Who runs the ERP implementation project: the consultant or the client?

An ERP Implementation project has an equal chance of success or failure in the beginning. What makes it go well and what makes it go bad?

There was an interesting post about the evils of ERP Consultants on ITToolbox: Are Some ERP Consulting Firms Crooks?

Reading it, you understand why so many ERP projects fail. It seems like that is all people talk about are the failures in ERP project implementations. Is it really the consultant who makes it fail? I think the real question is “who really runs the ERP implementation”.

If what you read in the above mentioned article holds true, then there should not be any successful implementations. I take a different stand and believe that most ERP consultants, and their firms, are trying to do the right thing, there are, however, circumstances that derail a project. Further, I believe that it is the customer’s responsibility to stand up for their rights and protect their investment.

When initiating the project, it is important that the project team interviews each of the consulting team’s staff-members around their experience and their ability to deliver in the role slated. If at any point in the project, you feel that any of the consulting team members are not performing or are being difficult to work with, bring it up to the consulting project manager or the firm’s account manager. They have a vested interest in you getting along well with the team so that the project runs well. Sometimes success or failure is a matter of personalities.
ERP implementation flow
Frequently, ERP implementation projects are run by the consultants who drive it based upon a methodology that has worked for them in the past. It is usually a derived form of Initiate, Design, Build, Test, and Cutover. These five steps have been used in variation for decades now. The methodology has moved from being a rigid waterfall method to a more agile iterative approach, but it still follows the same theme.

If consultants follow the same methodology (in one form or another), why do some projects go well and why do some fail? I believe the answer lies in the project governance. Who manages the project? Who takes ultimate responsibility? What is the culture of collaboration? These are all key questions that need to be addressed before the first day of the project and readdressed along each status meeting.

My experience has shown me that projects that go well are the projects where the client “owns” the success of the outcome, along with the consultants. If the client is not “bought into” their own success, then how can the consultant drive the project to success?

At the same time, there needs to be collaboration. The value of consultants is the experience they bring in executing implementations over-and-over. The consultants will tend to drive the project based on their methodology and their experience, however, the client needs to step up and ask “why?” and “how?” Then they need to assess if it is a sound direction. They need to either accept the recommendation, or push back if they think it will not work for their company.

A professional consultant should listen and explain their reasoning. It should not turn into an ego-fest of who knows best. Rather options and solutions should be presented. A lot of this collaboration depends also on the people involved in the project. Within the same implementation team, you may have a driver style personality who sees all client requests as out-of-scope and must push for a change order. At the same time you may have collaborative team members who gets what the client is asking and realizes that the request is part of the iterative process of reaching a desired solution.

A skilled project manager negotiate with the different personalities and must make the decision to determine where the solution is going. Is it outside the bounds of the work agreement? Or, if by following that path, will it lead to a joint success. This can only be reached through meaningful discussions.

There are consultants who focus too much on billable hours and not on client needs. There are other consultants who focus on client needs only and as a result blow-up the budget. In both cases, the client needs to call foul if they see project effort going too far in the wrong direction.

On a recent project, a client realized that the technical development was over engineering the solution. The client is not technical, but could see that the solution presented was too much for the goal. Working with the consulting project manager they refocused the team and got things back on track.

Bottom line, if you as the client are not collaborating, and working through issues daily with the implementation consultants, you will be driven to a solution that is not one of your own choosing. On the other hand, if you drive the project with too much zeal and force, you may miss the valuable design experience that the consultants bring.

The success of the ERP project weighs as much on the internal team and their project manager as much as it does on the consultants. Where projects go bad, it is often due to the lack of participation of the implementing company’s team or the lack of direction from their project manager. In these cases, the consultants end up driving and will likely make system decisions based on experience, but not based on the operations of the company. So if you want to have success in your ERP implementation, you must own the project and work collaboratively with the consultants each and every day.

ERP Project Management Tools

Project Management Tools that Save you Time and Money

Managing an ERP Project requires the right project management tools. Using pre-defined tools saves a lot of time and effort and prevents you from “recreating the wheel.” Being able to run an ERP project effectively requires that you be on the top of your game, everyday. There are an infinite number of challenges that may arise to create problems for you. That is why you don’t want to spend time trying to build new forms, templates, presentations and the like from scratch. You have better things to do.

