When it is time to implement a new ERP, organizing your team with the right people is critical. When ERP is going to be at the core of your operations, the input of employees who know the company’s processes needs to be considered as you get ready to select and deploy the best available solution. Executives can be unfamiliar with process specifics that can be different from company to company. Lacking this qualified guidance from a true executive sponsor may result in an ERP system that does not work the way your company does. Users, in that case, will have to unhappily compromise each time they interact with it unless you take corrective actions, which could result in rework or major configuration changes. The more actively key people from the business groups are engaged, the easier it will be to ensure user adoption of the new ERP system.
You also need committed executive sponsorship throughout the duration of your ERP project. At Sikich, we know what a difference strong executive sponsorship can make in the success of an ERP deployment. For that reason, we help companies understand and define the role and what it needs to accomplish. Too many companies think about this critical contributor in a minimalist fashion. The executive sponsor can make or break the success of the ERP deployment. This role is more than a contract-signing figurehead who writes an email to the company about what to expect or with praise for the team that got the work done.
The sponsoring exec needs to be an ambassador for the project, evangelize it in the context of the company’s strategy and goals, and communicate its milestones, expected changes, and desired outcomes to the organization. The executive sponsor takes responsibility for her company’s contributions to keeping the project on track, negotiates adjustments in schedules, budgets, or functionality, and readies people for the changes and improvements they can look forward to with their new ERP solution.
A study in 2019 by Villanova delved into the importance of executive sponsors for project management in general. The study says that “successful executive sponsors have detailed knowledge of a project and understand how it aligns to the overall strategy of the business.” With that knowledge and their positions in the company, they are expected to use their authority to move the project along, whether it’s to remove obstacles or make effective decisions.
Specifically, Villanova found that there are three areas that executive sponsors have the greatest impact upon project outcomes:
Executive sponsors are just one way to ensure ERP implementation success, but they are a hefty part of the overall process. Make sure your ERP project is set up for success at the beginning, so your project doesn’t become another failed ERP implementation horror story.
- Visibility — Productive executive sponsors remain involved throughout a project’s lifecycle and take ownership of the project’s outcomes. They are responsible for providing necessary resources, offering input to ensure the project stays aligned with overall strategy and keeping other executives informed on the project’s progress.
- Communication — Employees impacted by change want organizational leaders to be transparent. Frequent and concise communication is an important duty for an executive sponsor to clearly communicate why project changes are important and risks that come with not implementing them.
- Coalition building — Executive sponsors are expected to take the lead in building and maintaining a group of leaders who support change and are willing to legitimize it in other parts of the organization.