Embarking on an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation journey is a significant undertaking for any organization, requiring meticulous planning, expertise, and collaboration to avoid ERP implementation delays and ensure teams are prepared for long-term success.

Central to this endeavor is forming a skilled project team led by a competent and encouraging project manager. This article discusses the critical aspects of building an effective ERP implementation project team, highlighting the importance of selecting the right project manager and emphasizing a few examples of our project management consultants who have successfully guided organizations through complex ERP implementations.

Through these insights and examples, we aim to provide valuable guidance for organizations embarking on their ERP implementation journey and consultants looking to explore the world of project management.

The Lowdown on ERP Project Management

Before beginning the ERP implementation process or considering the addition of an ERP project team to assist with critical implementation, migration, integration, and optimization tasks, your internal teams should first understand just what ERP project management entails and how to handle it best.

To start, there are typically four key factors that determine the success of your ERP implementation:

  1. Selecting an enterprise solution that aligns with business needs, processes, and initiatives.
  2. Choosing the right ERP software vendor to guide and support your implementation.
  3. Defining detailed system requirements and responsibilities for internal teams.
  4. Outlining roles and responsibilities for external consulting and project management teams.

Once you’ve outlined the most critical requirements, roles, and responsibilities for your project plan and support teams, you can start the process of determining how many external resources you’ll need, finding the right experts to fill those roles, and ensuring everyone is ready to roll from Day One.

Where Does the Project Team Fit in the Plan?

Whether you’re implementing a new SAP system for the first time, migrating from JD Edwards World to EnterpriseOne Cloud, moving from Infor to Workday, or handling smaller data migration tasks between existing enterprise systems, you’ll need a well-defined project team — no questions asked.

A careful, cohesive, and collaborative project team is crucial in achieving a successful ERP implementation. It ensures alignment and shared accountability across all stakeholders, outlines clear roles and responsibilities, and encourages efficient knowledge-sharing and change management.

And, while a unified project team plays a vital role in planning, executing, and optimizing critical enterprise projects, there is no project management team without a project manager. Start by finding the right leader for the project, and the rest will fall into place like this…

Project manager, check. Project team, check. Project plan, check. Successful implementation, check.

Critical roles for a successful ERP implementation

By combining executive management with employees, subject-matter experts, and professionals dedicated to their project management craft, organizations can build a strong project team guaranteed to get and stay on board, understand the ins and outs of the technology, and meet the Go-Live date.

Typical ERP implementation project teams are comprised of the following roles:

Project owner

Typically a C-level executive or committee of executives, the project owner(s) will have higher-level ERP system responsibilities, like deciding to buy, implement, and manage a new ERP solution and monitoring goals and objectives for both the ERP vendor and internal implementation teams.

From mitigating critical project and system risks to resolving unexpected issues with a new ERP system and external resources and navigating change management across the entire organization, project owners have quite the responsibility…including cracking the whip when necessary to keep the project on time and within budget.

Project manager

Project managers (PMs) are responsible for all things ERP organization and implementation. They work with the project owner to determine the requirements and goals of a new ERP system, decide which vendor best suits current business processes and needs, and identify the key stakeholders involved with the implementation process.

Once the ERP implementation plan has been outlined, the project manager will facilitate continuous communication with the project owner and members of the project team on the status of the implementation along the way. This ensures everyone stays on the same page and critical requirements are met, no matter what.

PMs are kind of like the coach of a sports team — there to make sure everyone follows the game plan.

Functional teams

Functional project teams should aim to include members of all disciplines and departments involved in the ERP implementation project, from manufacturing to technical development, finance, human resources, supply chain management, and everything in between.

By building cross-functional project teams that span every corner of the organization,

Super user

A super user refers to someone in each affected department who dedicates themselves to learning the new ERP systems and processes and acting as the internal “go-to” for other employees once the new system goes live.

Stronger super users make for more self-sufficient operations once implementation support teams roll-off, so it’s critical to choose the people who will remain dedicated to the project throughout every phase and work to ensure long-term success for the ERP solution.

JD Edwards: A Journey from Analysis to Accountability

“I got to help with a JD Edwards implementation project and realized how much I loved leading people. Project management was my natural next step to lead people and build strong teams.”

The Path

By beginning her career as an IT business analyst and having the opportunity to work on multiple JD Edwards implementation projects from the internal client side, our JD Edwards consultant was able to learn the ins and outs of the software, interact with users directly, and manage smaller projects to build confidence.

After working to manage and optimize various aspects of her clients’ JDE systems, our consultant knew she wanted to get out of the everyday configuration work and into a leadership role. As a natural leader with an eye for innovation and collaboration, our consultant was a shoo-in for her first project management role.