Having run many projects, we understand the time commitment and the challenges. As such, we are listing out some very useful and time saving tools. Some are references, some are downloadable templates. But together, they can assist you in running your project smoothly and with adequate controls.

Project Management Tools – Deliverables Templates

You’ve just been assigned a new project and you now need to put in place the weekly status report, the project charter, the project plan, the ERP Vendor criteria checklist, and so on. Unless you work for a consulting firm, you may not have these various documents on-hand. As such one of the best resources we have found is this collection of project management tools and templates. You should download the entire collection of project management tools and set it aside for the many various projects you might encounter in your career.

Another useful collection of templates are a set of Powerpoint slides that explain what ERP is and does, as well as Lean Manufacturing, and other business topics. These will save you a lot of time. Again, instead of starting from scratch, you can tweek and modify. You can find this collection here.
Project Management Templates

Project Management Tools – Collaboration

Working with a project team with hundreds of tasks assigned can be difficult to manage. Fortunately we have found the ideal solution in a web based software called Nozbe. Originally designed for people who want to use the GTD Methodology (Getting Things Done), it has grown into a project manager’s dream tool. Use it individually or in a team to accomplish a lot and get things done.

Project Management Tools – Project Management References

One of the best sites we have found that lays out the entire process of project management is the ePMBook. It is from the UK, but if you live in the US, it is just as applicable. If you are new to Project Management, or you are a seasoned veteran, this free online ebook will provide you with all the reference material you need to be successful.

Of course the ultimate resource is the Project Management Institute and their PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge). If you are serious about field of Project Management and want to get more training and access to other project management tools, then you need to become a member of PMI. If you wish, you can pursue the Project Management Certification that they offer.

Do you have project management tools you refer to all the time? Please comment and let us know about them.

Project Management Tools

Your 7 Step Guide to ERP Failure

So you want an ERP failure and you want it to be of epic proportions?  Okay, here are your top ways to assure you go down in flames in the most spectacular way.

Key things to ensure ERP Failure

1. Select the Software at face value based on the Vendor’s Promises.  In fact, the best thing you can do is to buy the software right there at the trade show.

2. Don’t even consider the business processes.  Fully adopt the software the way it works out of the box. Process ERP Failure.

3. Only include the users at the last minute and then for minimal training.  Use Mushroom Management to keep the users at bay. People ERP Failure.

ERP Failure
4. Pick an ERP Software on an operating platform to which IT has no knowledge. For example select an ERP running on Unix and put it into a Windows environment. Technical ERP Failure.

5. Keep executive level management out of the process and out of the project.  Use upward mushroom management** with executives about the status of the project.  Avoid their support at all costs.  

6. Avoid data cleanup.  In fact, push the data over to the new system with no review.   Forget any field type changes or consideration of system differences.

7. Only use the standard reports.  Those are good enough for your users.

**Mushroom management: noun, a method of “keeping them in the dark and feeding them lots of Sh!&”


Congratulations you are now on a path to ERP Hell!  Enjoy the ride.

Avoiding ERP Failure

In all seriousness, here are some resources to help you in you avoid ERP Failure:

Why New Systems Fail: An Insider’s Guide to Successful IT ProjectsERP Failure

ERP Software Selection Tools

ERP Project Management Articles

Project Manager Templates

ERP Implementation Articles

ERP Failure

Managerial Issues of Enterprise Resource Planning Systems

Product Description
The primary purpose of this text is to lay out the scope of ERP Systems implementation, explain the competitive advantages of using ERP Systems, and support general concepts with short case studies. This text covers the fundamental issues important in ERP implementation and management, starting from an information systems, information technology project management perspective. Each chapter will include a review of real cases of ERP implementations related to that p… More >>

Managerial Issues of Enterprise Resource Planning Systems

ERP Software Selection

Top 7 tips for getting an ERP Software Selection on Track

Top 7 tips for getting an ERP Software Selection on Track

You’re looking to find out how to get an ERP Software Selection back on track. This means that you probably have an evaluation that is going poorly and you are being led by the ERP software vendors, right? The ERP Software Selection process can be a struggle, but they don’t really have to be. If the ERP Software Selection follows a clear process, then things will run smoother. The trick is to not let the software vendors drive ERP Software Selection process.

