ready.
  • Herd cats. Stakeholder management is a large part of the ERP project managers role. Set meetings, set agendas, define outcomes and expectations.
  • Negotiate Conflict. There may be times the team disagrees and the ERP Project Manager needs to help the team reach a consensus.
  • Decision-making. It is the ERP Project Manager’s role to help the ERP project team make shared decisions about the future operation of the business. They must be able to present all options, pros and cons, a map of the universe, for informed decision making to take place.

5 commons risks to ERP implementation success

ERP Implementation Risk Management
ERP Project Managers need to map out and mitigate risk.

Over the course of this project, as well as several others since, I have seen several common reasons for an ERP implementation either failing, or never coming off the ground.

Scope Creep

This typically happens when the team starts to get a better understanding of what the new ERP is capable of and they expand their wish list. Your ERP project manager will help your team focus on what is required for first roll out, endorsed by Senior Leadership. Your ERP Project Manager will keep you focused on 3 to 5 wildly important features to focus on for launch. There will be plenty of phases and iterations to follow.

Starting with too big a scope

wanting all the features at first roll out is a risky strategy. Senior Leadership is required to accept the limitation of scope because the longer the implementation takes the higher the risk of failure. Reduce your scope to a manageable chunk; Those areas that would drive the fastest value.

Slow / No decision-making

Sometimes organisational culture means that decision-making is slow. When the members of the project team are not empowered to make the final decision and require sign off from a higher power, the ERP implementation is put under pressure.

Omitting Change Management

People need time to adjust to change. Your people need to be prepared for how their jobs might change and how they feel about that. The change not only needs to be embedded but also sustained after go-live.

Training and education

The new system needs to be embedded and comprehensive training needs to be scheduled in to ensure your people are confident to transition to the new ERP system. Lack of training could lead to lack of adoption and failure after go-live.

It was a proud moment to see the ERP System is implemented and is now firmly embedded within the organisation.

Traffic Act helps its customers to implement ERP Systems. We can assist with both Project Management and Change Management. Get in touch with if you want to have a conversation about how we can help you towards a successful ERP Implementation.

About Jen

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