Now, after more than 20 years as a project manager, our consultant has become an invaluable addition to any internal team, listening to employee concerns, involving teammates in important decisions, and making the implementation process a more collaborative effort.

Project management is sort of like a wheel, where the center of the wheel is the combined team brainpower, the spokes are the team members assigned to each project area, and the rim is the PM that keeps the spokes together and moving in the right direction at the right time.

The Challenges

“Staffing, staffing, staffing, and more staffing. You’ve got to have the right people committed to the project from the start or you’re going to feel the repercussions later.”

With more than 35 years in the JD Edwards landscape (and 20 of those specifically in project management), this senior-level JD Edwards consultant has seen her fair share of bad implementations and has been forced to navigate complex challenges on both the IT analyst and project manager side of things.

While it is rewarding to interact and collaborate with internal employees and lead them to successful product implementation, it’s not always as simple as making a list and checking it twice…

Too often, a client hires a project management consultant to do a job but then doesn’t actually let the consultant help or execute tasks their way. One of the main challenges of ensuring a successful ERP implementation involves negotiating with a difficult client to find a middle ground and holding client teams accountable for their project responsibilities.

With this, clients also often miss the mark on staffing critical roles, thinking they can glide by with people who simply fill an empty spot on the roster and are not necessarily the best fit for the job. It’s critical to ensure the right people are chosen for each role and are brought on the project at the right time.

The Reward

“Give me your trust, and let me do things the right way.”

It’s no secret that managing critical ERP implementation projects (and all the people involved) is no small feat…

While finding positive-minded people to support critical project objectives, building communication plans between stakeholders, aligning relationships with client PMs, and keeping all wheels moving in the right direction is tough, seeing a successful implementation through to the finish line makes it all worth it.

Our JD Edwards consultant compares the moment when client and consulting teams are finally working together to achieve common objectives to that of a “lightbulb moment,” where it seems like everything finally just clicks and falls right into place.

Best Practices

  • Build a strong project team and outline a project plan focused on collaboration across teams
  • Give executives and employees an opportunity to offer feedback, express stress or concern, resolve issues proactively, and protect them from critical implementation issues
  • Find the best way to interact with each employee and stay factual (not emotional) when addressing issues or identifying areas of concern
  • Kickoff the implementation process by ensuring all employees understand the scope and timeline of the project and know how much time they’re allocated to the project
  • Set realistic expectations for the implementation timeline and leverage weekly dashboards, charts, and figures to track progress

Infor: A Natural Fit for Project Management

“I realized the criticality of having the appropriate systems and processes in place to run a business and found that the natural fit for my skills and interests was in project management.”

The Path

After managing business activities that facilitated the development of a Lawson ERP software consulting practice, cross-industry ERP implementations, and integrations between Infor and other enterprise technologies, our Infor consultant realized the criticality of project management in ensuring success.

With first-hand experience in navigating business processes with (and without) the right systems and processes in place, this senior-level Infor consultant decided to make the switch to the PM world. He hung up his finance and accounting cleats and reached for the project management ones, hoping to step in and make a difference wherever he landed.

The Challenges

One of the most challenging things about project management for this consultant has been taking over ownership of a troubled project, where timelines are off-target, teams are working ineffectively, or leadership roles are jaded — more often than not, also leading to chaos and concern across the board.

Our consultant has found that the top five things to consider in a difficult project management situation include:

  1. Recruiting, building, and developing a high-performing project team.
  2. Motivating project teams and leading by example with a strong work ethic, communication, and understanding.
  3. Managing predefined project budgets and keeping projects on the right timeline.
  4. Controlling change across all teams involved, regardless of how big or small the change is.
  5. Communicating clearly throughout verbal and written routes and leveraging collaboration tools to keep all stakeholders on the same page.

Project management also often comes with its own set of challenges in managing and collaborating up and down the entire chain of command, navigating poor organizational change management from existing leadership teams, and controlling communications and expectations for individuals and groups.

The Reward

By building relationships with client teams from the jump and maintaining trust through regular check-ins, feedback, and performance assessments, project managers set themselves and their teams up for success in the long run — Happy client, happy life…right?

With experiences in quite a few roles on various project teams over the years, our senior-level Infor consultant has done it all (and seen it all). But, in his more recent project management roles, choosing the right people for each position, evaluating each person’s input, and getting the job done is what does it for this consultant (and makes him keep coming back for more).

