Organizations choose to implement an enterprise resource management (ERP) system for many reasons, including to increase productivity, create a better experience for customers and reduce costs. An ERP system can eliminate many paper- or spreadsheet-based processes because it provides a unified set of business process tools and a single database with information from across the business that everyone uses.
But because an ERP system affects so many aspects of the business, the implementation of the software can be a large and lengthy project. It’s common for an implementation to take a few months, and it often takes large businesses even longer to go live. Mistakes in planning or implementation, such as poorly defined goals or requirements, can cause further delays. To prevent an ERP implementation from dragging on or even failing, it’s critical to build a good ERP implementation team. Here’s what you need to know before you get started:
What Is an ERP Implementation Team?
Any large project requires a skilled, committed team, and an ERP implementation is no exception. An ERP implementation plan should include a team of key members drawn from across the organization and at all levels of seniority. That includes executives, project managers, experts from different parts of the business, end users affected by the implementation, and IT department staffers involved in implementing or customizing the system.
These people provide much-needed sponsorship, insights into user patterns and business processes, and practical support.
What Does the ERP Implementation Team Do?
Collectively, the ERP implementation team is responsible for following implementation best practices and ensuring the project is a success so the new ERP system operates as expected. It’s involved in the project from the very beginning, helping to select a solution that aligns with business goals and can provide the functionality and usability an organization needs. The team helps map out requirements for the ERP system, sets key milestones, determines how it will support specific business processes, and tests the new software before it goes live.
It’s important to assemble the full team at the start of the project, so all key stakeholders have an opportunity to be heard and feel responsible for facilitating a successful implementation at all phases.
Key Members and Responsibilities of an ERP Implementation Team
Including the right people on the ERP implementation team is critical to the success of the entire project. Each member of the team has different roles and responsibilities for the implementation, which should be based on their areas of expertise and how much time they can devote to the project. These responsibilities should be clearly defined so everyone knows who is doing what and there are no gaps in responsibilities.
Because an ERP implementation can affect almost every aspect of the organization, every project needs an executive sponsor—someone at or near the top of the organization who will champion and drive the implementation strategy. The executive sponsor helps assess risks and devise action plans, and often serves as the company cheerleader and internal face of the project. During the implementation, the executive sponsor receives updates from the project manager and sometimes from core team members.
The executive sponsor typically makes final decisions about the project, based partly on input from the implementation team while continuing to align to the customer’s business needs. These decisions may include whether to increase the project budget, which business processes to automate, and whether to add or remove personnel.
Any ERP implementation needs a point person who makes sure timelines are met and the project stays within its planned scope. The project manager is that person. They are responsible for keeping the project running smoothly and communicating with the executive sponsor and team members about progress and any challenges during the implementation.
The project manager typically has several duties. They are the point person for selecting a few different ERP vendors, scheduling demos for the team and organizing the final evaluation. They also coordinate all the steps of the implementation, including mapping the system to business processes and testing. At each stage, the project manager will update the project plan and serve as the liaison between the executive sponsor and the team members.
Sometimes known as super users, the end users included in an ERP implementation team will raise any concerns their departments have about the system’s setup. Typically, they also encourage adoption within their department, and they answer non-technical questions from other users about how to use the system once it goes live.
End users need to have leadership skills to champion the project with other colleagues, as well as decent technical skills. They also need great communication skills to bring departmental concerns to the table during the implementation and to help other users understand the new system.
Core Cross-Functional Team Members
In addition to end users, the team will need technical experts from different areas of the business, including manufacturing (if relevant), IT and finance. These team members are responsible for helping direct software design and configuration to support business processes, and identifying ways to improve processes with the new system. They usually need to learn some of the technical aspects of the ERP software to better understand how it can address different business needs and help users with technical issues.
If the organization does not use the ERP vendor’s services team or a third-party partner to lead the implementation, the IT team member will also represent the internal IT staff responsible for getting the system live. That includes configuring the software to the business’s needs, whether it’s a cloud ERP or on-premises ERP solution. If the company chooses an on-premises ERP system, the IT team is also responsible for installing and maintaining the hardware and software.
A key part of the value of an ERP system is the ability to generate reports that analyze every aspect of the business. An ERP implementation team generally includes a report writer who customizes the software’s reports to meet specific business needs. That person must develop a detailed knowledge of the ERP system’s reporting tools and the data the system stores.
The report writer’s responsibilities include analyzing the organization’s existing reporting procedures and developing ways to improve them with the new solution. They may continue to be involved in modifying and creating new reports after the system goes live.
Companies often use an implementation partner to handle the technical work involved in deploying the system and to take on some of the responsibilities of the ERP implementation team. For example, an implementation partner can act as the project manager and also coordinate the technical aspects of system customization and installation.
Generally, the implementation partner won’t cover every role on the implementation team, but it can spearhead the effort, make sure timelines are adhered to and take care of the challenging technical work that requires special expertise.
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How to Build the Perfect ERP Implementation Team
To recap, here are five things to think about when building an ERP implementation team to ensure a successful project:
- Get executive sponsorship. A top-level champion will be valuable in rallying the rest of the organization behind an ERP implementation.
- Include both end users and cross-functional users throughout the implementation process. This will help make sure the concerns of each department are addressed early on in the project.
- Make sure team members have the time to devote to the implementation. This project will take up a significant chunk of some employees’ time, which means some of their other duties may need to be reassigned.
- Choose team members based on their skills and capabilities, not their titles. It’s easy to choose team members with senior roles, but if a more junior employee has the knowledge and skillset to make a meaningful contribution to the implementation, they may be a better fit.
- Clearly define the ERP implementation roles and responsibilities early on. You’ll need this information in order to choose team members with the right skills and experience.