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Episode 5: The ERP project is running – we’re all in the same boat, let’s work as a team

So, this ERP project execution phase will last for quite a while. In some large projects, we are talking almost two years and for quick implementations with a small scope, easily 9 months. If all the steps up until this point have been done well, although stressful and full of work, this phase has a good chance of going reasonably smoothly.

During the project, the key to a successful outcome is communication. By this I mean open communication, not just communicating the nice stuff. If challenges are noticed, communicating them clearly and early on can save you a lot of time and money down the road. During the lifespan of the project, you will probably see the following personality types:

“We can do this later on”

A person who always suggests making decisions later. To some extent this is needed, but it cannot be the de facto answer to key questions. Be aware. 

“It is never going to work”

A team member on the customer's side who sees only the negatives and even when people are doing good work on the project, does not trust that it will ever work. You need to hear these guys out; they might have key concerns that need to be addressed. Usually, the root cause of the concern is related to changes in the system and a lack of knowledge regarding how the project will progress, how it will be tested, and so on.

“Stuck in the details that don’t matter”

Well, details matter in regularly occurring processes but if we get stuck in the details of a special case that takes place every two years, we have lost our way a bit. We need to focus on the key things and if we get an error only once every two years, this is not the most important thing.

“Standard will be enough”

This is a person on the vendor's site who tries to force the customer to use the standard system. This is off course more than correct, but in almost all projects, you have several situations where the standard ERP is not enough. These cases need to be identified and the correct approach selected.

“A modification is needed”

This is the opposite of the standard personality. This person will select and create a modification for the slightest needs and doesn’t challenge the process or suggest alternative approaches to the problem. In the case of cloud ERPs with forced update cycles, all modifications are bad, so try to get the standard and the modification people to sort out what is really needed. 

Usually, the architects and project managers listen to all these different points of view and try to create a picture of the overall situation. During the project, you will most likely get several false alarms about major problems that aren’t really problems. You may also get a couple of things which don’t even seem to be issues at all but then escalate into major steering group level decisions.

The key is to listen, openly discuss issues and admit when you have been wrong. These are complex things, and you don’t know everything at the start because you simply don’t know what you don’t know. So, expect the unexpected and solve it as a team. For motivation, you can watch Apollo 13 to see what teamwork can do!

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