How Project Management Affects ERP Implementation

Boyer & Associates recently hired a new project manager, Beth Steinkopf, to help provide better management of our clients’ ERP implementation projects. Jack Boyer sat down with Steinkopf to discuss how her background as a PM helps clients who are in the process of updating their ERP or accounting software.

Jack: You have experience managing elements of larger ERP projects. How are smaller ERP projects similar and different to the larger ones in your experience?

Let’s start with different: Smaller ERP implementations move FAST! They have fewer stakeholders, they generally have only one or two key decision makers, the owners are directly involved, and the processes around the project are typically less formalized.

Items that are very similar between small and large ERP software updates include the following:

  • Need for regular communication
  • Understanding impacts to different stakeholders
  • Need for change management
  • Inevitable change to time, scope and/or budget
  • Unknowns that need contingencies and risk management
  • Project satisfaction reverse bell-curve
  • An ongoing need to balance cost-benefits
Jack: Do you feel being a CPA helps you understand the process better when implementing ERP software? Do you see yourself adding more value by making processes better or by holding stakeholders accountable to do what you’ve committed them to complete?

I think being a CPA combined with my past experiences with ERP implementations helps me understand the impacts to the users of the ERP solution much better. Understanding how the decisions affect the financial statements, business processes and ongoing operations allows me to help ask different questions to both the technical and business teams.

I see myself as an advocate for the business. This doesn’t mean automating everything but rather helping them to make the best decisions possible to best meet their requirements while staying within the confines of their budget and timeline. While my role as the project manager is to ensure the project is successful as defined, I enjoy adding value by helping businesses make better decisions, potentially changing inefficient processes, incorporating best practices and defining alternative solutions to business challenges.

Jack: How important is it for you, as the Project Manager, to understand the software’s ins and outs?

In my role as a Project Manager, knowing the details of how a system is configured or how a developer coded a customization is not extremely important. In a PM role, my function is to make sure that time, scope and budget are followed. This includes making sure the client’s needs are being met, timelines are realistic, the right resources are available at the right time, risks are being mitigated, stakeholders are receiving necessary communication, etc.

However, understanding the basics of the software does help identify if there are any discrepancies or gaps in the above items. It also aides in facilitating healthy discussion around potential solutions.

Stay tuned next week to learn how early project management oversight can create a smooth ERP implementation.