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Business Transformation

International ERP deployment: a well kept secret for success

Tuesday, February 10, 2015
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How do you succeed with your international ERP deployment? Analysts generally agree that ERP projects typically fail for reasons that are not technology related. Instead, the blame goes for example to: a lack of anchoring of IT in an organization’s strategy, underestimating the importance of the organizational changes, failing to involve people, poor project management, inconsistent scope… And this is just to name a few. I can pretty much relate to and agree with all of them. But, when it comes to international deployments where several partners are working together, I like to emphasize the role partner engagement.

Choose the right partner

It’s evident that an ERP deployment partner MUST understand your deployment and strategic goals. I like to think of ERP projects as strategy enablers. An ERP project is – or should always be – instrumental to the achievement of a greater strategic goal, most often together with other dimensions such as improved reporting, harmonization of business processes, organizational changes, the addition of a few IT components, a closer look at centrally-managed Master Data Management, etc.

What goals for your international ERP deployment project?

Now, to make sure that your project serves your strategic goals you need to have a constant alignment between the two. If your strategy undergoes changes, your project goals should be updated accordingly. It can sound as an easy task, but when you have an international ERP deployment project, the task can quickly become a much bigger challenge as you have to make sure that ALL the local partners in ALL the countries where you have a deployment are well and timely aligned with your goals. That is in my mind one of the primary roles of international engagement managers, and the reason why they should sit in Steering Committee meetings, so that they can at all times communicate about the strategy to local deployment partners whose focus is on project deliverables. They need to make sure all team members understand and abide to the organization’s strategy.

Of course, the role of the engagement manager does not stop there. Managing international ERP deployment projects with local partners is not just about drafting a project schedule and checking tasks progress. In reality, it’s about communication. It is about establishing the correct communication lines and management framework to ensure the project is running in the most efficient manner. Remember, what Bernard Werber says: “Between what I think, what I want to say, what I believe I say, what I say, what you want to hear, what you believe to hear, what you hear, what you want to understand, what you think you understand, what you understand…They are ten possibilities that we might have some problem communicating. But let’s try anyway…

Partner engagement is about compliance, thus avoiding misunderstandings by anchoring:

  • An understanding of why this project is important and to whom.
  • A description of the reporting mechanism, of the rules of engagement, as well as the do’s and don’ts
  • An understanding of the history of the current project, the decisions that have been made and why
  • An overview of who is who in the organization, and who has decision power when

In my opinion each and every single organization with a distributed international ERP deployment project would benefit from performing partner engagement. This reduces considerably the task of doing partner engagement, but it does not completely remove it. Each project is unique and has its own set of goals, rules and mechanisms. Besides, an engagement session is always a great opportunity to make sure that even the newest resources at a partner are fully up to speed with the project’s details and delivery methods before getting started.

So, doing a fantastic partner engagement might be one of the best moves in your career. Personally, I’ve yet to see an ERP project succeed without a good communications strategy, but there is a first time for everything, or maybe not?

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