Step Up to the Plate or Sit on the Bench

Written By: Judy Thomas

from July 9, 2013

You’re excited –the decision has just been made to purchase and implement a new ERP or CRM project.  All the signs are positive.  The estimated timeline and responsibilities are defined in a Statement of Work.  The contents of the project are well defined – the imports and migration of data detailed.  Everyone knows what their job is in the process.  Here’s what a good implementation partner should share right now:

“This will be a very painful but very rewarding journey.  You already have a fulltime job to do with deadlines and managers and auditors to please.  How can you possibly commit to doubling some of your work time to get this new system implemented and still remain sane?  Who is going to make all the hundreds of decisions for new or modified processes that need to be made during this project?”  

Makes one want to run in the other direction, doesn’t it?

Most ERP and CRM partners feel a tremendous sense of sincere responsibility to making their clients’ implementations a huge success and provide enormous value for the money paid.  There is no more challenging situation that transforming a client’s environment using newer and more powerful technologies. 

One of the best mechanisms to ensure this success is to plan, plan, plan and then plan some more.  Many times the client does not recognize the value of all of this planning.  But, implementation partners who do this work 24/7 definitely live it and understand it.  Most partners in the Microsoft partner channel utilize the Sure Step Implementation Methodology to better detail and organize all of the small and large milestones of every project.  They provide timelines and task lists and manage budgets versus actual results.  Yet the one challenge partner’s cannot manage is a client taking responsibility for their own success with the software. 

It is all fine to agree at the outset of an implementation who will have which role, who will manage it, what date we all plan to be done, what data we will import from an older system, etc.  Yet lately, we have encountered several clients who disavow any participation in their own destiny with the software – they literally run from responsibility for their own results. Partners constantly ask themselves why and how did we not identify this at the outset of the project. 

In the end result, clients look at the partner as the responsible party.  They sometimes fail to understand much of the risk of success is on their shoulders and they have to participate or the entire project will be a failure.  In fact, the more active a role the client takes, the better the results and the happier the client is when it’s all done.

How to turn the tide

Identify the client’s stakeholders very early in the process and make sure they understand that ultimately they are responsible for their team’s success in completion of the project.  We suggest ways management can ensure the project is a success:

·    Make sure there is a very organized, knowledgeable, and prepared project manager or super-user on the client side who is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the project.

·    Remove roadblocks to success by lightening the existing workload on their team.

·    Provide rewards when a milestone is reached – such as lunch on the company or a restaurant gift card for those who stand out in the process.

·    Publicly recognize great contributors to the project’s success.

·    Demand proof of learning such as going through the entire AR process and printing out an aging report that reconciles to their legacy system.

·    Management being very “present” during the process including participation in status meetings.

·    Encourage the team to question everything and provide input during all phases of the project.

·    Keep cell phones and laptops out of the training environment.

·    Test, test and re-test to ensure the results are appropriate.

When clients fail to take responsibility for their project, bringing in senior management or an outside source such as the clients’ CPA to advise the risk of additional money in terms of consulting hours, change orders, missed deadlines, and potential erroneous data being migrated from their legacy system helps put things into perspective.  On occasion, a heart-to-heart meeting with the company’s ownership and project team to make them aware that there are major signs of struggle within the project may be necessary.

Are totally committed to this project’s success? 

It’s fine to plan and strive to achieve a particular due date for an ERP or CRM implementation, but if you or your team cannot be vested in the project because of factors or personnel within the organization, you owe it to yourself, your company, your management and your partner to speak up at the beginning of the project.  This way, schedules and workload can be adjusted to fit the existing conditions at the company before a failed implementation results.  It is estimated that 1 in 20 implementations fail – but even that is too many.  It can be avoided. So think about it now, not in 90 days or even another two weeks.  It’s too important to everyone and a successful implementation could get you great recognition for a job well done.

By Judy Thomas, The TM Group