ERP implementation projects are big and complex, and therefore require diligent project management. A good project manager has to have good leadership and analytical skills, be able to set clear milestones and financial goals for the rest of the team, and be a great communicator. ERP implementation projects are big and complex, and therefore require diligent project management. A good project manager has to have good leadership and analytical skills, be able to set clear milestones and financial goals for the rest of the team, and be a great communicator.

In this article we discuss five essential steps for managing your ERP implementation project successfully.

Step 1: Identify and meet with the stakeholders

Stakeholders are defined as anyone who is affected by the outcome of the project. Identifying their interests and needs early in the project can help you better define the project scope, budget, and timeline. With ERP implementations, the stakeholders are often the whole company. It is obviously difficult and time consuming to talk to everyone. Usually meeting with department managers and key employees about the most important needs they have makes sense.

Meeting with stakeholders prior to the project start is also an opportunity to eliminate any remaining skepticism. Identify managers and key employees who are in extra need of convincing and make sure they understand the purpose and expected benefits of the project. It is also important to identify the project sponsor early on because that person will be essential in eliminating any roadblocks that appear as the project progresses.

Step 2: Build a comprehensive plan

One of the main tasks of a project manager is to prepare both the team and the company as well as possible. This can be achieved by creating a robust project plan. At a minimum, a project plan must include:

1. Goals and objectives. The main point of setting goals and objectives is to drive the ERP implementation process forward. A good project manager should establish goals and objectives that are achievable and aligned with overall business strategy. In addition, realistic deadlines must be attached to those objectives and communicated properly to the rest of the team.

2. Define the needed resources. Resource planning is perhaps one of the most crucial steps in any project planning process. As a project manager, you need to communicate to the rest of the organization exactly how much resources, both human and tangible, is needed to successfully complete the project. The scope also needs to include resources needed for contingency plans.

3. Task assignment. A project plan should serve as a guide for the implementation team. Therefore, all the tasks must be assigned and check points should be set along the way to ensure all the tasks are done.

4. Budget. A comprehensive budget provides management with an understanding of how funds will be utilized and expended over the lifecycle of the project. In a detailed budget all work is represented in terms of costs, and contingencies are accounted for.

Step 3: Status updates

Status updates along the way keep the team members and the rest of the organization motivated, and prevents any major detours from the main goal of the project. However, they should not become a distraction. Avoid scheduling too many meetings, and if you do schedule any, make sure you have a concrete agenda and invite only those who really need to be present. General updates on completed and remaining tasks can be done as an email.

Step 4: Risk management

As a project manager you need to be the first to identify issues and find solutions. It is not an easy task, but there are several risk assessment and management tools you can utilize to help you along the way. A good tip is to schedule high risk tasks early into your project if possible, and add a buffer of time to the timeline. Utilizing industry best practice project management tools is also important. If you are tracking milestones, deliverable deadlines and functionality requirements with a spreadsheet, you are probably headed in the wrong direction. Further, you need to ensure that your ERP vendor is providing you with regular status update and project status reports. These reports should provide insight into problems with the ERP implementation. Be wary of an ERP vendor who fails to provide regular status updates and reports.

Step 5: Training and education

Training and educating the employees in the new ERP system might be self-explanatory for many, yet this topic is often not given the right priority. Training is not only about teaching users about the new features of the software, but it is also about communicating how the day-to-day operations might change, eliminating futile business processes, and establishing new routines. To promote learning, it is also important for the project manager to cultivate an environment where people feel comfortable asking questions and making mistakes. That approach promotes learning and increases productivity in the long run.

Key take aways

● Get to know the needs and concerns of key stakeholders.

● Develop a project plan that details scope, budget, and timeline. Don’t forget about contingency plans.● Do a risk assessments and prepare for contingencies.

● Schedule regular update meetings to let people know the status and resolve issues. However, make sure meetings don’t become a distraction.

● Create an environment for learning during the training period.

For more information, please feel free to contact our office at 312-263-0570.