Most unsuccessful ERP implementations have one common theme: a lack of senior management commitment to the project. Many times, however, what is perceived as a lack of commitment is really a failure of the project management team to educate executives. Even with the best executive staff, it is foolhardy to assume they automatically understand how to effectively participate in a project of this nature and the ERP lessons learned.
In addition to formal ERP education sessions provided by an independent source, a relatively inexpensive yet effective way to increase executive awareness is through site visits to other companies that have recently installed ERP. When done correctly, these experiences visiting other ERP users can be very insightful and can accelerate executive learning.
The following are some tips for planning an ERP user site visit to educate the executive steering team:
- Visit a company of similar size and within a similar industry. Though the ERP pitfalls are not necessarily unique for different types of companies, this approach tends to add credibility from the perspective of senior management.
- Avoid the "marquee" examples of the perfect ERP success story. Meet with a company that has had a successful ERP implementation, since you want to learn what they did right. At the same time, "what went wrong" tends to get the most management attention.
- Avoid turning an executive education site visit into a software demonstration. Software is rarely the reason for outright ERP failure. In fact, it does not matter what software package the host company is using. Executive visits should focus on project management and the organizational challenges encountered during the implementation of any package.
- Never send executives to visit a company using an ERP package currently on your software selection shortlist (i.e., the evaluation team has yet to make a final recommendation). This could taint or circumvent the evaluation process. The role of executives is to approve or reject a software recommendation, not select a package.
- A detailed agenda is critical. Start with the topics discussed during formal education, since these lay out the foundation for further learning during the ERP user site visit. Provide your list of questions to the host company before the visit. Next, work with them to develop the agenda.
- Try to get a broad representation of the host's former project team. When possible these include their ERP implementation project manager, key team members from the functional side of the business, and IT support. Without this, your executives may receive a very narrow perspective of the issues encountered and lessons learned.
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