How would you frame the ERP conversation so that your leadership team sees it as a business project rather than an IT project?


1.4k views7 Comments

VP of IT in Energy and Utilities, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
if it is an IT project, dont do it. the business won't see the value.
1
IT Strategist in Government, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
You need to focus on a specific business problem the ERM can solve day one. Sort of a low hanging fruit/MVP approach. This will allow to steer the conversation away from pure IT deployment/investment conversation into the ROI and value proposition. 
Board Member in Healthcare and Biotech, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Typically ERP is a mega project impacting the entire enterprise. Some tips from my experience.

1. Talk to each function head and align them individually on what will change for them; operational efficiency, revenue, profitability, better information visibility and transparency. Each function may have different drivers and KPIs, understand them and put them in your basket of what the ERP will deliver.
2. Get the next level and the grassroot workers to understand what will change for them and why it is going to be a better place to be. Use this data when you talk to the leadership team collectively
3. The infamous ROI question will always come up; link it to improvements that the system will bring and quantify for returns over a 2-3 year period.
4. Present to the decision makers (Board, CXOs, or whoever is going to approve the project) on the business impact from points above. Seek the function heads to speak up in the meeting
5. Finally if 1, 2, and 3 are not happening, drop the project until business is aligned

I delayed one of my projects for more than 2 years until business took ownership. When we did implement and go-live, they were the advocates of the improvements and the new capabilities making their life easy.
Director in Construction, 1,001 - 5,000 employees
Whoever is accountable for the budget of the solution owns it.  The process should be the business to identify the business requirements, IT then adds the technical requirements and puts forward their cost to deploy/test/operate.  The business needs to add costs for business process reengineering and change management.  IT delivers the cost (there could be options!) to the business and they make the decision to move forward or not based on a business ROI.  The business should intimately involved in tracking the solution deployment to hold IT accountable for cost/time/quality.
If this isn't happening then the CIO needs to have a conversation with the VP of finance and the CEO about delivery processes.
COO in Healthcare and Biotech, 5,001 - 10,000 employees
ERP projects are generally large, complex initiatives that involve multiple organizational functions or departments.  When done correctly, they are much more than an IT project.

A few techniques that can help in ensuring an appropriate perspective on the ERP initiative:
1) Ensure that the executive sponsor is a leader from a function outside of IT.  Or, a jointly sponsored initiative by both IT and another department (e.g., Operations, Finance).
2) Ensure team member involvement includes other functional areas, including sign-off of (minimally) requirements and testing results from business functions other than IT.
3) Ensure that the objectives, and ROI if appropriate, include functional improvements outside of IT alone (e.g., supply chain, financial).
4) Ensure appropriate visibility such as to the Senior Leadership Team and Board, and focus on the business benefits in these discussions, not just IT.

Done correctly, an ERP initiative can elevate the CIO or next-level IT leader as someone who can drive complex, cross-functional projects and be seen as a savvy business executive who just happens to have a technology background.
CTO in Transportation, 11 - 50 employees
You need to find sponsors in the business unit that will be benefitted with it and try to get their investment in the project. Maybe do some quick demo pilots on how the ERP will solve a particular pain point that unit is facing.
Once you have a good number of sponsors sell to the rest of the team should get easier (while not easy).
Founder and CTO in Software, 51 - 200 employees
ERPs generally are huge projects, and there are so many aspects to them - like the problem you’re trying to solve with it, the cost aspect, the time taken to implement it, how would it impact the current processes, what would it expect from the people and so on. 

For the leadership to see it is as a business project, they must see this trying to solve a business problem or gap or project business opportunities that they can understand. And since ERPs are big projects it is important to show the business value in a phased manner as well and not just after a really long implementation time. As someone’s rightly suggested, have a milestone or a MVP approach and use that to have the leadership align with the outcomes and the impact you expect that to bring on, say, productivity, results, reduction of waste, decision making, etc.

And if it is really an IT project only, focus on presenting it as solving the IT problem that is important for your function/department to solve. Do not try too much to make it look like a business project.

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