Your Manufacturing ERP Investment: Part II

Manning the Helm

Throughout my travels both as a Consultant and as an Internal Project Manager, I have found a common oversight in the planning phase of an ERP implementation. Most companies I’ve dealt with are enthusiastic to begin the project planning phase, however, some neglect to adequately address the necessary resource allocations that will be deployed on the project.

Just as the captain assembles a crew prior to embarking on the voyage, it is of paramount importance to develop the project team and associated resource allocations before charting the course. In larger implementations a Project Charter with defined roles and responsibilities and project reporting hierarchy is also recommended.

The Project Charter, and its associated project hierarchy, outlines the “rules of engagement” and creates a reporting structure where obstacles and barriers can be effectively addressed and risks mitigated. It should contain at a minimum:

  • the goals and objectives
  • desired deliverables and outcomes
  • timeline
  • detailed breakdown of the “chartered” team members- both internal and external to the organization
  • plus a Steering Committee for multi-divisional projects

Who’s On Board

  1. Chartered Team Members – Identifying the people tasked with specific roles and responsibilities will eliminate any ambiguity. This clearly delineates the project chain of command and decision making authority. Similar to the command authority onboard a sailing vessel where the captain assigns specific duties and establishes a code of ethics among the crew, the project charter serves the same purpose for an ERP Project.
  2. Optional Steering Committee – Their role is to be the governing body of upper management decision makers who can facilitate the decision making process when obstacles are encountered – particularly those that will have an impact on costs and/or timelines impact. The steering committee presides over the project and typically is made up of the stakeholders on the deliverables that have been agreed upon. If the course is to be altered in any way or the destination changed, the steering committee has the final authority to commit to the agreed upon changes.
  3. The Crew – Supporting this implementation team, and as part of the Project Charter, are those individuals who provide additional resources. These “crew” members are essentially individuals who will be held accountable for various functionality to be implemented and serve as subject matter experts within their fields or departments. Essentially, these are the “go-to” people when questions arise within their areas of expertise similar to he officers onboard the ship.
  4. The Deck Hands – These people perform the various daily tasks within their departments and possess the day-to-day knowledge and expertise that is not contained in any documentation or manuals. Not every crew member is cut out to be a core team member but do not overlook the value that the day-to-day deck hands bring to the table. It is of primary importance that their knowledge and expertise is leveraged throughout the journey and that their insights are utilized when planning to model the desired future state processes.
  5. The Captain – No ship is complete without her captain. For the ERP voyage, this is the Project Manager. While there is no predefined, all-encompassing set of ideal qualifications for this role, the manager should possess knowledge of the processes conducted on the ship, the course to be followed and must have the skills to act as a liaison between the deck hands and the officers. The captain has ultimate responsibility and insures that the ship “stays the course”. As obstacles or barriers are encountered, it is the duty of the captain to report them back to the mainland.
  6. The Project Manager – This person coordinates all activities necessary to bring the ship to port on time and needs to be forward looking and thinking as the project gets underway. The project manager’s job also includes communicating to the Steering Committee the progress made, the current status and present any obstacles or barriers impeding progress. A good captain will present alternatives for evaluation as well!

Make the Team Accountable for Tasks and Timelines

In order to derive realistic target start and finish dates during the project planning stage it is important to understand who will be performing the tasks and what amount of time the resources can be allocated to these assignments given that most of these resources have full time job responsibilities outside of the ERP Project.

A common misconception is that a project plan can be prepared and the resources will “magically” be made available to get the work done in the timeframe that the project plan has allotted. A baseline plan devoid of detailed tasks and resource allocations may be considered sufficient for development of an estimated timeline and budget. However, many ERP voyages fail to reach their final destination when a deadline is imposed that falls short when it comes to realistic expectations for allocation of their own resources.

Organizing the right team is all part of ensuring you have some form of transparent methodology that is both effective and suits the needs of your organization, right from the outset and throughout the implementation process.

(An overview of the complete series is available here.) 

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