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Look for warning signs in the ERP implementation process

In this podcast, Eric Kimberling of Panorama Consulting discusses the 'canaries in the coal mines' of ERP projects that may indicate an ERP project is failing.

We're implementing ERP, what could go wrong?

These are words that have rarely, if ever, been uttered by any ERP project manager. The fact is that all ERP projects face challenges and pitfalls all along the way -- from the initial project scope to the go-live kickoff session. As the founder and president of Panorama Consulting, a firm that advises companies on how to plan and implement ERP systems, Eric Kimberling has been involved with many ERP implementation projects. Many have been unqualified successes, but many have ended up in the dreaded ERP implementation Hall of Shame, the byproducts of a poor ERP project plan, poor management, lack of proper resources and other factors.

Fortunately, none of this failure needs to be inevitable. In this podcast, recorded at the Panorama ERP Boot Camp held in Denver, Kimberling discusses some of the warning signs -- the "canary in the coal mine" -- that indicate an ERP project is in danger.

First and foremost, project failure doesn't happen overnight; cracks in the project infrastructure eventually can snowball to the point where they are irreversible.

"It's unrealistic to say that you won't see those risks because they are going to happen," Kimberling says. "It's just a matter of how you respond to them and how quickly you respond to them."

Eric Kimberling, founder and president, Panorama ConsultingEric Kimberling

One of these warning signs is the lack of user training until just before or around the time the system goes live. Kimberling notes that many companies make the mistake of believing that training needs to be concerned only with the use of the system, when in fact it should encompass much more and occur throughout the ERP implementation process. Training needs to focus on any new business processes that result from the new system and making sure that workers are aware of new roles and responsibilities. The lack of this kind of comprehensive training, he says, is a warning sign that a project may be in trouble, because it shows that the people side of the project is not being addressed.

Failure is never inevitable, however. Rather than just looking for the canary in the coal mine, companies should be proactive and focused on mitigating the risk factors before they start to snowball. Before the ERP implementation process begins in earnest, define your overall governance and implementation strategy in the project charter.  Look to this frequently as the project moves along to make sure that you won't miss the danger signs. It's still possible to introduce these guiding principles in the middle of the ERP implementation process, but much more desirable to bake them in at the beginning.

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