Time is often perceived as the enemy of an ERP software implementation. Minutes and hours and days tick away whether your team is making the best use of them or not, and so we often speak of "working against time." In reality, time is a friend to those who thoroughly prepare for this endeavor. One of the first conversations we have with potential customers aims to assess their awareness of the role time plays in their desire to implement - and will continue to play should they proceed. In our experience, those who don't take the clock for granted or overestimate their capabilities with regard to speed tend to have better outcomes. Here are three questions that help us evaluate prospective success.
What business relationships and/or events are driving the timeline for this project?
Time and again we've been approached by companies that "want to be live yesterday." Most of the time this request is made by businesses that have reached an internal crisis point before pursuing solutions. What we know is that trying to slam complex software into place in short order will often exacerbate an already poor situation. It's important to know what's at stake in a project and to formulate a timeline that is responsive to those circumstances without being desperate. Understanding the time-based factors that are driving a project will also allow a plan to be designed that prioritizes critical goals and goes easy on less pressing items. A well-developed and methodically implemented system will always serve an organization better and longer than a rushed one will.
When are your company's most active periods, both internally and externally?
Planning around especially busy sales months or sensitive business activities will reduce the possibility for frustration to mount and problems to result. In the busiest of times, employees tend to work as close to capacity as possible. Why pile on to those stressful occasions by adding the burden of an Enterprise Resource Planning system implementation (which is a collectively demanding endeavor)? We try to identify when your peak sales, fulfillment, and/or manufacturing seasons are so that we can plan the implementation between those periods. Likewise, your fiscal calendar will dictate when not to schedule major project milestones and elaborate tasks for your back-office folks. People are always going to feel busy; the objective is to time the implementation in order to avoid having them feel downright overwhelmed.
If the members of the executive team were asked, what would each say is the motivation for the timing of this project?
Would there be unanimous agreement? Consensus? An utter difference of opinions? It is particularly important that a company's decision-makers agree upon the driving factors of an implementation's timing. Employees involved in the day-to-day activities of the project will look to their managers to set pace and cadence. If perceptions and expectations within the leadership team don't align, the probability of mid-implementation confusion rises dramatically. While some people will address their project tasks at an easy pace, others will be pushing forward with a sense of urgency. Due dates will be taken more or less seriously, resulting in incomplete assignments and missed deadlines. To avoid these inconsistencies, we like to facilitate pre-project discussion among the executive group with the objective of synchronizing everyone's project clocks.
The attitude a business adopts towards a timeline before and during an implementation can make all the difference to a project coming in on budget and on time. If you've had a particularly good or bad experience in the timing of a software implementation, leave us a comment and share your experience. What should other companies do (or not do)? And drop us a line if we can help you synchronize your project clocks or help with any of the other considerations around a large-scale implemenation.