Tried n’ True: Tips for Epic ERP

Rudder on the ship

When I started managing and consulting on ERP software projects in the 90’s, I started with romantic notions of what IT projects would be like one day. As long as I had the right equipment and an experienced team, then all my projects would be successful, right?

Fast forward nearly two decades and I’m a bit more jaded but no less sure that ERP or any other enterprise software projects can avoid the shimmery depths and sinking to the bottom of the great ocean floor. That’s because I’ve seen a few projects go to their watery grave and, fortunately, lived to tell the story.

Now I know that if you aren’t equipped to run your ERP software project with great project management, then your project WILL go down. And sadly you may go down with it! I recommend you follow these “safety tips”.

1. Choose your ship carefully

Titanic was a technological marvel, way ahead of its time. Because the ship was so large, though, it was unwieldy and impossible to turn in time to avoid disaster. It was complicated and had lots of “bells and whistles” that were useless in a time of crisis.

It’s exactly the same with enterprise software and ERP projects. To choose your ship wisely, you should:

  • Make sure your ERP software is the right “fit” for your business by researching unbiased ERP software buying guides
  • If you are a big company or unsure who you should have in your “short list”, you may want to consult with an unbiased ERP software selection firm
  • Avoid paying for costly “bells and whistles” that you don’t need. In other words, it’s important to zero in on those things you really need, or what I like to call “functionality in search of a use”

2. And what of captain and crew?

Titanic captain Edward J. Smith was an experienced seaman who had piloted many large ships through successful voyages. The problem was that he had never piloted this ship. Not only was this ship larger than any he had sailed on before, it was also the first voyage of the ship for both him and his faithful crew. Bottom line: he was in over his head – literally!

In the context of ERP software projects, you need to:

  1. Make sure that the project manager (PM) and ERP consultants have a track record of success with that specific ERP software vendor
  2. Ensure that the PM has the proper certifications (at least a working knowledge of standard ERP system processes)
  3. Check at least three references of customers that have succeeded with your ERP package
  4. Bring the best people aboard to join your internal project team
  5. Hire and train someone to backfill for your “super users” – make sure there’s a go-to plan when employees leave the company
  6. Give the PM and key users deliverables to meet and key performance indicators (KPI’s) to hit; offer an incentive if they meet their targets.

3) Don’t make fatal assumptions

Captain Smith made essentially one fatal mistake. He piloted the Titanic straight into treacherous icy waters because he was so overconfident that his ship was unsinkable. A good PM never makes that kind of assumption.

4) Use milestones and deliverables to “course correct”

The best run projects are planned carefully and managed to reach milestones and provide deliverables. The PM first develops a project plan using a project management tool that builds in dependencies, so that the plan can adjust automatically when things change. And like the wind… yes, they will change.

5) Deliver “quick wins”

The idea is to deliver wins at intermediate points in the project so you can know whether you’re off track. These deliverables should absolutely be tied to the key performance indicators (KPI’s) of the project and of the business.

So, do your homework. Do a little due diligence. And then, dive in – but not before you carefully follow these tips. Only then can I (almost) guarantee a successful voyage and that you (and your crew) remain afloat for a long, long time.

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The Author
Dan Aldridge
Director of Consulting, Priority Software U.S.

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