Whether your Business Process Implementation is a brand new endeavor or one involving repair of previous work, think of your project as the engine of a car.
The engine works hard to make the car go. When it works well, it propels the car far and fast. When it doesn’t work, it’s usually because the engine hasn’t received the proper resources to guarantee full functionality.
What resources does an engine require? Fuel, oil, upkeep (in the form of regular maintenance checks), and repairs as they become warranted.
Your ERP implementation is no different. It requires the same resources. Consider:
Fuel – Three types of fuel become critical to your implementation’s success: proper funding, proper personnel, and the proper amount of time allocated for your project’s successful completion.
Proper funding – your organization has budgeted for any overriding expenses your implementation may incur.
Proper personnel – your company has assigned the project employees with the deepest knowledge of its current and aspirational states. At EstesGroup, we’ve come to think that the best people to pick for your implementation team are the people you can least afford to take out of your organization’s day-to-day activities. Only then can you feel comfortable that your best people are on the job, and that your ERP solution will benefit – now and later – from their unmatched expertise.
Time – Proper amount of time means that your organization maintains an objective understanding of how long a successful ERP implementation takes to deliver. Far too often, we see companies balk at committing this particular resource.
Oil – The lubricant of your ERP implementation – that force which ensures that all the various parts of the engine turn seamlessly on each other – is embodied by your project leaders and, ultimately, your project’s executive sponsorship (see Part Three of this blog series: Strong Executive Sponsorship). Capable, energetic leadership is so essential to your implementation’s success that we’ve come to consider it one of your project’s most pivotal resources.
Upkeep – As part of your Project Organization (see Part Four: Effective Project Organization), your implementation team commits to constant interaction between your company’s project managers, core team, and executive sponsorship. A successful ERP implementation is not the kind of work your enterprise can undertake as a hobby. It’s a rigorous, recursive process that demands consistent check-ins to ensure proper calibration.
Repairs – Unforeseen setbacks occur in even the best-planned implementations. They’re nothing to get upset about, and they can always be surmounted – provided the other project resources identified above have been supplied by your organization.
At EstesGroup, we’ve come to view a failure to supply the resources outlined above as the Number One reason most Business Process Implementations fail.
Every organization that hopes to succeed needs a strong leader
At EstesGroup, we’ve learned that you cannot create a successful Business Process Implementation or Upgrade without strong executive sponsorship:
An enterprise looks where its leader is looking. The will of the one becomes the will of the many. The executive who sets his or her eyes on the target and keeps them there is most likely to aim at and hit that target. In this case, the target is a successful ERP implementation. EstesGroup requires that someone at the helm of our client organizations dedicate him or herself to the entire scope of the project.
Most enterprises require executive sponsorship to marshal and deploy the kinds of resources that successful ERP implementations require. Lackadaisical or ad hoc commitment to the overall project is never enough to guarantee a win. At EstesGroup we’ve found that, when it comes to BPIs, an organization is either all in or sitting out the hand. Unfortunately, we can’t decide how much our client’s commit to the BPI process. Only they can do that. The executive who is willing to weather occasional vicissitudes, to extend assets when and as required by the process, and (perhaps most importantly) to learn from their implementation process is most likely to lead his or her organization to success.
There’s no such thing as success without discipline. Most organizations hire employees whom they deem to possess the proper work ethic and skills for success. But even the most talented employees require controls from time to time. This becomes especially true when challenging situations arise, as they so often do in Enterprise Resource Planning implementations. At EstesGroup, we ask that a project’s executive sponsor function as guardrails on the highway to success.
He or she erects the boundaries that keep the project in line and heading toward what we all want: an ERP solution that streamlines your business and points it toward its next level of accomplishment.
To achieve a successful ERP implementation, it’s pivotal that your company understands and commits to its roles and responsibilities over the entire length of the project.
At EstesGroup, we call this factor Project Organization.
What forms the bedrock of proper Project Organization? Your organization must provide an implementation team that:
knows your business inside and out;
possesses the authority to make certain organizational changes as they become suggested by the ERP implementation;
commits to the rigorous discipline of scripting, testing, retesting, and documenting business rules in the chosen ERP solution;
commits also to a codified schedule of regular progress reports to the project’s executive sponsors;
comes to work backstopped with the proper amount of time, funding, and patronage required to complete the entire project (see, Part Five: Deep Resources)
But here’s a point that we find a lot of other implementation specialists miss:
Project Organization has as much to do with knowing where your business is going as where it stands currently, or where it’s been.
