When planning for an ERP implementation or digital transformation, most people seem to intuitively understand the importance of a good project manager. They typically also understand how important the CIO or IT Director’s role is. These are two examples of roles that are very important to the success of any digital transformation.

Surprisingly for many, these aren’t the most important roles. There are other project positions that are much more important to the success of the project, yet most of the focus and pressure remains on the project managers and CIOs of the world.

This video counts down the 10 most important roles during an ERP implementation or digital transformation. The top 3 will surely surprise you – as they probably aren’t the ones that you would consider the most important:

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Executive roles on digital transformation and ERP implementation project teams

A project team is only as good as the executive guidance provided by leaders of the company. This is why the ERP executive steering committee is so important to an effective transformation. For example, there are several executive roles that are even more important than that of the CIO:

CEO. The CEO needs to provide clear direction and vision for the project. This goes well beyond providing lip service of how important the project is, approving the project budget, and being a final point of escalation when things go wrong. In addition, the CEO also needs to provide clear direction on how exactly the transformation will enable the company’s long-term strategy and vision.

CFO. CFOs are often designated as executive sponsors because transformations often focus on the finance function and because they have a knack for managing the dollars and cents of big capital investments. But to be effective, CFOs need to play a more strategic role that extends beyond keeping the train from going off the rails.

COO. Unless your transformation is purely a back-office financials and accounting transformation, your operations business leaders will need to have instrumental roles in the project. This will ensure that the business drives the technology implementation rather than the technology driving the project off the wrong track. Only the COO can provide this business-centric leadership.

Key supporting roles on digital transformation and ERP implementation project teams

In addition to executive leadership, other roles are also pivotal in supporting the ERP project team:

Organizational change management team. This may be a separate team, or if you take the trojan horse approach to change management, it may be embedded within the core project team. Either way, a solid organizational change management team is critical to ensuring the success of your project. Unfortunately, most systems integrators don’t handle this function well and most transformation project teams underestimate this role, so be sure not to fall into either of these traps.

Subject Matter Experts. The more involvement you have from business process owners and subject matter experts within your company, the more successful your project is likely to be. Of course, too much involvement from too many people can delay decisions and expose alignment issues, but it is important to create buy-in and ownership from the front lines.

Human Resources Department. Given the impact on people and their jobs, the HR department may be the most underrated role on digital transformations. This is why HR is often the unsung hero of a successful digital transformation. Without their help addressing the people side of the transformation, yours is doomed from the start.

These roles should be clearly defined, and resources should be mobilized during the ERP implementation readiness phase of your project.

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Overrated roles on digital transformation and ERP implementation project teams

In addition to the important roles outlined above, there are some roles that are important but overrated on ERP implementation and digital transformation projects. These are examples of roles that made our top 10 list, but aren’t ranked as high as you might think:

Project manager. A good project manager can certainly increase your odds of success. However, even the best ERP project manager can’t overcome lack of executive involvement, a weak systems integrator, or lack of change management. Think of this as a capstone role that can be successful only when you have shored up all the other roles in our top 10 list.

ERP systems integrator. This is arguably the single most overrated role on ERP implementations and digital transformations. Companies too often take an “outsourcing” mentality that leads to loss of control and excessive costs. It is important to find a solid ERP systems integrator, but don’t overinvest in this role at the expense of others.

Key Takeaways

Check out the video above to see how we ranked these and other digital transformation and ERP project team roles. Be sure they are heavily involved in your project.

Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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