Best Practices

  • Be honest and transparent with executives about project timelines and objectives
  • Build confidence by focusing on common goals and involving employees in decisions
  • Commit to building strong, meaningful relationships with project teams and other employees
  • Choose the best people available for the project and trust they will get the job done
  • Listen to and evaluate input to understand how to properly assign work to each employee based on their individual strengths and weaknesses

Workday: The Path from Partner to Project Management

“After learning the ropes of the Workday landscape as a consultant with a Workday partner, I saw the importance of effective project management and transitioned to that side of things.”

The Path

Our senior-level Workday consultant began his career as a consultant with a Workday partner, getting his foot in the door with Workday projects and giving himself a little more time to work on achieving various (six, to be exact) certifications, covering everything from Core HCM to Reporting and Project Management.

Once he found his way to project management, there was no turning back. Now, with almost ten years of experience with all things Workday, this consultant is coined as an expert in his craft and called out by name when clients have a critical project management need…Yep, he’s just that good!

The Challenges

“Almost every project has someone that blows up. You can’t always prevent it from happening, but finding the right way to respond is what really matters.”

People are tricky project resources to work with, especially considering other resources like business documents and enterprise systems don’t talk back, provide input, or make their own decisions.

One of the most challenging (and equally rewarding) parts of being a project manager involves learning how different team members operate, what motivates them, what they understand, and how they take feedback. From managing tempers and hot heads when plans go awry to ensuring conflict management plans are in place throughout the process and working to resolve issues as soon as they arise, project managers have their hands full.

It’s usually inevitable that a project will have something go wrong — a team member missing a mandatory meeting, finding common ground between stakeholders in a disagreement, navigating changing business requirements quickly and effectively — you get the gist.

Effective project managers like our senior-level Workday PM place conflict management at the top of the priority list and work to keep everyone’s feathers unruffled throughout the project through a fair and factual approach.

The Reward

“Teams that want to accomplish something often do, regardless of hurdles.”

While people can be the most challenging part of an ERP implementation process, guiding them to the finish line and seeing all their hard work pay off is also the most rewarding part of any project. Somehow, previous conflict, disagreement, fatigue, stress, and even lack of communication seem to fall by the wayside once the project is complete and everything finally comes together.

As a project manager, our consultant gets to see it all — the good, the bad, and yes, even the ugly.

Finding a way to keep employees motivated toward the same objectives, maintaining a positive and growth-focused mindset across teams, and leading teams through every step of the project are what put the cherry on top of every successful implementation.

Best Practices

  • Approach projects with a more holistic view to alleviate stress related to each phase of the typical ERP implementation plan
  • Collectively work towards bigger milestones while maintaining a backup plan that keeps the project moving as issues arise and involves less risk
  • Find creative ways to accomplish clients’ or users’ unrealistic expectations
  • Ensure strong communication between teams to allow everyone to work effectively
  • Focus on managing your human resources (i.e., personnel, project team, and other key stakeholders) first, and the rest will fall into place

Why Team Surety?

Surety Systems, a client-side ERP consulting firm, works to ensure your most critical projects stay on time and within budget, offering tailored ERP consulting resources that fill your needs without breaking the bank.

With our team, you can transcend the restraints of traditional managed services firms, empowering employees to take control of their efforts and avoiding unnecessary headaches associated with mismanaged project teams, improper legacy data migration, inefficient user training, and more.

Quick Turnaround Times

We understand that urgent project needs don’t always allow enough time to find, screen, interview, and hire long-term consulting resources or full-time employees.

Our team works quickly and diligently to find the best-fit consultant for your projects, from subject-matter experts specializing in ERP selection to data analysts who can temporarily backfill migration roles and project managers handling every step of the ERP implementation process from start to finish.

Time-and-Materials Services

Instead of paying unnecessary project management fees or navigating additional service costs tacked onto your bill at the end of the ERP implementation life cycle, Surety Systems operates on a time-and-materials model. This way, you only pay for what you actually need — nothing more.

Your Experience, Your Way

Our ERP consulting teams operate with an approach that keeps your priorities at the top of the priority list, not working to meet our own bottom line or achieve our own business objectives.

We offer personalized consulting services tailored to your unique business processes and needs, ensuring your teams understand how the new system works and are confident in operating and managing it long after our consultants roll off.

Getting Connected with Our Team

Workday, Infor/Lawson, UKG/Kronos, SAP, JD Edwards, Epic, Clinical Apps….you name it, we’ve got a team of consultants with the right knowledge, skills, and experience to lead you through the ERP implementation finish line.

For more information about our ERP consulting services or to get started on a project with our expert ERP consultants, contact us today.