Key ERP Software Selection Tips

ERP Requirements
1. Get Senior Management on board now
2. Be sure you have clear goals
3. Define your both your technical requirements and business requirements
4. Have a neutral third party manage the process.
5. Eliminate vendors early, and without regrets
6. Be sure you are working with the right software providers
7. Reassess your internal team

One of the top things you can do to ensure success of any Enterprise Software Selection project is to ensure that senior management is on-board with the project and that they fully support the goals of the project. If top-line management is not supportive of the project, there will be departmental and division contentions during the implementation. Often these arise during the selection process. Usually it is the case of one department competing for the same resources as another department. This often will show up on conflicting requirements for the system. Senior management must be the tie-breaker and define the future path the system should take.

If the project does not have clear goals, it is bound to flounder. Goals should not be general such as replace our system by next January. The goals should have significant business impact. A goal like “Reducing inventory by 25% while increasing sales throughput by 15% one year after implementation” is a clear goal that benefits the business and lays a stake in the ground that the system must achieve. You may find that the system can help you exceed that goal, but if you do not measure in a clear goal such as this, how will you know you have succeeded? The pain and inconvenience of an implementation will create a lot of problems within the company, but a clear goal is a great focus agent to get past the disagreements and personality conflicts.

ERP Software Selection Requirements

Often a company will define a set of requirements for a system and these requirements will have no impact on the decision of the system. Requirements need to be business driven and be tied to the factors that make your company successful. Look at the following two requirements and see which one makes it easier to help in a selection:

1. System must have serial and lot tracking.
2. System must be able to report on all shipments by a particular lot with traceability back to the original batch or incoming receiving document.

These two statements are essentially asking for the same thing, but when it comes time to solve a problem, the second requirement will distinguish of the system can solve the problem. Define your requirements around business processes, not about system features.

ERP Requirements Maximizing Business Performance through Software Packages: Best Practices for Justification, Selection, and Implementation

Additionally, most systems nowadays can handle most of the key things you need. They all do General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Inventory, etc. The question is, what are their strengths and what are their weaknesses. Defining specific business process requirements around the things that you do frequently is the best way to ensure that you get a system that matches your needs.
Many times when companies get in trouble with an ERP Software Selection, it is because they tried to manage it on their own. Often the IT manager or even the Controller will get the task of defining requirements and shepherding the system selection and all the vendors, value-added-resellers, and reference clients. Since they already have a key role in the company, it often a daunting task to get them to manage the selection process and do their day job. Because of this, it is often advisable to get a third party consultant involved to manage the process. The key thing about this consultant is that they should not have any financial ties to any vendors. They need to be non-biased and have experience in many ERP Software Selection projects.

Why does this help? There are a few reasons, but the key reason is that they can supplement your time and handle all of the details around gathering requirements, building scripts, arranging demos, and being the one to have to tell the vendors “no” at the end. Further, they usually come with a broader vision of how the end result can be achieved. They also make a living out of doing these selections and they know the pitfalls and can help you avoid many of the vendor “tricks” that are often played to ensure that the salesperson wins the sale. If your selection is already off track, bringing in a consultant can often help realign the various team members and refocus the selection.

As you move into the ERP Software Selection process, it is important that you eliminate as many potential candidate software systems early on, so you are not wasting your time and efforts looking at a broad range of systems. Ideally, you start with a long list of 10 and whittle that down to the top two or three. Get the software vendors that are clearly not matching your requirements out of the running as soon as possible. Use resources to help you define the best fit for your company. Many times, the vendor will bow out if they see they are not a clear fit to your requirements. But with each elimination, document why they were eliminated, so that at the end, when someone asks, “What happened to XYZ software, I thought they were a good fit”, you will have the answer as to why they are no longer being considered.

