Setting up your A-Team

ERP implementations can be make or break for some companies; get it right and you may gain a competitive edge, cut costs, increase margins; get it wrong and the consequence can be dire. Leaseplan wrote off €92M after abandoning a SAP project. After spending nearly €500M, LIDL scrapped their ERP project – there are countless examples of just how badly ERP projects can go.

There are a number of fundamentals that most companies know they need to get right for their project to be successful – strategic alignment, selection of an appropriate system and implementation partner, sound governance and so on. When it comes to staffing the project, your own core team of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) are likely to be supported by experienced external resources and that sounds like a winning combination but actually getting the right individuals in place can be tricky.

In this post, I am going to focus on three mistakes that are often made when teams are being put together…

Mistake #1 – “Who can the business manage without for the duration of the project?”. If someone can be spared, chances are that they do not have sufficient knowledge of your business needs to contribute properly. The best outcome you can hope for in this scenario is that damage is limited the project schedule and your implementation takes longer than it should. But you are much more likely to encounter project quality issues; inappropriate decisions that lead to a system that doesn’t properly support your business. Suitability should never be determined by availability.

Mistake #2 – “The manager of a business function has to be the SME”. You may well have managers who have been with your business for many years and who know your business inside out. In addition, they are the decision makers, so they need to make all the key decisions that arise during the project. These managers may seem like an obvious choice for your project team but often, those who have been with the business for many years are set in their ways – they have always managed their processes a certain way and lack the visionary element required to really transform your business through the implementation of a new system.  They also are often removed from the day-to-day processes that are supported by ERP and so aren’t best placed to understand what the future processes and systems should look like. You should always look at key players within each business function, below the management level – the ones who know your processes well but are open to new ways; The ones who know understand what happens at the coal face. Be warned though – you need to empower these individuals to make decisions on your project. They may not be the manager, but they need to be allowed to make project decisions. Make your selection based on specific competency, not hierarchical status.

Mistake #3 – “They have been assigned, so they are now available to the project”. Senior execs sometimes create what they believe to be the dream team, but they ignore the significant difference between assigning individuals and actually deploying those individuals. If they get it right, for most organisations, the people who are assigned are already key to operations. ERP projects are weighty, and no individual can be stretched to accommodate both roles successfully. If you try to do this, you will end up with one of a few scenarios; your valuable employee will be unreasonably stressed and potentially leave the organisation; they will delegate either business-as-usual or project tasks to others, leaving room for potentially costly mistakes; or they will soldier on, trying to do both and not delivering brilliantly on either. In addition, you cannot assign an individual and then start every email or conversation with them with “I know you are really busy with the project but….”. I have seen so many senior execs assign their staff and give commitment that the resource has been allocated and then steal the resource back from their own project! If you assign someone to your ERP project, ensure that there is sufficient support or backfill to actually enable them to be properly deployed to the project.

There are a lot of elements that contribute to a successful ERP project, getting your team right is just one of them.  If you would like to discuss your ERP team requirements, get in touch with me – I’d be happy to chat!