The key term here is future states. EstesGroup always looks at whether or not your enterprise considered future states when it contracted to implement its ERP solution in the first place.
Why do we do this? Because the proper ERP solution for your enterprise should do more than surmount your current obstacles. It should also support the growth of your business’s future endeavors.
In other words, we build for tomorrow, not just today.
Project Organization is all about structure, and at EstesGroup, we know that structure is dictated by vision.
A good example is the new breed of “earthquake proof” buildings that architects have begun to design in areas historically rich in seismic activity. Houses and skyscrapers that fall into this category are designed to satisfy one very important guiding principle: their structures should be able to withstand the stress of all but the most cataclysmic earthquakes.
Switching to these kinds of structures has dramatically increased the structural integrity – and therefore the survivability — of an overwhelming percentage of buildings.
The same principle applies when EstesGroup works with your enterprise to build or repair your ERP solution. We mandate that your Project Organization be as “earthquake proof” as possible so that nothing collapses once the your solution has been installed.
Another cornerstone in the foundation of your company’s successful ERP implementation is your set of North Star principles.
The North Star is another term for what navigators past and present call “the pole star” – a star both visible and prominent in the night sky, and which aligns itself unswervingly with the planet’s northern celestial pole.
On Earth, our North Star is called Polaris. (Fun Astronomical Fact: what we call the North Star is actually three stars that appear as one to the naked human eye.) If you find yourself lost, you can always look up. By identifying Polaris in the night sky, you’ll always know which direction is north and be able to guide yourself home from there.
Businesses function in much the same way. The most successful enterprises maintain a unique set of goals or targets by which they guide themselves on the path to success.
The company that doesn’t establish and constantly reflect upon its North Star principles is much more likely to find itself wandering directionless in the hinterlands of its industry sector until, exhausted and confused, it simply collapses.
Successful ERP implementations also establish and follow North Star principles. These principles include what we at EstesGroup call your critical success factors: the benchmarks your organization feels it must achieve through its ERP implementation to consider the project successful.
Critical success factors vary from enterprise to enterprise. They can include such criteria as speeding the delivery of goods to market; quantifiably streamlining the work hours required to reach various forms of compliance; increasing overall profits by a mandated requirement; reducing your business’s overall costs on back office processes; and so on.
If you haven’t clarified the North Star principles of your enterprise, don’t worry. EstesGroup can leverage its tested Business Process Review to examine the current state of your business and work with your stakeholders to identify, develop, and solidify principles that will lead to your ultimate satisfaction.
North Star principles are so important to your business and its successful ERP implementation that we always concretize these factors before diving into the complex work that follows.
If you read Part One of this series carefully, you know what we at EstesGroup have learned through hard-won experience. We consider four factors mission-critical to the success of any Business Process Implementation (BPI). Once again, those factors are:
North Star Principles
Given our emphasis on these four points, it may not surprise you to hear the following:
When EstesGroup is called upon to consult on failed Business Process Implementation, we typically find that one or all of these four key points was completely ignored during the client’s ERP implementation.
No wonder their implementation failed. Consider what the client was working against.
It had no general commanding its army (Executive Sponsorship).
The implementation team set out without a concrete plan of attack (Project Organization).
The implementation process commenced without first nailing down the outcomes considered mandatory for success, or without communicating these outcomes to the implementation staff (North Star Principles).
Finally and perhaps most harmful to the overall process:
The implementation effort was expected to produce win without being assigned the proper personnel, budget, or time frame to do so (Resources).
At this point in our blog series, we’d like to suggest the proper mindset for a successful ERP implementation.
Hiring an ERP consultant is never enough.
Successful Business Process Implementations are a marriage of equals. The client organization must bring as much to the table as the implementation specialists do.
ERP implementations involve a lot of hard work. They most certainly involve the client company because no one knows their business better than its employees know it.
Good ERP consultants don’t wave magic wands to produce success. We partner with our clients and draw from their expertise to understand their business as best we can. Only then can we help them understand how to improve their business processes and express them as data within the chosen ERP solution.
Deficiency in any one of the four Project Roles can (and most likely will) lead to an unsuccessful project implementation.
With this in mind, let’s drill deeper into each of the four Project Roles so that you and your business can prepare yourself properly for the BPI that takes your enterprise to the next level.