Charged with the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software selection project for your small-to-mid-sized process manufacturing company? This multi-faceted undertaking is rife with challenges, the foremost being that you may have limited experience in vetting and selecting an ERP software vendor. Many points of contemplation and concern fill the pages of your legal pad. Nevertheless, number one on the list should be to “secure solid executive support.” The project simply cannot be completed without the wholehearted backing of the REAL person(s) in charge of the ERP software selection project, your Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Chief Operations Officer (COO), and other senior executives.
You’ve already made a solid, logical commerce case for the company’s ERP software speculation, giving your senior executives a rough implementation timeline, cost-benefit analysis, performance measurements and metrics, tie-ins to the company’s strategic goals, and tangible examples illustrating positive return on investment (ROI). Ideally, you’ve convinced them that they are project leaders, not simply cheerleaders. Now, keep them engaged.
Continue to make the business case for ERP software by addressing ROI. Don’t rush or gloss over the information, or make assumptions that your top management will remember all the details you’ve presented them. Study the culture of your top management, and be aware of the most risk adverse individuals. Then, focus on answering the tough questions such as, “What impediments do you foresee as the biggest obstacle to achieving a solid ROI?”
Once you have the initial support of your executives, keep them involved in the project as much as possible. Comprehensive progress reports, delivered by you (or a project team) in everyday, understandable language, are a given. However, more the better if you can have regular, face-to-face meetings where you can actively engage your top decision makers. Project issues must be meaningfully addressed as they arise by the CEO and CFO. It’s very important to be honest about what’s working and what’s posing a challenge; you want the trust of your top execs.
As the ERP project unfolds, you (and your project team) will make many decisions and execute on various activities. Make certain that all roles and farm duties are defined for you, project team members, executives, vendor legislative body, department heads, etc. Decisions may be required of your executives regarding budget and project scope. Outlining all roles and responsibilities for each stakeholder/player reduces confusion and the potential for hard feelings at a time when you need everyone’s goodwill.
Discuss with top executives how involved they wish to be in the ERP vendor vetting process. Will they be interested in hearing about all potential candidates, or trust you to narrow the search to a final selection number? No matter how much your top executives become involved, make certain that you gather their input about what each values most in a vendor candidate. Also, remember to use your Request for Proposal (RFP) as a vetting instrument. It should clearly define the desired processes (ERP software functionalities) and business requirements you are looking for.
ERP software implementation has implications for all employees. Changes to policies, procedures, and built-up production activities will be initiated from the top down, and everyone in your organization will be affected. Anticipate the impacts of go-live day. Get your CEO and CFO involved in change management activities such as regular announcements, internal memos, newsletter updates, and events like project kickoff, FYI meetings over coffee and donuts, PowerPoint progress reports, and even feedback sessions to ease the stress.