In current economic conditions, most businesses are expected to operate more efficiently, run tighter ships and do more with less. That is just the new reality. So a decision to implement something as large as an ERP system is not an easy one to make, and needs to be justified by the substantial business benefits that will be achieved in doing so.
What business issues are you looking to solve?
That is the most critical question that executives need to answer when deciding whether or not to proceed with a new ERP system. More specifically, what are the business problems or pain points that are either hurting the company right now, or have the potential to hurt it in the future? In some cases the need stems not from a problem, but rather from the set of new automation / IT system capabilities that will become crucial enablers of the business’ growth and its future competitive position. One or more of these major change drivers needs to be clearly demonstrated before a top executive should consider approving the purchase and implementation of a new ERP system.
Executive Participation important from start to finish
Executive involvement shouldn’t end there. In fact, approving the system is only the beginning. It is also very important that top executives actively participate throughout the ERP implementation process. The executive plays a key role in ensuring that the implementation stays on track and never strays from the overall objectives.
Why? Only the executive level offers the necessary high-level perspective that is needed to juggle competing priorities. Most project teams are made up of a variety of people from different departments – all with their own view of what’s truly important. The executive represents the overall best interests of the company as a whole, and has the overarching perspective to make sure the team chooses priorities that serve the best interest of the company as a whole: the ones that actually address the core objectives that were intended in the first place.
Executives keep project focused on things that matter most
The executive also plays a key role in maintaining focus for the ERP implementation team. As the team moves through the implementation, it’s easy to get distracted. Challenges can range from trying to include too many things in the first phase of the implementation, to losing sight of important objectives when paring project scope down to fit previously approved budgets. ERP systems are very broad in their capability, so project teams can feel a bit like kids in a candy store – there is so much to choose from. Without the executive rigorously controlling scope, it is tempting for the project team to add functionality that is desirable and value-adding, but not really necessary for attaining the stated objectives. The executive can keep the project on track by reminding the team of what they are trying to achieve and what the priority areas are – thus ensuring necessary capabilities are delivered while minimizing possible scope creep.
Without executive involvement, the implementation will also take much longer and be more costly in the end – which may ultimately add more pain points than it takes away. By applying some discipline, the implementation team will be able to achieve an early success and have something go live that is meaningful and has an impact right away. Conversely, by expanding the scope too much, the implementation becomes more complex, the benefits are delayed and the focus of the team gets diluted.
The dangers of losing sight of your objectives are clear: if you don’t focus on them, you won’t achieve them. Having that active participation and direction of the executive team at every step of the implementation process ensures your team’s focus will not waver.