One of the skills of humans is our adaptability. Over the last five months or so most of our lives have seen change – and for some, it’s been a significant change. For our ERP consultancy, it’s meant increased business for a variety of reasons. Some companies are experiencing dramatic upswings in business and need a strategy to handle it, while others need help with technology in hopes of survival. The common thread is the perseverance of individuals and companies determined to keep moving ahead.
After the “period of disbelief” which occurred in March and April of this year, many companies realized that updating or enhancing their technology took on a new importance, urgency, and relevancy. Let’s talk about a few of the dynamics when managing ERP teams remotely:
Think of the idiom “to sing from the same hymnbook.” It’s always been necessary to have a comprehensive well thought out ERP project plan, but working remotely could mean a couple of things:
Whether it’s discussing the project plan or other parts of the ERP project, remote team members should be encouraged to communicate with each other in whatever fashion works best. This is not always intuitive to team members once they become separated. I recently had a team member say, “I don’t want to bother people since they may be working on other things.” The new normal means forging new ways to communicate with the team, and yes that can be done via email, text, phone, etc. Empower and encourage key players to figure out what works best for them.
There is a consistent theme when dissecting executive sponsorship – the intent is always good but all too often the execution falls flat. This can really muck things up when tackling the challenges of executive sponsorship when working with a remote team. The root cause is typically an executive not “fully assigned” to the initiative. We find that about 80% of executive sponsors that we consult for have significant day-to-day duties other than the company’s ERP initiative. This doesn’t work out well when employees are collocated, and it could spell disaster for an initiative staffed by remote employees.
So, what’s the solution? For success in a remote environment, you need someone at the helm fulltime. This can also be achieved by deploying cosponsors (more than one executive sponsor). The tone, the cadence, the communication, etc. need to be different when dealing with remote teams. A sponsor’s accessibility should be high, and they should be working with your project manager to make concrete decisions and give ongoing guidance. We recently helped on an ERP initiative after receiving a distress call when things started to go sideways. The executive sponsor was holding daily Zoom calls with the team but was somewhat uniformed and viewed their role as purely supportive rather than helping make decisions. One remote team member summed it up by saying, “these daily proof of life calls are a waste of time.” The perception was the sponsor was checking up on the team via the daily call vs. contributing.
The importance, accountability, and credibility of executive sponsors becomes even more important when working with remote teams. This is another area where an independent ERP consultant can assist an executive sponsor when resources are lean.
Some leaders are naturals at this but even the good ones need to think more creatively when working with remote teams. Make sure your ERP budget includes money for recognition (small number, big impact). You want to reward team members or groups for accomplishments along the way. If you wait until implementation you’ve waited too long. Before Covid it was normal to see 30% or greater attrition of an ERP project team before go-live. We’re not sure what the pandemic and remote participation will do to this percentage, but your odds of keeping more of your valued team members increases if you’re actively practicing a behavior of recognition and reward. Here are a few tips:
Managing positive momentum remotely can and does work with some of the tweaks mentioned in this blog. The team should understand the importance of the initiative and its relation to your company’s long-term success. If it would help to have Third Stage Consulting as part of your bench, that a challenge we’re more than up to. Please contact us with any questions or feedback.