Short-staffed on your ERP Project? Don't Skip the Project Manager
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Short-staffed on your ERP Implementation? Don’t Skip the Project Manager

Project Planning

As you’re working through your ERP vendor selection process, internal project management may not be at the forefront of your mind.  You may think, “the vendor will have a project manager, and I’m already short-staffed, so that’s one role I can skip.”  Right? Wrong!

There are many reasons why you need your own project manager on your ERP project – regardless of the size of your organization —  and most of them will significantly increase your chances of having a successful implementation.  Here are a few reasons in addition to key characteristics to look for when seeking an internal project manager:

Planning

As part of the planning phase, your vendor will present you with an implementation schedule that meets their scheduling and resourcing requirements.  They will be able to give you advice on your resourcing plan, and deadlines for your deliverables (e.g. The cleaned inventory data is due on September 1), but ultimately only someone in your organization will be able to create a realistic schedule and resourcing plan for your staff.

Monitoring Risks

Creating the schedule and resourcing plan are only just the beginning.  Once the project is underway, you need someone to watch these plans to make sure you’re keeping up with the schedule (and keeping an eye on the vendor to make sure they’re keeping up as well).   As I’ve mentioned previously, ERP projects are resource-intensive, and the resources needed are typically your best and brightest.  An internal PM is needed to make sure that your people are not being pulled off to work on other projects, or at least will be able to see when this is happening and raise the issue to senior management.

As I discussed in a previous post, there will always be uncertainty in any project.  An internal project manager should be tasked with monitoring and acting on internal risks such as changes in dependent projects and changes in key stakeholders.

Communication and Change Management

An internal project manager is your most valuable resource when it comes to communication and change management.  Unless a vendor has been specifically tasked with managing this area, it may not be given the focus it needs by the team.  An internal PM may not have specific change management skills, but will have an overall view of the new system, the impacts it will have on your organization, in addition to knowing the groups who could potentially resist the large change which is inevitable with a new ERP implementation.

When should the PM start on the project?  The sooner the better.  It doesn’t have to be a full time role, but the deeper your PM’s understanding of your project, the better job s/he will do.

Key Characteristics of an Internal Project Manager: Who Should You Choose?

In many cases, the ideal PM candidate for your ERP project might be obvious. Depending on the size of your organization, you might have a dedicated project manager on staff. However, if you don’t, these are some of the characteristics that I would recommend looking for in a PM:

  • well-organized (Although perhaps obvious, this cannot be overstated!),
  • well-respected in the organization,
  • not afraid to speak their mind,
  • a natural leader, and
  • understands your business well.

(Check out this list for a few more characteristics of a great PM).

As stated above, your PM will help guide the planning process, monitor risks, and assist with communication and change management – factors that are crucial to ERP project success. When looking to select for such a critical role, start with your best and brightest and go from there. In my experience, very few project managers actually start their career as Project Managers: they usually end up in the role due to the fact that they’re good at both their job and at managing. Seek this potential, knowing that it is someone who understands and is invested in your business that will drive your project to success.

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