As ERP consultants that help some of the world’s leading organizations through their digital transformations, we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly among client team members.
Some are well prepared and wired for a successful implementation. Others are misaligned and ill-suited to handle a transformation of this magnitude. Most are somewhere in between.
We regularly interact with ERP project teams, but we also constantly interact with executive teams and ERP steering committees. Just as we see a wide variety of project teams, we also work with executive teams that cover the full continuum of effectiveness – not only for ERP implementations, but in terms of running their organizations overall.
So we have worked with some great executive teams, as well as some more challenged ones. But what makes a great steering committee?
As I write this article, I am returning back to our main office in the US after visiting a large multinational client in the Middle East. During my client visit, I interacted with one of the best executive steering committee teams that I have ever seen in action.
It’s early in our long-term engagement with them, but the early signs are very encouraging. This particular executive team displays most of the traits you expect to see from an effective ERP steering committee.
Whenever I meet with an executive team, I facilitate a number of discussions meant to draw out their vision for the company and the overall transformation. I like to see how clear the vision is, how well it aligns with their stated goals for the project and start making strategic decisions that enable that vision. This becomes the foundation for a longer-term digital transformation strategy.
In this case, the client’s executive team is made up of a group of operationally and culturally diverse veterans within the company. Most of them have been with the company since graduating university. Among the five of them, they have a clear understanding of how the business works, what their strengths and core competencies are, and where their strategic weaknesses lie. As one of them put it, there are some tenets that make up the “core fabric of their DNA,” which is clearly understood by the entire team.
More importantly, they have a clear and aligned vision of what they want the company to look in the future. They may not have all the details figure out yet – which is why they hired us – but they know what they want at a high level. They are on the same page with that overarching vision. It is hard to teach an executive team how to get aligned during an ERP implementation, so it is nice to have this prerequisite already in place.
Another important factor is that they understand what this project really is, which is a business transformation – not an IT upgrade. They know that this will entail cultural and mindset shifts that may be difficult for employees. They know that if they do things right, their business will be more effective and profitable as a result. It is less about implementing a top ERP system and more about transforming the organization.
We typically have to encourage clients to place business people rather than IT staff in key project roles. Not this client. They told us from the start that they do not want this to be an IT driven imitative. They also recognize the need for a strong organizational change management strategy. This mindset provides a strong foundation for success going forward.
I don’t recall the last time that I was part of an executive meeting where we didn’t have a list of action items to follow-up with the execs after the meeting. This may have been the first. We typically keep an ongoing action item list in meeting like these, but during each and every decision that was to be made, these executives refused to move on to the next agenda item without making a swift decision on the topic at hand.
For example, we had not yet identified a clear project team leader for the ERP project team, which we identified as a risk. They stopped the meeting, conversed amongst themselves, and within 2-3 minutes identified a very senior team member that they agreed and committed to put in place as the team lead. Decision made, then we moved on.
With most executives, it can be like pulling teeth to get these sorts of decisions. We typically have to follow-up repeatedly to get to clear decisions – even when we have provided clear recommendations – so it was refreshing to see this mentality at work.
In addition to making quick decisions, this executive team is also able to mobilize quickly. They had multiple urgent meetings happening the week of our meetings, but they found a way to all be in the same place in person for the meetings. This is rare for a global executive team.
We suggested an aggressive business process workshop schedule with participants from all over the world, and they made sure to make those resources available within the timeline we expected. They didn’t resist or push back on the schedule. They didn’t cite any multitude of excuses that most teams have for not plowing ahead to stay on track. This is so uncommon that seeing it with this group nearly left me nearly speechless.
It is still early in the process, so it is still too early to declare this the best executive steering committee I have ever worked with. But it is enough to provide some hints of what you should be doing to make your ERP executive steering committee stronger.
Please feel free to contact me to brainstorm ideas on how you to assemble the best possible ERP steering committee that you can. I am happy to be an informal sounding board as you start or continue on your digital transformation journey!