Staffing decisions for your ERP implementation will ideally be the same as for other endeavors of comparable magnitude and impact. Comparisons between projects may be difficult to make if you have not transformed the organizational infrastructure of your organization with the help of an ERP system before.
Clearly, you are not going to implement just "another software package." Visions of ERP implementations are sometimes based on extrapolating past experience with software implementations. While understandable, it is potentially a recipe for disaster. The point is stressed because mistaking an ERP implementation for just a software package implementation is the main culprit behind organizations' tendency to underestimate the complexity of their projects.
Assigning best resources does not necessarily mean assigning them all full-time, or for the entire duration of the project. Some resources may be needed full-time, some of the time only, or part-time only for all of the time, or any combination thereof. Completion of Step 2— articulation of the end in mind—will help to define the key stakeholders, the people who must be involved, and the extent to which their involvement is required. The point is that there are some people within your organization who simply must be involved to some extent if the project is to be successful.
There are times when companies cannot dedicate their best resources to an ERP system implementation project. However, if you are not currently in a position to assign your best people, you might want to rethink the timing of the project. An undertaking of this significance and magnitude must be a very high priority for an organization or the risk of less than desirable results is high.
Step 4: Take the Plunge
With the confidence of clear goals and a strong team, it's time to take your dream seriously. In other words, it's time to plan. It is important to realize that the project plan will simultaneously be your plan and your process. In fact, project plans are processes—"a series of actions bringing about a result." Much as a plan to build a bridge becomes the process of building that bridge, your ERP system implementation project plan becomes the process to achieve its objectives.
Planning takes tune and effort—probably often the reason why it is not done, or not done adequately. However, you simply cannot afford not to do it. It's rather like exercising. It may appear at times that we can do without it, but it is an illusion that eventually becomes clear. Planning is creating the basis for future project decisions. It will support decisions as to when each deliverable or phase has been completed successfully. The need for planning is paramount, and the price for not planning over time can be exorbitant. As a rule, "the amount of planning performed should be commensurate with the scope of the project and the usefulness of the information developed."
At the heart of the project plan you will find the work breakdown structure, or WBS. Because most ERP implementation projects will have the same or similar project life cycles and deliverables, a WBS from a previous project can often be used as a template for a new project. Whether you work with an ERP system vendor or with a consulting firm specializing in ERP system implementations, chances are they will have an ERP system implementation template for you. The WBS is the tool used for decomposition of your project. Decomposition involves subdividing the major project deliverables into smaller, more manageable components to support future project activities. It will improve the accuracy of your cost, time, and resource estimates, define the baseline for project performance review, and facilitate clear responsibility assignments. It is the basis from which the project can be managed to its expected outcomes.
A project is about change. What is change leadership? Change leadership helps identify, understand, prioritize, and manage the critical success factors in the human side of ERP implementations. It does so by scanning your organization, that is, your peoples' perceptions. This information is then synthesized and can be played back in the form of graphs, charts, or any format that lets you quickly recognize opportunity areas with the greatest need for improvement.
Change leadership used to be resource-intensive, with many people conducting large numbers of interviews and requiring substantial amounts of time from the client's organization. State-of-the-art change leadership tools have changed this. Today, interviews can be done electronically, typically take a short time to complete, and are totally anonymous and unbiased, ensuring that accurate and real perceptions are collected. Results are stored in databases, providing easy access and analysis of information.
Because every organization is unique, we strongly recommend including change leadership in your WBS. Alternatively, you could execute change leadership as a separate project ahead of or parallel to your ERP system implementation project. Whatever your preference, your goal must be complete ERP implementation on time, on budget, while meeting or exceeding stakeholder expectations. It is a big goal that doesn't leave leeway for trial and error. More than ever, the ability to manage change must become the job of everyone involved, not just that of a consultant or project manager. We have yet to see an ERP system implementation that was truly successful without the benefits of formal change management.
To Be Continued
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