Governance Structures that Work: ERP Core Teams

As we all put the finishing touches on summer break and move into the ‘back to school’ season, many of us are also getting serious about planning for new ERP implementations in Q4 2013 or Q1 2014. With that in mind, it is helpful to look at some of the items that will make both an ERP implementation and overall project governance succeed. A few weeks ago, we posted a blog about one project governance prerequisite to ERP success: executive steering committees. This week, we look at a second requirement for an effective ERP implementation: ERP core teams.

The good news is that most organizations realize the value of project core teams. However, how those teams are structured and managed is often the subject of debate. It is important to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of your project team from the beginning of the project in order to avoid falling into the trap of poorly resourced project teams, lack of representation from key areas of the business or low accountability. Fortunately, there is a “right” way to establish and get the most use out of your ERP implementation core teams.

Below are a few things to consider when assembling your ERP project core team:

Make the ERP implementation the team’s top priority. Many of our clients are mid-size organizations without people on the bench waiting for an ERP implementation to come along. The shaky global economy has made most organizations lean, which can make it even more difficult than normal to appropriately delegate resources for ERP success. In a perfect world, your ERP core team would be fully dedicated to the project but that’s not a realistic scenario for most organizations we work with. To mitigate this risk, the executive team needs to clearly define expectations and prioritize work so that the ERP project comes first. Although the team’s day-to-day work isn’t likely to go away, it is possible to bring in extra support for these team members so they are able to make the project their top priority. Priority and focus are critical ERP success factors, so executives should take it upon themselves to ensure that team members have the support and direction they need to succeed.

Clearly define roles, responsibilities and accountability measures. Clearly understanding roles, responsibilities and any accountability measures is often easier said than done for project teams. A good ERP project charter will define exactly how decisions are made, issues are resolved and activities are completed – including who is responsible for what. This covers everything from process definition and sign-off to testing and training to the multitude of other project activities required for a successful ERP implementation. This definition should also include clarity on the roles and responsibilities of your ERP consultants or any other third-party ERP expert called in to help. It is critical that each team member be assigned responsibilities that play to their strengths, experience level and bandwidth. Just as important as the core team’s responsibilities is the delineation of what they should not be doing and what the executive steering committee should be responsible for instead.

Don’t view the core team as a substitute for an executive steering committee. In several of our expert witness engagements, we have seen steering committees completely delegate the project to their core team. While there is some merit to delegating certain day-to-day activities, there are also certain activities that should not be delegated and can actually lead to failure if they are. For example, final sign-off on how business processes are going to look in the new ERP system or key decisions on the organization’s operational model are decisions that should be driven by the executive ranks rather than ERP project team members. This governance mechanism is critical to not only get the work done but even more importantly, to provide the executive buy-in and leadership required for a successful implementation.

These three areas will help provide a good start to get your ERP implementation project team on the right track. With these tips providing the foundation, your organization will be in a much better position to manage a successful ERP implementation and mitigate the many risks that every ERP project endures.

Learn more by downloading Chapter One of An Expert’s Guide to ERP Success.

About Eric Kimberling

After 15 years of ERP consulting at large firms including PricewaterhouseCoopers and SchlumbergerSema, Eric realized the need for an independent consulting firm that really understands ERP. He began his career as an ERP organizational change management consultant and eventually broadened his background to include implementation project management and software selection. Eric’s background includes extensive ERP software selection, ERP organizational change and ERP implementation project management experience. Throughout his career, Eric has helped dozens of high-profile and global companies with their ERP selections and implementations, including Kodak, Samsonite, Coors, Duke Energy and Lucent Technologies. In addition to his extensive ERP experience, Eric has also helped clients with business process reengineering, merger and acquisition integration, strategic planning and Six Sigma initiatives. Eric holds an MBA from Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver.

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