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What Does it Take to Have a Successful ERP Implementation Project?

Successful ERP ImplementationIn our organization we always measure ERP implementation projects on 4 criteria:

  1. Was the project implemented on time?
  2. Did the ERP system meet our objectives?
  3. Was the project on budget?
  4. Was the project within scope?

You’ll see that these four criteria are some of the key indicators as to whether an ERP system implementation was successful. A review of the original scope document will tell you how well the planning and design stage went, and will answer the question: Did we stick to our plan? Forecasting budget to actual spending is another indicator of the project health. Lastly, was the project completed on time?

Without hitting this sweet spot, your organization is at risk. If not met, you will find these projects will be extended, cost more, and will be at a higher risk for failure. I hope you use these criteria in helping you and your organization with augmenting your ERP implementation projects.

Recently, we completed a very successful ERP implementation project at a metal forming manufacturer in the Cleveland area. This company is a make-to-stock and make-to-order manufacturer and chose a new ERP system. They were migrating from a legacy ERP system to a newer application. Our senior managers were asked to identify the key elements that contributed to the success of this project. Here is what they came up with:

Project Management

ERP projects are not overly complicated, but they require multiple disciplines all working in concert. This project in particular had strong leadership and attention to detail. The top management and ownership of the company was involved from the first day to the last day.  This was not just superficial “moral” support, although sometimes even that can be welcome on projects with little management involvement. They instead saw this as a strategic initiative, and used the project to transform their company from the plant floor to the administrative offices. The attitude was to treat this as a priority. We saw their involvement in both the design and execution process of the project to be a key driver for the team and their ultimate success.

From the beginning the core team educated themselves on the business processes, in order to set their own expectations and to gain a better appreciation for how an integrated system would work in their environment. The budget was carefully set to ensure high data integrity and availability. This included high quality servers, network considerations and mobility.

Planning was a primary component of this project’s success. The owners found ERP subject matter experts at Meaden and Moore with the proper skills and trusted our experienced managers’ judgment for key decision points along the way.  Project managers, both internal and external, designed a thorough project management plan, stayed firm on a decided process, and pressed all team members to adhere to designated time lines for completion. Necessary plan changes were realistically anticipated through input from our knowledgeable consultants. Assistance was provided through the availability and coaching of experienced implementers and project leaders. This laid the groundwork for predictability by painting a complete and accurate picture in advance of the users’ exposure to the system, both during and after implementation

Team Dynamics

When the core team was chosen, each member was trusted to do his/her job. The internal project team’s employees were empowered to make decisions (in their respective areas). Our firm witnessed very little finger-pointing and the core teams were allowed to make mistakes. If a mistake was made, it’s “How do we fix it?” Not “Whose fault is this?” This is a rare culture, where the process is a priority, and dysfunctional communication is kept to a minimum.

The team accepted the methodology and made it their own. They set both daily and weekly milestone goals and measured progress for completing tasks on-time and in line with the quality deliverables. Meetings were held often and stayed on topic and agenda. Meetings included senior management (Steering Committee) and other decision makers. Employees dedicated the necessary time to get their homework done and deadlines were adhered to whenever possible.  Team members were given free expression through discussion and hands-on testing. Throughout the process, multiple options were given for set-up and configuration of each module and functional area. This established a consensus environment, rather than working in more isolated departmental struggles.

5 Qualities for Success

  1. Goal-Oriented: Identify expectations of individuals and of the team by setting obtainable objectives. Have a project plan means having firm goals and objectives, action items, accountability, and due dates. Share the project plan with the core team, and make progress known. Track progress and celebrate achieving each milestone in the process.
  2. Complementary Skills/Positions: Choose your implementation team with people who are multi-dimensional within the organization. Have them become subject matter experts across multiple disciplines. Cross-functionality within your organization mitigates risk and also promotes open communication and issue resolution.
  3. Cohesion: Work together in training, in practice, and at the go-live and beyond. Having your core team at every meeting promotes unity and reinforces that this implementation is a top priority. Not only does this build a strong, capable team, but it is a critical element to future projects including potential phase 2 and phase 3 of your implementations. Functional silos are a thing of the past, and you need everyone on the same page to eliminate dysfunction.
  4. Synergy: ERP systems are comprehensive, and the results they can deliver to an organization are greater than the individual effects of its parts (individual modules). Your team needs to mirror this capability in order to provide the greatest value to the company.
  5. Project Leadership: This is both internal and external. ERP implementations require subject matter experts and proven professionals. Learning a new software system is complex enough, on top of managing personnel and the project progress as a whole. Consultants bring years of experience and expertise to your organization, and should be brought in from the beginning of your project through go-live. When given authority, consultants can share responsibility with internal leadership in managing this project and contribute greatly to its success.

In conclusion, having a successful ERP implementation is a team effort. Everyone needs to be committed and invested in the outcome. Having active enthusiastic participation in the design and implementation process will ensure a system that truly meets the critical needs of the company, and establishes the buy-in needed to use the system to bring about true organizational culture change. The bottom line is to turn the ERP system into a strategic asset that can be a competitive advantage for the company, to support additional growth, and to position the firm for the highest customer service with both their customers and suppliers.


Speak with a Meaden & Moore expert today to discover ways to improve your business.

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