This was a first time ERP implementation for a company still using QuickBooks and Excel. These systems were breaking regularly, either crashing and closing in the middle of a transaction, or running into duplicate users saving files over each other causing significant rework.
Sticking to a schedule feels overwhelming in ERP implementations. AJC created a Team Charter that clarified Roles & Responsibilities and schedule expectations, and developed a Risk Mitigation Plan that included outsourced technical subject matter expertise where possible; including backfilling daily work to free up internal experts’ time to focus on this project instead of on IT ticket resolution or report generation.
The company evaluated several options, and selected the one that seemed to best match their needs. There was a very short window available for the implementation, and if it was not done and adopted by all users within the window, the whole project would have to push for up to a year!
Given the unique challenge of a strict time boundary, the team needed be super intentional about scope and schedule. Another challenge was that the internal Core Team was relatively inexperienced, with only one person out of 5 having implemented an ERP before.
The project plan felt very aggressive in the beginning, there was so much to do and such a short window. I had been an ERP implementation consultant before, so I knew exactly what we were up against.
Figuring Out the Solution
Very early on, AJC instituted a daily 15-minute “stand down” conference call huddle where the partially remote team could discuss what was done the previous day, what was up that day, and any help needed. We micromanaged the schedule, but not each other, as divide and conquer became our strategy.
Goal 1: Minimize Customizations
Customizations can kill both schedule and budget. Additionally, whenever upgrades to the system (SaaS or on-prem) are required, each customization may need to also be upgraded, which adds cost over time as well.
We were able to limit our customizations to a minimum. Additional opportunities were documented for Phase 2, and workarounds were developed within the existing configuration.
Goal 2: Maintain budget plus contingency
We managed the VAR business analyst hours on a bimonthly basis, though on a lagging indicator of reviewing invoiced hours. When they exceeded schedule in a two-week period without receiving written permission up front as per our contract, we negotiated to a mutually agreeable solution.
Goal 3: Keep schedule
We knew that it would take about three months after Go Live for end users to be comfortable with the new system. Given the looming business needs, we elected to Go Live three and a half months prior to the line in the sand deadline, to give users time to adjust to the new system before the business environment changed. This was done by allowing the Core Team to focus ONLY on the ERP implementation for the short period of time, taking on no additional new initiatives during that timeframe.
Goal 4: Document and categorize all bugs. Eliminate show-stoppers.
There would be problems in the new system, many of which arose during Conference Room Pilot and User Acceptance Testing, but also some that were not seen until after Go Live. Our Project Manager captured every one, and categorized them by urgency (show-stoppers, inconveniences with work-arounds, improvements). We then drove all show-stoppers to resolution, and handed off the others for later completion.
Goal 5: Remain a team!
ERP implementations are notoriously stressful. The team liked each other before we started, and wanted to feel the same way after. We were patient with each other, encouraging open discourse about concerns and problems without placing blame. We supported each other and helped out wherever we could. The team actually became closer through overcoming this shared challenge.
Goal 6: Celebrate!
After a successful Go Live, the Executive Sponsor delivered a hand-written note to everyone in the company thanking them for their efforts and encouraging them to keep up the great work. Each person also received a 100 GRAND bonus (candy bar!).
Amazingly, through our daily stand up meetings, core team and track conversations, and ability to escalate challenges with budget, we managed to keep schedule and even to grow closer as a team throughout the process. I give Andrea tons of credit for a lot of the result, and we are grateful for her support.
ERP implementation can be make or break in your business. It is helpful to have a Project Strategist, Manager, and partner that cares about your whole team and is able to maintain accountability and focus.
Are you implementing an ERP?
Whether this is your first time, or you are re-implementing, AJC can help with Project Strategy and Project Management. Contact us today to learn whether we may be a fit for you!