The final weeks of an ERP implementation can introduce a lot of stress for project teams and stakeholders. One recurring challenge our project management consultants hear from organizations seeking to improve their project planning and execution strategy is that the list of last-minute activities seems to snowball, leaving too many tasks to complete in a very short amount of time. Though several potential causes often contribute to this phenomenon, perhaps the most common result is that it leaves teams feeling overwhelmed. It can also erode stakeholder’s confidence that the system launch will turn out as planned.
If you’re worried your ERP implementation is drifting toward a cutover disaster, consider these strategies to bring your project back on track and give your team a solid foundation for success.
Start assessing your situation early.
Whether it’s a gut feeling or concerns raised by project team members, it’s important to pay attention to warning signs—even if they seem subtle—that your cutover plans could be in jeopardy. The sooner you identify potential bottlenecks or other risk factors, the better chance you have of heading off problems. Be diligent about monitoring progress against the master plan and swiftly address any schedule slips. If your team appears to be in constant firefighting mode, look for resources to help. You may have internal collaborators who can take on more material procurement or staff recruiting tasks, for example, or a project management consulting partner experienced in ERP implementations who can help guide you back to solid ground.
Focus on the right priorities.
If your team is facing a growing pile of tasks as cutover day approaches, it’s critical that you step back and ensure everyone involved in the project is working on the right things.
First, identify which tasks genuinely must be completed prior to go-live. Work with your entire team on this exercise to be sure you don’t overlook or improperly assess any activities that are on the critical path. Next, review the sequence and timelines for these tasks—are they all scheduled for completion before the ERP platform cutover date? If not, slot them into the timeline so you aren’t scrambling to wrap them up at the last minute. Are the original estimated durations for priority tasks still accurate or are updates needed? This insight will help you confirm that your team’s workloads are realistic and achievable, and that they reflect the most important activity flows.
You can now assess the tasks that are best handled after go-live. Add them to the post-implementation schedule, along with their required resource allocations. This process allows your team to move forward knowing they’re focused on the right tasks and that follow-on activities are also safe from falling through the cracks.
Reset customer and sponsor expectations.
With your priorities in order and your pre-implementation plan and timeline confirmed, you can now turn your attention to getting the rest of your stakeholder base on the same page. Discuss which tasks will be completed before the cutover and which will occur later. Be open to concerns voiced by end users and other groups, as their workflows may be among the most affected by the launch of the new system. Assure them that issues such as requests for software customization won’t be forgotten once the cutover is complete and be candid in addressing any questions about how you established the project’s priorities and who was involved in that process. Even if stakeholders don’t agree with the priority list, an understanding of how your team balanced need and resource availability can be incredibly useful in keeping everyone moving toward a successful outcome.