During my career in ERP consulting I had several opportunities to be involved in deployment of emerging ERP products and services. As with any innovation rollout there are challenges to overcome and I had to learn how to quickly triage ERP projects for success. Troubleshooting an ERP project is more than just performing an assessment – it’s implementing a realistic action plan and making it work for all stakeholders involved. Following is a tested and proven approach to jumpstart stalled ERP projects.
Similar to a Forest Fire Hotshot I typically got dropped into a “hot” ERP project that had stalled or had serious show stoppers. Time is always against you. However, you must first put in the effort to objectively understand the situation and establish your credibility:
Too often I see project managers jump into the details (WBS, Risks, Issues, CPI, SPI, Cost) without first understanding the context. You cannot be perceived as a busy body looking for who dropped the ball. Vendors, Customers, and System Implementers are made up of people. People make mistakes – especially me. People don’t care what you know until they know you care. It will be people – not technology – that will play the biggest role in getting the ERP project back on track.
Before hitting the ground running you first need to do your homework. As part of an ERP assessment it is important to review the key project artifacts generated and updated throughout the project.
This is the easy part and it is usually a simple process to review and evaluate. If a project scope statement does not exist or is not well-defined then chances are this absence is contributing to the problem. Creating or refining the project scope statement is a very small part of the action plan you need to execute. Now, let’s turn our attention to the implicit artifacts and information that are harder to identify and resolve.
Understand the Underlying Drivers
ERP vendors, System Implementers (SIs), and Customers want their ERP implementation to be successful. Yet there are fundamental drivers for each stakeholder appears to be in contradiction. Consider the following illustration:
Understanding the fundamental drivers of your stakeholders enable you to relate, empathize and align the efforts of all project stakeholders. It is important to note that you need the efforts from ALL stakeholders for success – regardless of who is at fault. I humbly submit that it is extremely rare when a single stakeholder is responsible or is at fault. On the flip side it is even more extreme to have a single stakeholder solely responsible for saving the day.
Strategy & Execution
It is a straight-forward exercise to develop a plan for troubleshooting an ERP project but providing a plan by itself does not add business value. How you execute and implement the plan is more important than the plan itself. Many of my project management colleagues may not agree with my assessment but I am convinced that this is true. Following are my guiding principles for ERP troubleshoot efforts:
- Create quick wins. Triage is required to stop the bleeding. You need to quickly seize the initiative and create positive events.
- Attack problems from multiple angles. If you have one approach get stonewalled you still have other ongoing activities to continue the march forward. This means that you have contingency plans in flight. Be aggressive.
- Triage is not the time for lessons learned. There will be opportunity for reflection after the immediate problem(s) have been addressed.
- Problem solving is not about assigning blame. You need every individual to have laser focus on resolving the problem and not on how to protect them own interests.
- All stakeholders must be willing to stretch outside their comfort zone. Customer and vendors limit their response based upon contractual arrangements. Partners think outside the box for mutual success.
- The answer lies within the team. Many times the greatest impact you can have is to enable the key players to recognize the solution. Communication skills will be vital to your success:
There is a fair amount of information available in books, articles, and blogs related to avoiding ERP problems and I agree that you should take reasonable steps to minimize known ERP problems. However, I believe that it is prudent to be prepared for the “unknown unknowns” that always occur with any ERP project. Troubleshooting ERP projects require process knowledge of project management fundamentals, problem solving techniques, and most importantly – perseverance. Just like the rudder steers the ship, finding small success(es) can get your ERP project back on the path for success.