Why an ERP Implementation Needs a Project Manager

Published September 11 2019 by Matt Morey, PMP
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A new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software implementation is a significant investment for any company, and the implementation can prove to be a significant challenge itself. In fact, it may be the most significant project a company undertakes in its lifetime. The projects are expansive, in many cases touching every aspect of the business if not providing the lifeblood (information) to all those corners and the core (executive team and upper management) as well.

In addition to expansive, the projects also tend to be expensive and resource intensive while on a tight schedule. Not only will your personnel be tested when implementing the software, but you will want a strong partner that is well versed in the software and its intricacies to ensure that the proper configurations are made and that the system will function properly, providing the expected benefits for years to come. 

With all of the factors and touchpoints, one of the more significant decision points that is overlooked with these projects is Project Management. Many companies look at the expense of an implementation and understand why functional consultants, developers and system architects are required; but the Project Manager is often a point of contention. In our experience, a Project Manager is worth the expense, especially one that has experience implementing the actual software solution.

The value of a Project Manager comes in several ways:

1. Implementation Strategy and Planning – The Project Manager, working with the team, defines the overall project implementation strategy and project plan. These items are critical to ensuring the project will be completed on time and on budget. Many times a company will attempt to define a plan themselves, but because they aren’t familiar with the software and unfamiliar with the implementation process they miss key steps or best practices that cause significant delays, or worse, rework.

A strong Project Manager with system implementation experience will be able to identify these key steps and best practices, ensuring smoother implementations. Beyond the planning stage, the Project Manager will continue to track progress against the plan using key metrics to ensure that proper progress is being made. Without this oversite role, project teams can often get stuck focusing on individual issues rather than the big picture and the project stalls.

2. Issue Tracking and Resolution – The Project Manager’s role isn’t to solve Issues, but to ensure that Issues are properly identified, tracked, and resolved by the team. The project manager also protects the budget and schedule by managing the scope, ensuring that issues don’t grow into undocumented requirements or that the team isn’t focused on activities that won’t provide the desired benefits from the system. Team members and Subject Matter Experts tend to dive down into the details, focusing on their areas of expertise. Without a Project Manager to guide them, the team often doesn’t know when enough is good enough, or even to escalate the issues so a decision can be made.

3. A Single Point of Communication and Management – One of the most frustrating things on these projects is determining who to talk to when there are concerns and issues; as well as receiving regular status updates and ensuring the Project Sponsor, Steering Committee, and Company Executives are kept in the loop and their concerns are properly addressed. These key stakeholders have other concerns beyond this one project (although this project is significant and should have their attention). Beyond these players, there are whole levels of other stakeholders that are either involved or impacted by a project of this scope. Division Managers and Department Heads will have their own input and concerns, along with the end users who will be interacting with the system. It is important to have a voice that can manage the relationship across all of these levels, has a clear understanding of the current status of the project and can consolidate the comments and concerns in order to find the responses and provide them back to the sources. This is one of the more overlooked yet critical roles of a Project Manager.

These are just a few of the high level responsibilities of a Project Manager regarding a project of this scale. While a Project Sponsor or the System Architect can provide some of these details, they often have other concerns/responsibilities that cause them to lose focus on these criteria, and the project will suffer. Even Project Managers experienced in other domains (such as manufacturing, engineering, network design) can often become overwhelmed or miss key criteria because of the lack of experience with the software or the Software Development Lifecycle, causing missed steps, issues, or best practices.

As a recipient of the Inner Circle Award for Microsoft Business Applications 14 consecutive times and partner with Microsoft since 2001, Alithya has the experience and depth of knowledge to provide a full project team including the strong Project Managers necessary to properly shepherd AX Dynamics projects to the finish line. Project Managers with experience in the software and the implementation of the software, who can manage the relationships with the end user and the executive team, and can properly lead a diverse team across a variety of functional areas to a successful project completion.


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