If you’re reading an online supply-chain information resource, you probably don’t need anyone to sell you on the benefits of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
A good ERP, offering visibility into all areas of the chain, automation of repetitive processes, and a central source of truth for crucial business data, makes everything run a more smoothly.
Today, thanks to a spate of digital transformation that’s revitalizing business processes across every industry, the face of ERP is changing. From cloud computing and big data to artificial intelligence and automation, modern ERPs are being infused with powerful, innovative technology that’s helping their users become more productive.
The market is expected to be worth nearly $42bn by 2021 and with cutting-edge software developments becoming more accessible, having the power of new technologies at your fingertips isn’t just an advantage, it’s a necessity for businesses to remain competitive.
Even if you already have an ERP, it’s likely that you’ll be at least thinking about taking advantage of the new wave of revolution that’s transforming the technology — whether that’s switching to a cloud version of your existing solution, or implementing an altogether new platform.
There are countless horrifying statistics floating around about implementation failure rates. So how do businesses get on board with the best that these new-breed ERPs have to offer without falling victim to roll-out ruin? Much of the answer lies not with the technology, but with people.
One of the most important things you can do to set your business up for implementation success is to build a great ERP project team. The size of your team will, of course, depend on how large your business is ,and how extensive the ERP project you’re undertaking. But no matter how many people are involved, there are some key roles and responsibilities you’ll need to have firmly in place to help get your new or upgraded ERP live and kicking.
Whichever deployment option you decide on, chances are you’ll be bringing in a dedicated ERP partner to help you implement and configure your chosen software. That partner, or vendor representatives, will form a major part of your project team, bringing in its best consultants, administrators, and developers to help roll out your ERP on time and to specification. They’ll supply the technical know-how and experience necessary to tailor the system to your individual needs and execute your implementation.
But there’s more to the ideal ERP implementation team than third-party professionals. What you’re aiming for is the perfect balance of external knowledge and internal resource.
Even with the best of efforts and intentions, your implementation partner won’t be able to match your internal team members for proprietary knowledge and understanding of exactly how your business works.
Having motivated, well-organized employees working alongside your implementation partner will not only help communicate your business’s needs; it will also build up a bank of knowledge in-house that will be essential, once your implementation partner has packed up and left.
The key to maintaining harmony within this mixed squad is to clearly define roles and responsibilities for everyone throughout the project.
To help keep things on track at every stage — pre-, mid- and post-implementation — you need strong internal representatives, not only to communicate with external professionals, but also to keep the rest of the business up to date with the project. That means liaising with both the people at the top who are bankrolling the implementation, and those who will eventually become the system’s end users.
Here are the core roles to keep in mind when building your ERP implementation team:
Project Manager. If your business is lucky enough to employ a full-time project manager to lead all your ad-hoc ventures, you’ll know how crucial it is to have a hands-on, methodical PM at the helm. If you don’t, then now is the time to pinpoint the best person on your in-house team for the role.
It matters less what your nominated PM’s current role in the business is, and more what they can bring to the project while wearing the PM hat. They’ll be responsible for liaising with your implementation partner, keeping tabs on timescales, budgets, and scope, signing off on deliverables, sharing updates, and reporting and escalating any issues.
An understanding of what you’re trying to achieve with your implementation, and how you plan to do it, is essential for any PM candidate, so a little technical knowledge won’t go amiss either.
Executive Sponsor. Your PM will oversee the day-to-day running of the ERP project, but for those occasions where company-wide clout is needed, or there’s a corporate-level decision to be made, you need an executive sponsor.
Executive sponsors are the upper level in the ERP project team hierarchy, and represent the board level during the implementation. They’ll typically receive periodic updates from the PM, and help get and maintain buy-in from higher-ups. They’ll also have the power to rubber-stamp any issues relating to financial or budget reviews, review change management efforts, and make decisions concerning key business processes.
Another key part of the executive sponsor’s role is to be a business-wide cheerleader for the project, offering high-level support and encouraging user participation and engagement throughout the project. That’s a hugely important factor in ensuring user adoption once the system goes live.
Super Users. Just as the executive sponsor acts as a bridge between the project team and executive, super users provide vital support and encouragement to their fellow end users.
Super users will participate throughout the implementation, offering a user perspective, gathering tips and best practices from partner staff, and championing the ERP system. If they’re properly engaged during the project, super users will become your most knowledgeable users, acting as go-to points of contact to help fix issues and disseminate information to their colleagues.
Given the importance of user adoption to ERP success rates, super users are essential tools and important members of your implementation team. Having at least one nominated super user from every department that will be using the system will create a two-way stream of knowledge during the project. They’ll bring a granular understanding of how their branch of the business operates, and, in turn, will take back advice on how ERP functionality can help them work smarter.
Look for employees who are excited to learn more about your ERP, who have a passion for improving processes, and who are able to communicate on a multitude of levels.
If you’re thinking about deploying a new ERP platform, start considering what your project team will look like, and pick out your internal implementation heroes. Having the right people in your corner can make all the difference to the continued success of your new application.
Claire Jeacock is a business manager at Washington Frank, a provider of ERP recruitment services.