The Challenge of ERP

I have spent many hours over the past few weeks running around the countryside in preparation for three running challenges I signed up for earlier this year. Firstly, The Three Peaks Challenge, a team from K3 SYSPRO will be taking on the highest mountains of Scotland, England and Wales, raising money for Cystic Fibrosis. Secondly, The Great Langdale Marathon 2012, and thirdly, The Wall Run – an ultra-marathon, taking place in June 2013.

During my daily training, I have started thinking about how similar this is to implementing ERP. We start off excited about achieving a goal, train hard, and decide clearly in our minds what we are going to achieve and how. Like the first challenge I’ve listed – the activities are in the near future and we know they are achievable.

Companies have high levels of enthusiasm at the beginning of the project, there are many activities, but they rarely cause any major problems, after all – months have been spent planning these early days. Meetings to scope the project are still high level, training courses are enjoyable, and communication throughout the business about the project is both regular and predominantly positive.

It’s a push to the next phase of the project, putting that learning into practice, starting to test the system, really getting to understand it – and pulling together a good solution. This (for me) is the second challenge I’ve signed up for – it’s just a bit more difficult than the first one. This is where we start to discover that there may have been some gaps in our preparation; a business process that doesn’t quite fit, and a realization that change is required. Compromises are made and the project continues.

Where the problem starts is between challenges two and three. The user training is complete, and the main processes have been tested – it is now about refining the processes, developing value-adds, and adding a few enhancements. The project becomes “business as usual,” we get used to it, it loses its excitement, and it shifts into maintenance mode.

Then there are the injury risks (like me running in the snow and ice through the cold dark winter) the project has to continue, despite the obstacles thrown into its path. People leave the project team, sight of the end goal is lost, scope creep moves in, a large customer order or a new machine takes the focus away – and if you’re not careful you have a project that’s stalled. Maintaining enthusiasm and motivation over a number of months proves trying.

It’s happened to a number of customers of mine, they start off with great intentions – everyone is involved, enthusiastic and committed, but over time that fades and they are left with just a couple of people still working on the project.

So what do you do when you have a stalled project on your hands?

  1. Reaffirm the business benefits
    a. Have they changed?
    b. Are there new benefits to be had?
    c. What’s the cost of delaying the project further?
  2. Review the project team
    a. Are they still the right people?
    b. Do you need to recruit more people to the team?
  3. Review what’s left to be done
    a. List out all the required activities.
    b. Have you got enough resource and the right skills to do it?
    c. What can your software vendor do to help?
  4. Recreate the plan
    a. Work with the team to put down sensible deadlines against activity.
    b. Resolve issues and sticking points, get to the route cause and be prepared to compromise.
  5. Re-communicate the plan
    a. Make sure the project team, the vendor and the business know what is involved.

Finally, you have to assure the business that the project will go live. If people think it won’t happen there will be no consequence to them not completing their own project activities on time. If no-one completes their project activities on time, the project will not go live – becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As for me, the first challenge of The Peaks Challenge was successfully completed last week, with 8 people from K3 SYSPRO proudly flying the SYSPRO flag, along with Tenacious Ted! To keep me motivated and on track I have roped in the majority of K3 SYSPRO to help support me in my training. I know if they are all keeping tabs on me, I can’t skip sessions and I will maintain focus right until June 2013.

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