No one wants to think about it, but your ERP project might fail. And while there’s a wealth of analysis on why ERP implementations fail, we consider one factor to be the difference between an implementation’s success or failure. Executive involvement is key — without it, an ERP project will struggle from the beginning and may not recover.
More than just an ERP project
An ERP implementation is really a change management initiative. Just with more software involved. Asking people to change is never easy. It’s up to your company’s leaders to champion the project and guide your employees throughout the process.
Once a project is underway (and starts to get tough), the new system should be the catalyst for business transformation, something people can reference as the driving force behind positive change. You can have the best consultants, but even skilled, friendly, hard-working people face resistance when they’re the outsiders. Members of groups follow their leaders. And this is a good thing! Huge projects only get accomplished when people work together as a team, which is why executives should be prepared make tough decisions, foster consensus, and drive the project forward.
How executives can play a crucial role
Of the thousands of decisions that need to be made during a project, many are going to be controversial. An ERP system touches almost every department in a company. Each department has its own set of processes and distinct personalities. Something like sales order management — which crosses paths with sales, credit, customer service, planning, logistics, accounts receivable — could require days or weeks of meetings. And when people can’t come to an agreement? The process stalls. This is the death knell of your project. This type of deadlock is why executive support is crucial. They can smooth the path and make the tough decisions needed to drive the project forward.
Why meetings are so important
We recommend you form a project steering committee and meet at least once a month. The meetings don’t have to be long, but they should focus on specific asks for executives, rather than just listing project updates. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a one-hour meeting. The key is to keep requests concise, limit needless updates, and be clear on who is responsible for what. By bringing a list of short, actionable items to the executive team, you can respect everyone’s time and keep them engaged and involved.
Frequently asked questions
Certainly those factors are important, but we consider executive involvement the linchpin of a successful ERP implementation. These projects involve change management, which is never easy and relies on a company’s leaders to see it through.
The most basic thing you can do is establish a steering committee and ask key members of the executive team to participate. Getting executives to attend regular meetings might be tough, but a well thought out meeting with an agenda, decisions and next steps will go a long way to keeping them involved. And it will be worth it in the end.
It’s the implementation team’s job to decide who is responsible for what activities, which problems need an executive decision, and which can be solved on their own.
The key to a successful steering committee meeting isn’t just project updates (people can get that information on their own time), it’s bringing the up the issues that need executive input. Get in, follow the agenda, assign next steps and move on.