Building Your ERP Team – Part 1 – The Least Understood Success Factor

When taking on a “put-your-company-on-the-line” ERP program there are five fundamental things you need to get right:

1. A business case that is aligned with the business strategy and has specific performance objectives

2. The utilization of a well-established process or methodology

3. Best practice project / program management processes

4. Fundamentally sound governance, decision making, and risk management

5. Comprehensive talent application strategy

Putting the best talent on a project is always identified as a critical success factor, but most of the literature around this point discusses only the core project team. In reality, the core project team typically comprises about 20% of those individuals that are involved in the project. While there is no doubt that this 20% is important to the success of the project, the other 80% are just as important in achieving the success for which your business is striving.

Someone once told me that the best advice I ever gave them regarding how to be successful with an ERP program was this: “Wait six months before you start, and take the time to secure and develop the right talent”. Securing the best talent does not guarantee great results, but utilization of mediocre talent guarantees mediocre results. Having the right talent can help overcome potential flaws that can exist in the other four above-mentioned success factors. Read on for a complete list of the 6 tasks you need to accomplish before drafting the ERP blueprint for a higher chance of deployment success.

This multi-part blog series will examine all sources from which talent is applied to a program and the criteria that should be used in selecting and engaging talent. In this post, I will focus on establishing what should be the overall high level objectives when considering talent, the sources of talent, and the suggested sequence for sourcing.

When developing an overall talent application approach, companies should start by considering the following four areas for evaluation:

1. Understand the fundamentals of the business case – this involves having a fundamental understanding of not only the business case, but also knowing how and why the business works.

2. Understand how not to screw up the business upon deployment – a significant number of ERP programs are derailed at the time of implementation due to failed implementation strategy, or are stopped dead in their tracks by business leaders that refuse to put the business at risk. Make sure that you are confident of your success when your System Integrator says you are ready to go live.

3. Possess the competencies, skills & knowledge to be successful in a high pressure environment focused on schedule accomplishment and cost containment – talent should be selected with the recognition that ERP implementation is a team sport.  Assembling a group of talent that has team skills, and the ability to collaborate, facilitate, negotiate and recognize risk is far more important than if they know a programming language.

4. Position the company for future success in leveraging the ERP – from my experience that greatest benefits from ERP transformations do not occur within the first 6 months of deployment but in the 6 years that follow the implementation. Selecting and applying the talent that will be instrumental in harvesting the fruit is ultimately what delivers the greatest value to the organization.

After establishing the overall criteria for evaluating talent, we can examine the sources of talent and the recommended sequence in developing your strategy for acquiring and applying it.

In the remaining parts of this blog series I will examine each one of these sources in detail with recommendation for selection and specific application techniques.

1. The Core Team – this is the team that carries the weight of the responsibility for project success or failures on their shoulders. Building this core team establishes the foundation which the remaining team members should complement.

2. External Independents – fortification of the core team with a group of independents that are multi-skilled / disciplined allows your team to address cross functional problems quickly and gives them assurance in developing solutions that are not overly biased by the system integrator’s philosophies.

3. Internal Service Providers – you are going to need lots of help from the rest of the organization: Communications, Purchasing, IT, Human Resources, and Legal (just to name a few). Each of these organizations needs to become formally engaged in the program to deliver competent resources.

4. System Integrators – This group should be engaged to deliver process, best practices, and program management skills. Why is this group fourth in the sequence? This group can provide just about any skill and competency you will need, but at a premium price.   Understanding what you have from the first three sources puts you in a much better position to negotiate with your SI.

5. Internal Power Teams – This is the group of critical users and management located in the business that will be involved in testing, data cleansing, and cut-over preparation.  Providing the business with sufficient runway to free-up and allocate these resources will significantly reduce the cost of the program and provide a much improved chance of schedule attainment.

6. Software Provider and On Demand Specialized Skills – while this is last on the list, it is critical nonetheless to have at least one member of your team that is directly sourced from your software provider. The most important skill this individual needs to bring to your effort is the ability to navigate the provider to obtain support and quick response to issues and questions.

The executive sponsor of an IT enabled transformation effort makes two critical decisions early on in the effort. Decision 1: What is the expected scope and results of our efforts? Decision 2: Who will be on the team we assemble to accomplish Decision 1? These two decisions are not mutually exclusive. Assigning top talent has long been identified as a key critical success factor of any ERP effort, but how do you determine what is top talent? Part 2 or the ERP Program Talent Application explores this point.

Stay tuned!

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    August 23, 2012

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