Tolstoy famously remarked that “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Reflecting on Tolstoy’s own relations and on the kindred lives of the characters in his novels, I’ve often wondered if Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementations are like families, and whether such categorical statements could be similarly applied to successful and unsuccessful families of projects. While every project has its own unique dynamics, I’m obliged to believe that roughly the inverse of Tolstoy’s statement is the case—that each happy ERP implementation isn’t alike, but rather is successful in its own way.
That is, I’ve seen successful ERP implementation projects that have differed from one another in surprisingly significant ways. As such, it might be best to review successful ERP projects individually and try to understand what it is among them that made them successful. Anyone can wax eloquent on the generic platitudes that lead to a successful implementation, but in practice, when the time comes to make tradeoffs between platitudes, it’s helpful to know how companies work through challenges and finally arrive at successful implementations.
One project that we recently completed fit such a mold. While not free of obstacles, the end-product was immensely successful. A number of key factors led to the ERP implementation’s success:
- All of the team members were engaged and onboard. Getting the team to buy into the project’s mission, and actively support that mission, was never a problem.
- The project team did a large amount of their own end-to-end testing. Unlike some projects, where the team only tests while the consultants are onsite, the team verified their system configuration and business processes whenever possible, leading to a rock-solid business process at cutover.
- The team took ownership of issue resolution. The team dug in, tried things out, and came to solutions. This served to greatly shorten certain phases of the project.
- The team made decisions quickly, collaboratively. The project was rarely, if ever, waiting on a key decision, and nobody on the team could have been accused of analysis paralysis.
- The team took responsibility for their roles and did the work on time, and on schedule. Schedule attainment was a high priority, and the team put the necessary work in to make things happen.
- The team displayed a culture of respect, staying respectful during difficult conversations and decisions. The stresses involved in an ERP project can at times encourage dysfunctional or toxic behaviors, but this team treated each other with a high degree of respect, even when working through the toughest decisions.
- The team’s project management was of the highest capabilities, displaying excellent collaboration and communication with the core team, and with the EstesGroup team as well.
The net result was a successful ERP implementation project on-time and on-budget, with the expected level of system capabilities. The team experienced a clean and quiet cutover, and quickly stabilized. Within a short time, the company had moved onto managing daily operations and planning for the future.
Every project has its wayward sheep, be they executive sponsorship, excessive customization, inadequate team investment, or challenges with data conversion. No project ever checks all the happy boxes.
But in spite of challenges, the best companies still manage to successfully implement their enterprise systems, keeping their team engaged, committed, and dependable—regardless of all the unique twists in their project’s DNA.
Are you ready for your company to create its own exceptional implementation story?
Come talk to us, and we’ll share some of the greatest success stories of ERP history—prosperous implementations similar in success, yet nuanced in achievement—stories that can inspire your own project to be a story with a happy ending.