Panorama Consulting does a nice job of summing up their view of the key questions companies should ask themselves before embarking on an ERP implementation. We would concur with virtually all of them. While a different ten could be just as valid, these are a good starting point for ensuring your implementation team has asked the right ‘big questions’ before the hard work begins. We’ll reprise them here today from an original posting they did here, adding a few comments from our own experience as well.
- Do you have the right team? You want the A Team, freed up when necessary to put serious attention to the new plans. Add to that your vendor team implementation lead consultant, and project managers from both teams. They should be in on all key planning meetings.
- What will the project’s org chart look like? Project roles need to be clearly defined. Include project management, the core team, functional and technical resources, and key managers who will be involved in the business process analysis.
- What will the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the project be? Remember that project estimates are just that – estimates. Leave margin for error for things not considered, discussed or discovered initially. Don’t forget hardware, lost productivity or hidden costs beyond your vendor’s purview.
- What is the business case (cost justification)? There is always a projected ROI (Return on Investment), or you wouldn’t be doing the project, right? Beyond the immediate exigencies, be sure you’ve identified the long-term cost benefits – they are often huge, and easily can justify a project. Establish benchmarks or metrics early on, while understanding that it may take longer to reach them than originally projected (it’s the nature of the beast). Each company will have its own business case, but yours should be widely shared and understood.
- What is your overarching implementation plan? Be sure you’ve worked out things like data migrations (there may be more than one), conference room pilots, necessary modifications and a user training schedule with your vendor.
- How will you handle third-party or external program integration? ERP systems don’t typically handle every single aspect of your business – and even if they could, that doesn’t mean that their approach would be your best choice. Third party applications enable users to choose among best-of-breed solutions to narrower project requirements like shipping modes, EDI, e-commerce and other needs.
- What organizational change management strategies and tactics will you deploy? Roles, processes and sometimes even people will change, post-implementation. Make sure you’ve thought about that ahead of time, so a clear transition strategy can be embraced.
- What project governance and controls will you put in place? Poor project management can, as Panorama notes, run a project off the rails. Be clear ahead of time about who makes what decisions, how they will be made, what controls you will have in place and what issues or decisions will need to be made by the project steering committee.
- What milestones will you use to evaluate progress? Take time to evaluate your project at regular intervals, and identify key project criteria that you will compare to with each one. Don’t be afraid to pull the cord to temporarily stop a project when things go off-track mid-course.
- How will you define success? Or as we like to say: What does ‘done’ look like? This might be the hardest one of all, since continuous improvement – and ERP is simply a tool for continuous improvement – is never ‘done.’ It might be as vague as being better off than before, or as concrete as adherence to a fixed ROI figure. Each company is unique. Just be certain in the early going to have some frank internal discussions about what the right success metrics will be for your unique project, and its corresponding investment.