Once you have chosen the two or three candidate software systems, you want to make sure that you are working with the right provider. Software is sold either direct or through indirect channel partners. The channel partners, or value-added-resellers (VARs) each come with their own specialties. You need to find out are you dealing with a VAR or with the Software company itself. If you are dealing with a VAR, you need to make sure that they are the best VAR to help you implement the software. Do your research early, because the last thing you want to do is to change VARs late in the process. This causes all sorts of problems, most of all it delays the selection by weeks or months.

When dealing with VARs, talk to the Software Developer (see our directory of ERP software vendors here) and get their take on the VARs strengths and weaknesses and see if there may be another company you can speak with. Interview the two implementers (VARs) and see which company is a best fit to work with your company. Often it comes down to personality, one group was too arrogant, one group just didn’t get us, or even that VAR’s sales rep had a horrible personality. Find the fit because if you select their ERP software, you will be living with these people for 6-9 months or more. You want to make sure that you can work through the implementation with them as well as later rely on them for ongoing support.

If you are dealing with the software company direct, the same questions apply, but in a sense of is this the software to get married to? You need to be sure that not only the software works for you, but also that the people and company are a good fit to work with your company.

Lastly, take a good, hard look at your team. Do you have functional members from each department? Do they each bring a wealth of experience about their area? Often the hardest thing about the ERP Software Selection process is getting the best people in your company and pulling them out of their jobs to take part in the critical task of selecting a new system. They are usually the person most in demand. They need to be the one to help select the system as they know the current system and business processes inside-out.

Often an ERP Software Selection will go badly because the best people can’t give the time to make the process happen. This is why it is so important to have senior management involved and have a clearly stated set of goals for the project. Having a third party to help move things along and to look at your business objectively will aid tremendously in making the ERP selection process easier. Most of all, by putting all seven of these tips together, you will ensure that you have a successful ERP Software Selection process and that you end up with the best software for the success of your company.
ERP Software Selection
ERP Software Selection

ERP Software Selection Toolkit

We are happy to announce that ERPandmore now has a set of FREE ERP Software Selection tools that are perfect for anyone looking to embark on an Enterprise Resource Planning system selection. These tools include:

Manufacturing ERP Feature Checklist

This Excel spreadsheet details the core features that you should consider as you develop your manufacturing software requirements.

Ten Steps to Selecting Manufacturing Software

Download this step-by-step guide to get organized before buying your next manufacturing software system.

Apples-to-Apples Pricing Calculator

Understand the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for manufacturing software systems. Download this tool to compare multiple price quotes.

How to Assess ERP Vendors Financial and Strategic Viability

A straightforward guide that outlines the biggest risks you face when you partner with a new software vendor. Before you buy, make sure your vendor is financially stable and strategically viable.

Other tools will be released as soon as they become available. We are sure that you will greatly benefit from the gained objectivity and reduced stress of managing the software vendors with these wonderful aids.

Download these free tools (brought to you in partnership with Manufacturing Software Advice) to get a jump start on your software selection process. See through the smoke and mirrors and objectively evaluate your potential ERP packages.

ERP Project Management Books

We are posting the link to various top selling ERP Project Management books. These will be updated occasionally for your review to see the latest information on key project management methods.

We hope you find this useful. It is always useful to refresh yourself on Project Management techniques.

Project Management Planning vs. Task Management

Project Management for ERP cannot be understated. It is the essential tool for ensuring a successful launch of a new Enterprise Software system. Understanding the Scope, the Time Frame, the Budget, the People/Resources available, and the goals are all important. Many people use a tool such as MS Project to plan the various stages and tasks to complete.

There is a fundamental difference between planning a project and tracking it. On a project team there are various assignments and tasks that need to be accomplished. MS Project is often cumbersome to track detailed tasks. Especially those that come up in steering committee meetings and even on phone calls.

Being able to track them requires a useful tool to manage all the tasks. This is different than Microsoft Project. MS Project is a great planning tool. But to manage the various sub-projects and tasks, we have started using Nozbe. Check it out. We have put up a link on the sidebar of our site to assist you. Another good resource for various project software is http://www.gtdsoftware.net.