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In 1730, a fire started on a ship in Philadelphia which spread to the nearby wharf, causing a large amount of damage. The only thing preventing that fire from spreading into town was the lack of wind that night. The fire compelled Benjamin Franklin to start the first organized fire brigade in his city. His famous saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” was meant to be firefighting advice.

An ERP implementation team can be compared to firefighters with the issues or complications arising during the project being the fires. A good project manager and implementation team will catch a fire at the onset and adjust resources and priorities to get the issue addressed with as little impact to the timeline as possible. A great project manager practices what Ben Franklin preached and anticipates issues before they arise in order to prevent implications to the project.

An ERP system implementation involves many moving parts, which makes it easy for small fires to creep up throughout various stages of the project. A survey conducted by CFO magazine found less than six out of 10 ERP implementations actually meet their planned go-live date due to unforeseen problems with timing and resources. ERP fires are commonly started by the following issues:

1. Low or nonexistent SME involvement

Many major American corporations have downsized in the past few years. The benefit of downsizing allows businesses to cut costs and remain competitive. The unintended impact of downsizing becomes apparent when it is hard to start a big project and get subject matter experts (SMEs) involved. SME’s are critical to change management and project success. These individuals need to come to meetings and complete important project related tasks on time. Project managers should estimate the time needed from each SME and be sure to communicate the requirement to each resource as well as their managers. This ensures appropriate expectations are met and short-term hiring needs can be identified to avoid a bottleneck of incomplete tasks for any one SME.

2. Spending too much time designing/blueprinting the system

Requirements tend to grow as team members see the robust functionality the new system provides. “Nice to haves” can quickly become critical. Budgeted implementation hours can burn up quickly if project scope and end user expectations are not managed carefully. The project team should limit the number of design meetings and attendees. Design meetings should be kept focused around business processes as opposed to system functionality. Once business processes are clearly defined, configuration can be tweaked during unit testing.

3. Insufficient testing

Waiting too long to get SMEs and other end users in the system for testing can be risky and potentially detrimental, creating a change management challenge. The project team and superusers are sometimes nervous to show little pieces of the system and would rather wait for the functionality to be perfect. However, the unit testing approach has proven the most effective and, from a change management perspective, delivers small wins and ownership of the system. As pieces of the system get built, system integrators should notify superusers as to what they can test. As superusers are testing the system and documenting any issues and changes, the system integrator should be building the next piece for testing. This iterative process proves successful in both large and small scale implementations for getting designs thoroughly tested and approved.

Project teams should always anticipate unforeseen issues and leave a little room in the timeline to account for contingency and change management.

Trenegy helps companies successfully implement their ERPs by providing experience and solutions for avoiding the common risks of ERP implementation. Trenegy assists organizations in creating a project governance and resource plan, managing the project, facilitating design, planning and executing testing, and assessing and mitigating risk.

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