Given the fact that many ERP software selection and implementation projects fail to achieve their objectives or worse still fail altogether, it’s critical that firms organize the process effectively. One element that needs special attention is the selection of the project leader. Since this person will be responsible for driving the project forward, who should be chosen and what should be their responsibilities and powers?
Let’s assume you have decided to replace your current ERP system. Let’s also assume you have justified the decision to purchase a new ERP system. Finally, let’s assume you have secured the critical buy-in from all stakeholders (executive sponsor, accounting/finance, IT, operations, sales and finally day-to-day users). Although each of these individuals and groups will participate to varying degrees, one person needs to be the chief project organizer.
OK! Maybe that was a bit of a trick question. No one person should be responsible for an ERP selection project. Every person should be responsible for the final outcome and therefore each person must make the “selection”. The only way this project is going to stand a chance of succeeding is for each person to participate equally in the final decision. The key concept here is mutual responsibility.
Each stakeholder or participant has their own exclusive point of view. The IT manager is primarily interested in infrastructure strategy, but they may know nothing about accounting, sales, operations or corporate strategy. The CFO knows accounting, credit management and other finance related issues, but they may not be knowledgeable regarding operations and/or manufacturing. The CEO is interested only in a system’s ability to support strategic planning.
Each person or workgroup will have their own particular point of view and therefore the needs of each of these people must be taken into consideration when making a purchase decision. Please don’t forget each of the many people who will be using the ERP system on a daily basis. They are the ones who have to input data and process transactions. Their needs in terms of system efficiency and effectiveness are vitally important.
The decision to purchase a specific ERP system must be a joint decision, not one made by a single person. No one person has the knowledge required to make this decision. The final purchase decision must be a collaborative effort of all participants, each of whom has the same objective which is the best possible business management system that will help people become more efficient and effective.
Chief Project Organizer
While the Chief Project Organizer will participate in the final purchase decision, their primary function is serving as the focal point for all activities related to needs definition, needs analysis, product demos, vendor discussions, and the final purchase contract negotiations. In essence they are a super scribe.
All information regarding the needs and wants of each constituency (sales, finance, operations, etc.) must be gathered and presented to the selection committee. The Chief Project Organizer needs to collect this information (not to mention making sure that the information is collected in a timely manner), study it, extract the critical requirements information, circulate it to other participants, schedule project meetings, moderate the meeting and help the group schedule next tasks.
While the Chief Project Organizer isn’t the sole decision maker, every other stakeholder needs to accept the fact that the Chief Project Organizer is calling the shots when it comes to driving the ERP selection project forward. Even though the Chief Project Organizer may not be on the same executive level as corporate executives or the CFO and other members of the selection committee, each stakeholder must accept the fact that the Chief Project Organizer has the absolute right to tell them what they need to do and by when.
The selection of any ERP software product is fraught with danger. The process itself must follow a path that has been previously agreed upon by all members of the organization. The CEO and other executive stakeholders must actively support the project. Each business unit manager must make sure that they create an accurate (and reasonable) picture of where they want to be in the future in terms of features and functions. Each stakeholder must participate in the process, support the process and take full responsibility for the outcome of this ERP software selection project. The Chief Project Organizer is just that; an organizer. They make sure that each business unit has defined their requirements in detail. They collect information and create a complete picture of where the organization needs to be. They keep the project moving forward and they make sure that each person has the information they need to make a sound purchase decision.