Whose implementation is it?

So you’ve decided to purchase a new ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system after going through a thorough search of the market and the products available. Your about to have your first meeting with the new project manager provided by the ERP software company or their partner.

Whose Implementation is it? The project manager assigned by the ERP supplier or your company’s? This is a question that every implementing company has to deal with on every implementation. The short answer is it’s yours. No equivocation, no debate, plain and simple it’s your implementation.

When the project manager is assigned to a new project he or she will look at the company and there will be a sales to service hand-off meeting where the project manager learns about the implementing company and the software modules / features they purchased. They will form an opinion of whether the budget is enough to implement the items purchased and will begin the task of organizing the implementation. They then help the implementing company through the process of the implementation. When they are done with the project they move on to the next implementing company. This occurs whether the just completed implementation was a rousing success or mediocre success. They did their job and they move on. If the implementation was a failure the project manager may or may not move on to the next project with this partner, but in any event, will move on.

The implementing company has to take ownership of the project. If they don’t then the resulting implementation may not be to their satisfaction or may inhibit future growth. As a part time CFO I’ve been brought into companies to evaluate their business processes and procedures. I’ve seen implementations that were satisfactory, but allowed for no flexibility. I’ve also seen ones that were completely botched. When I inquire about the reasoning behind the set-ups of the chart of accounts or why certain aspects of the system were set up in a certain way the answer comes back that the project manager said it needed to be done in a particular manner. I immediately knew that the implementing company didn’t take ownership of the implementation.

I’m not saying that the process should be adversarial, but am saying that the process should be questioned through the entire implementation as to why certain things are done in certain ways. If the project manager continuously provides “because that’s the way it is” answers request a review of the implementation parameters from the management of the implementing partner. If you continue to have issues with a non-communicative project manager then it’s time for a change. Remember, you are the customer and as the saying goes the customer is always right. Every software vendor is striving to have satisfied, referenceable customers.

Make sure that the budget provided by the ERP supplier is adequate to provide in-house training and it should have contingencies. One thing is certain in an implementation: your people will resist the change to the new system. Management could be 100% behind the change, but two years after go-live on the new ERP system there will still be someone in the organization that feels the old system was better.

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