5 Ways an Implementation Can Go Sideways and How to Avoid Them

ERP implementation – some think of it as a frightening term. It can cause anxiety for those who have not experienced an ERP implementation before. ERP – Enterprise Resource Planning – systems are built to allow an integrative way to manage the business as well as backend functions: i.e. technology, financials, and human resources. There are a bunch of applications fueling and tracking different aspects of a business and are connecting to other facets at a rapid pace. Oftentimes, every piece of the ERP mechanism is affecting another – hence the fear during implementation. With all that said however, ERP implementations can – and often do – go very smoothly. There are many points within an implementation that can cause the project to “break” so to speak; however, by identifying the main points, we can define how to avoid those breakages and have a smooth and successful implementation.

Throughout this piece we will touch on 5 different ways an ERP implementation can go sideways and how to proactively avoid them.

  1. Project Champion

Every project – regardless of what type it is – has a champion, that one person at the company that liaises with the software company, the third-party company, or the consultants. That person is the one who manages the project internally, appoints subject matter experts, and makes all of the (sometimes difficult) decisions as they arise. The project champion position requires a specific amount of time be devoted to the given project and an immense amount of responsibility on ensuring that the project itself runs smoothly. For these reasons, it is incredibly important to ensure that the right person is chosen to be the project champion – as it really sets the pace for the remainder of the project. So, ensure you choose the right person for the job to have a smooth implementation!

  1. Blueprinting

This is the starting point of every implementation – it is situated right after the sales portion is complete and the goals and needs of the project are identified. Proper blueprinting is really the foundation for a successful implementation. By creating a blueprint document, you can identify any and all customizations needed, develop standards to be put in place, and state the names and positions of everyone who holds responsibility in the project. This document will become the bible of your project and will allow both the project manager and the project champion to outline expectations and have an appropriate sign off to keep all parties on track. Without proper blueprinting, the project can quickly derail – and oftentimes, costs and timelines can increase and cause incredible stress on everyone involved. You can avoid this by ensuring you and your company spend time on building the project foundation to set up for success in the rest of the project.

  1. Customizations

Rarely does a company invest in an ERP system and get the standard only version (sometimes referred to as “out of the box”). Therefore, customizations or enhancements are common when trying to tailor the system to your specific company needs. It’s helpful to identify customizations within the blueprinting stage of a project. This allows all facets of the company to get a head start on working on the enhancements needed. It also allows the project manager and project champion to devise a reasonable schedule for the project and go-live timeline. Of course, there will always be times where customizations cannot properly be identified until later on in the project – try to keep these instances to a minimum. Surprises can cause tension and delays, so by being open and communicative from the beginning about your specific needs, you can have a smoother implementation.

  1. Change Orders

It’s almost impossible to avoid change order requests within any sort of project. As the project progresses there will almost always be things that are identified that are different than the beginning. These changes can be minor, or they can be a large change in scope (which will be avoided by following these 5 steps!). It’s important to be open and honest when needing a change. Ensure that you are filing an official change order request (or proposal) with the correct people in order to have it reviewed quickly. Also, try to identify and change orders early on in the project to allow time for shuffling and re-allocation of resources and budgets.

  1. Communication

This is the foundation of any project – and as you may have noticed, a recurring aspect of points one to four here. The gist is, without proper communication there will be no success. We, as humans, don’t read minds – so it’s important to share our ideas with others. Implementing proper communication from the get-go will allow you to seamlessly discuss issues as they arise later on. Along with good communication – the project manager and project champion should lead with good communication. Leading by example will allow others to follow and ensure that everyone is comfortable and open.

As you can see, there are many aspects of an implementation. These 5 points are really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to a project – but simply adjusting the expectations with regard to these five points will increase the successes in your project tenfold.

To summarize: communication is the foundation of any project – ensure that project managers and project champions are leading by example with good communication. Before the project begins – choose a project champion wisely; this individual will be the representative and the liaison for the business. Ensure that the person is smart, qualified, and well-spoken to ensure that the connection goes well. Start your project with a blueprinting phase; this will allow you to properly outline the project and identify any needs and customizations early on. In addition, blueprinting is a critical phase that enables the project manager to create a timeline for successful project completion and lessen the risk of headaches that come with issues arising. Next, try your best to identify customizations and enhancements early on to avoid having their completion affect the overall go-live date – or worse, having them denied due to timelines. Finally, use change orders wisely and keep communication open to ensure that change orders are submitted to the right individuals and in a timely manner to ensure a smooth adjustment to project timelines and expectations.

Pro Tip: Develop an internal methodology for your organization with regard to project management and implementation. By creating a process that works, you can take the headache and stress out of the planning and focus your resources on the execution of the actual project! This is a simple way to train new employees in the future and ensure that all team members are on the same page.

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