Implementing an Enterprise Resource Planning system is a team effort. And not just one team. Many. That's because the project team will draw from just about every area of your organization - just like your new system will influence all those areas. This diverse team must have an executive sponsor, strong leaders, clear objectives, and sufficient budget resources to successfully complete the job.
What's more, the majority of the team's members must come from the experts in your user community - not IT, not professional implementers, and, unfortunately, not the people you can most afford to dedicate to a project beyond their existing responsibilities. Users are the ones who will operate the system and be the beneficiaries of the improvements it will deliver. In a sense, they have the most at stake. So what should your ERP implementation project include?
An Executive Sponsor
The executive sponsor - also referred to as the project champion - provides vision and commitment. As other demands and priorities begin to compete with the project, the executive sponsor revises expectations in order to clear obstructions from the project's path. This champion is not a full-time position, but it is an essential one for maintaining project focus. The sponsor inspires the team, makes sure resources are available when required, and resolves conflicts that cannot be solved at lower levels.
Some projects will be big enough to require several leaders, while more modest ventures will need only one. Whatever the size of your project, those forging the way will need strong leadership ability and, preferably, some experience managing projects. These folks should know and intimately understand your business, and they need to be effective communicators. Whereas the executive sponsor offers inspiration and facilitation from a high level, the leaders keep the team on the ground organized and on track. Team leaders run weekly - often cross-functional - project meetings with task leaders, and they coordinate amongst themselves between the various segments of the business. Project leaders also deliver progress reports to upper management and account for any change control.
For optimal results, it is critical to assign tasks to team members that relate to their specific area of responsibility and expertise within the organization. These people know most about how a particular area operates, and they will be most effected by the changes when that part of the system goes live. As such, they have a vested interest in wanting the implementation to be well-considered and successful.
A project team without a plan is really just a confused and inefficient group of people. Those tasks assigned to team members should be captured as such in your plan and arranged on a timeline. Accompanying the project timeline should be a budget and schedule that informs - and directs - management of the project through to it's completion. Ideally, this plan will be updated in real time. At a minimum, it should be reviewed and updated weekly. Deviations between planned and actual events should be addressed and resolved as quickly as possible as to avoid undue impact on other, often dependent tasks, which may delay the overall project.
With all these moving people and parts, keeping good records and communicating progress throughout the project's lifespan is essential. When in doubt, over-communicate to avoid surprises. Maintain people's interest and cooperation by keeping them informed and involved. People who have personal, vested interests in the success of the project will feel inspired by news of its progress and work hard to remedy it's difficulties. Great communication will invite directly and indirectly involved members of the organization alike to feel a sense of ownership and pride - and a reduction in fear - about these new business management tools.