Assembling an ERP Project Team: Three Things You Didn’t Anticipate

Written By: Bob Blanchette
Date: May 12, 2020

ERP projects are never easy. Companies typically have an internal project team designated to the initiative as well as experienced external resources. Theoretically this should be a winning combination.

Let’s dig a little deeper into what we as outside independent ERP consultants sometimes find are drawbacks when forming and maintaining your internal project team:

1. Dedicated but Not Dedicated

Too many companies resist putting their best resources on the initiative and backfilling their positions. The reasons are many, but consider these points:

The business resists placing their strongest talent on the team because they are integral to the success of day-to-day company operations. Then there’s the cost consideration of backfilling your ERP project core team and can you really backfill for “experience?” The show must go on and the ERP initiative is a bit of a sideshow (meaning it’s not given a high enough priority) until the music stops.

The company believes “a portion” of their best employees’ time can be dedicated to the project. This never ends up working well for the person or the project. Go down this path and it will bite you. That doesn’t mean that you can’t access your SME’s at strategic times, but don’t ask them to divide their time and expect good results.

ERP project plans fail to plan for turnover. In our experience > 65% of teams will experience impactful unplanned turnover before any new software gets implemented. Expect that a certain percentage of key team members will change jobs or leave the company prior to implementation of the new system. Some of this turnover will be attributable to the stress, intensity or longevity of the project.

2. Desperately Seeking Susan

Susan represents the morphing “identity” of members of your company’s senior management team and ERP executive steering committee. They will profess their dedication to the project, but their ongoing actions often don’t live up to their words (or cleverly drafted emails).

Consider that:

Internal teams need a tremendous amount of support at all stages of an ERP project. It’s new ground for most of the internal team, and they don’t need cheerleaders as much as they need thought leaders. Business leaders too can’t separate themselves from the daily running of the business or emergencies that crop up – thus their accessibility and focus wharfs leaving the team wanting and needing more.

Your C-suite isn’t as aligned as they profess. Most execs support the “idea” of new technology, but the silos start to emerge (or re-emerge) when execs get whiff of the amount of change that will take place within their parts of the organization. A frown, misplaced comment, etc. will start to erode the much-needed executive support and alignment the team needs to succeed. (Also read our recent article about how to get executive alignment on your ERP implementation).

Executives who are typically good at managing things aren’t experienced in ERP but won’t admit it. This impacts their ability to make good decisions and provide effective coaching and guidance. They have business acumen but lack the technical understanding and knowhow of managing the people impacts of a project that has no one clear path to the finish line.

Most are not experienced in handling the big hurdles, which range from adoption to integration. This is not a criticism as much as it is an observation that can lead to anything from cost/time overruns to ERP project failure. If you don’t have medical credentials you don’t treat patients. Yet business leaders attempt to manage the most transformational and expensive technical projects their companies have ever attempted without experience or a track record.

This video outlines some of the things that ERP executive steering committees should know in order to be successful:

YouTube player

3. Green Light = Bad?

Companies can suppress success by supporting a culture of only wanting or expecting good news surrounding ERP initiatives. If “positive news only” isn’t written in the project charter it sure is implied.

So how do team members with divergent ideas and good business instincts contribute? Here’s where the rub can start to hurt:

It’s uncomfortable for team members to gain expertise and show decisive decision making in a complex initiative where they lack experience. Disagreement or concerns get muffled because the need for consensus typically takes precedence. A team will all “get along” and consistently show the project as positively moving forward (green) until something big happens and it suddenly isn’t. Some team members will have sensed this (and might have felt angst) but didn’t feel empowered to speak up. Most corporations underestimate how dangerous this behavior is within the context of an ERP initiative and the overall ERP project management.

The balance of work or time spent will not be equitable within the project team. Thus, a project manager or strong team member (maybe based on a hierarchical role or title) will directionally begin to lead the narrative. This diminishes the intended combined thought power of the team. It can put the project on a dangerous path (think misalignment, adoption issues, etc.) that in the end can become major obstacles. Choose your team members not by their titles, but by the character and competencies they will contribute.

Within an ERP project there are few (if any) easy buttons to push. Most teams fail to recognize or encourage the power of a “pause button.” A pause button stops a project (when needed) until a deep dive into the issue at hand is resolved. It is a sign of a strong and confident team. More commonly we see teams burying larger issues within status reports (sometimes with no clear resolution) to maintain that positive “green light” that senior management or the ERP project manager wants to see.

In Conclusion

The collective power of combining internal and external resources continues to be a winning formula. This blog points to some of the considerations when assembling a team of internal resources; specifically, some notable things to avoid doing or watch out for.

As an independent consultancy, Third Stage Consulting contributes a unique perspective and set of skills to ERP projects. One that is not influenced by customer habits nor constrained by some of the cultural issues holding companies back from implementing new technology successfully on their own. We bring a proven framework and methodology to customers around the globe that is based on experience. We become “trusted advisors” who shepherd projects.

Supporting our customers’ objectives with bandwidth and expertise is what we do for a living. Hired to achieve specific goals, in the end we are held to this standard which in a changing world can mean pushing the “status quo” towards innovation, while preserving what made each company successful to begin with. Please feel free to contact us to discuss your ERP or digital transformation – we are happy to be an informal sounding board as you continue your transformation journey!

Blanchette, Bob
Bob Blanchette

Bob brings a creative blend of understanding operational benefit and navigating employee resistance to change, ultimately helping organization realize success and benefit through maximizing the effectiveness of people. He holds a successful track record of HR leadership and promoting fair and unbiased outcomes.

Bob Blanchette
Bob brings a creative blend of understanding operational benefit and navigating employee resistance to change, ultimately helping organization realize success and benefit through maximizing the effectiveness of people. He holds a successful track record of HR leadership and promoting fair and unbiased outcomes.
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