Nearly everyone has seen statistics about ERP Implementation failures and project overruns. Panorama Consulting Solutions says 74% of projects exceed budget, 61% take longer than expected, and 21% fail to deliver any significant benefit to the organization. Each of these statistics can have a direct impact on the tenure of CIOs leading these implementations. Many factors can disrupt a successful project – selecting the wrong partner, poor change management practices, lack of communication – but most projects fall off the tracks during the execution phase.
In the three previous articles, we’ve discussed the phases in which you prepare for the initiative, you select a partner, and you negotiate an agreement. In article 4, we explore:
- Leveraging the knowledge you’ve learned thus far
- Forming the delivery team, and
- Mapping out a successful strategy.
Below, we explore things to ‘Do’ and ‘not to Do’ during the implementation phase.
- Show value right away by executing on project dates that were used to forecast the project cost and timeline to your board and management team. Early misses on hitting these goals will be magnified as the project continues. Whether you selected a phased cutover approach or a big cut approach, executing right out of the gate is crucial for continued management support.
- Establish a solid cross functional team with top performers. These individuals should have great business knowledge, an understanding of the future vision, and leadership skills. Setting up a strong team, allowing them the time to succeed and the authority to implement is a foundational building block for success.
- Creating a ‘war room’ and ‘test network’ are prerequisites for assessing key scenarios of required functionality and providing successful user training.
- Meeting target dates: Establishing a detailed project plan is critical, but meeting the dates is equally as important. Whether you plan a phased transition or an immediate replacement, missing dates equates directly to cost overruns, morale reduction, and possibly a loss of confidence from management. Moving dates can also influence users to begin resisting change as they get more nervous about the new processes. Momentum in these projects is critical to success, so execute on the milestones.
- Create physical and logic war rooms: The project team needs a meeting space away from the rigors of day to day activity. Create a physical space onsite, if possible, to minimize travel time and give the team a safe place to strategize. Also, create a sandbox network environment for testing and prototyping the new system. Keep the environment updated with current business information, providing multiple opportunities to test data migration.
- Establish a solid cross functional team: The make up of this team is critical, as selecting the wrong representatives can be detrimental to delivering project needs on time. Representation from all business units affected by the system is helpful.
Select people with these characteristics:
- Fast learners
- Ability to communicate their knowledge
- Passionate about their work
- Strong leadership skills
- Shares an understanding of the future vision
Team members must have the capacity to carve out time from their daily responsibilities and must also have the authority to make decisions to move the project forward. In case of unforeseen turnover, this team must rigorously document processes and decisions during the project.
- Be sure data migration mapping is reliable: A successful system will hinge on the ability of the team to accurately map current system data to the new system being implemented. Migrating data from more than one legacy application can compromise the accuracy of the data, but careful mapping can mitigate some of the inconsistencies. Do your best to keep familiar data structures like item number and customer number, that will give users familiarity to a foreign system. Creating a clear data governance plan will be helpful in this process.
- Prototype, train, prototype: Before going live, prototype in the test system as much as time allows. It Is critical that your business process workflows are validated, so set up a prototype, then train the users, then prototype again based on their feedback. The more users you can involve in the process the better. This activity will prove out the system and ensure success. Paralleling should also be done closer to go live and gives the team another opportunity to test data migration processes.
- Don’t forget to prove RFQ responses: Keeping the solution provider true to their word by reviewing the RFQ responses will be helpful in executing the timeline. The implementation team may be different from the selection team, so ensure there is a thorough knowledge transfer of pre-sales discussions when the current team is in place. Holding the solution provider accountable for their contractual promises will help the team execute accordingly.
- Don’t forget to address reports and forms: Areas often overlooked during the implementation phase are special forms and reports. Although many reports from legacy systems will be antiquated, attention must be paid in this area. The reports might contain critical data, such as customer requirements or prerequisites, government mandated documents, or more. Either way, losing this data could cause delays or add expenses. Often times, this falls to the last task just prior to go live, but be careful to not let this minor, yet important, exercise delay the launch of the bigger initiative.
- Don’t compromise your vision: The eleventh hour of this process can lead to compromise, but it’s critical to uphold the original vision for this initiative. Ease and comfort can influence users to want to delay the pending change – they may campaign to push out the go live date or even keep the legacy system running. At this point, you and the team must stay positive. The investment in time and resources is too great – keep the future vision top of mind across the business, especially in the final days.
- Don’t fall backseat to another initiative: It’s essential for you as the CIO to communicate the risk of failure if the business chooses to prioritize another project. Throughout the initiative, encourage executive management to keep their commitment and continue to show value, as to avoid getting pushed down the priority list. Too many projects at once pulls resources in multiple directions, which can cause delays and overspend.
- Don’t forget trading partners: As the project gets closer to going live, the busier the team may become, occasionally leading to overlooked tasks. Another important step that should not be forgotten is notifying your vendors and customers of the pending changes, which may create delays. Most likely, there will be new processes to follow for existing vendors or customers, so communicating the new procedures ahead of time will ensure happy partners. Though business transactions will probably be automated, getting partners onboard is another key to success.
The implementation phase provides the opportunity to deliver what was promised and build momentum for company success. Proper attention to the timeline, data migration, and user training will help you drive closer to the execution of your vision, and keeping executive management committed to their investment is critical to accomplishing the goal. Successfully implementing an ERP system will assist in forming the future of the business.