When ERP projects fail it is popular (and easy) for consultants and the project management team to simply throw up their hands and site “lack of senior management commitment” as the evil force behind it. However, like much of the conventional ERP wisdom out there today, the real issues can be much deeper than that.
In my previous blog entries, I posed the following questions:
Why would any management team spend hundreds of thousands or perhaps millions of dollars on ERP with the goal of failing?
Do ERP Executive Steering Team members in most organizations consider themselves “not committed”?
Do people rise to senior management levels in most organizations because they are totally incompetent?
Many times what is perceived as “lack of management commitment or ownership” is really a failure on the part of your consultants, the executive sponsor, and internal project manager to do their jobs. Stepping back for a moment, commitment to ERP starts with education. However, all too often ERP project managers mistakenly assume that an educated management team is by default a committed management team. This is not a technicality, because in practice there can be a huge difference between “education” and “execution” of the senior management role. This is precisely where consultants and the project management team drop the ball when it comes to managing the executive staff (and yes they must be managed).
A big part of managing the ERP Executive Steering Team is not only educating them on their project responsibilities; but also coaching them on how to fulfill them and making sure they do. This includes specifically what they must do, when they must do it, and in some cases, how to do it. In addition, it involves tactfully reminding executives when they have not completed an assigned task and finding out when they will. We are all big boys but if your consultants cannot add value in this area, you have the wrong consultants.
In addition, this is not about spoon-feeding helpless executives. Remember though, most senior managers did not rise to their level in the organization because they are ERP implementation gurus. Furthermore, it is true they have a business to run in the meantime. Therefore, if you want management to “demonstrate” their commitment to the project, the project management team must plan and facilitate this process and not leave it up to chance. Without demonstrated executive commitment (highly visible involvement; communication and supportive actions); do not be surprised when no one else in the organization takes the project seriously.
Many times consulting firms avoid frank and honest dialog with senior management for the fear of falling out of favor. In other words, they act like sales people not project managers. Other consulting firms simply do not have the experience and skills to manage executives. On the other hand, many internal executive sponsors and project managers are uncomfortable with “upward” delegation of responsibilities to their executives. Nevertheless, a project management team that cannot do this has no business running an ERP project. You see, it is not about becoming the bad guy, disrespectful or rocking the boat. What many fail to realize is most senior management teams (spending millions of dollars on ERP), actually want the project to succeed and have no interest in shooting a project manager trying to do his or her job.
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