Planning for Risks Benefits ERP Implementations

Boyer & Associates’ new project manager, Beth Steinkopf, is helping us better manage our clients’ ERP implementations. Last week we discussed how her past experience is already helping our clients. This week Jack Boyer asks Steinkopf how early project management can get your ERP implementation off to a great start.

Jack: What are the most important elements you focus on early in a project to help clients ensure success with implementing ERP software?

I like to understand why the client has chosen to implement the new software. What are their goals? Understanding this helps define where we are going and allows us to refocus the troops if anyone starts to deviate from the initial plan. It also helps to create a baseline. ERP implementations take time to complete, and when the project gets challenging it can be hard to remember why the decision to implement happened.

Then the next step is planning, planning and more planning. This includes not just a project plan, but thinking about how the overarching project is going to run, what the client’s expectations are around design, testing, training, communication, etc. Defining what each person’s role is and making sure the team knows what to expect during the project cycle is key.

ERP implementations are challenging and each stakeholder is different in his or her expectations. Making sure we have a good communication plan and executing against it well is essential.

Jack: I’ve seen you address risks early in a project. Why? Was this part of your Project Management Professional (PMP) training or is this something that you were doing naturally even before passing the exam?

This is part of risk management. All projects have risks. If you don’t have known risks, you probably haven’t looked at the full impact of your project. Risk management is the identification of items that could cause negative or positive impacts on the project. It allows us to develop a plan to manage those items thoughtfully. An item classified as a “risk” represents a potential item where mitigation may be necessary in the future whereas an “issue” represents something that has already occurred and needs mitigation.

I am a bit of a planner and risk management falls under that, so I would say that it happens naturally for me.  However, formalizing it comes from past experience and PMP training. Formalizing risks via a log allows us the ability to assign an owner to the risk. This owner is responsible for developing a mitigation plan if the risk turns into an issue and tracking the status of the risk until it is closed. Risk management is owned by everyone on the project. It is not just the project manager’s responsibility.

Stay tuned next week for Beth’s five tips on what you can do to ensure a successful ERP implementation at your company.