Are you are new to the ERP world or maybe you already have an ERP solution and you are upgrading or expanding the footprint, you likely will be looking for outside help. Whatever the case is, there are things you should consider when putting together your team to give you the best opportunity for success. There are a few options, assuming you do not have an in-house solutions support team.
- You could issue an RFP (Request for Proposal).
- You could contact your auditing company for recommendations (most of the big ones have a consulting arm and offer these services).
- You could act as your own solution partner and sub-contract independents in the market.
- You could use the software provider as the implementer, assuming they offer these services.
- You could use your outsourcing organization, expanding their services to include your additional requirements.
How can you help yourself and your organization have a successful project no matter where you are on the life-cycle spectrum?
Keep control in your hands!
This means, whether this is your first implementation or you are a long time user of your current solution but undertaking an upgrade, expansion or significant overhaul, do not hand over the reins to outsiders without someone in your court. No matter how sophisticated your IT organization might be, it is imperative you remember ERP solutions are not IT solutions they are Business (Enterprise) solutions, intended to assist in making business decisions, communications and interactions with the outside world run more smoothly. All too often Partners forget this goal, far too many ERP solution providers are quick to say yes to modifications to core ERP solutions, quick to say yes to customizations that will harm the underlying reason you selected an ERP solution and future upgrades and support will become costly.
Why you should always have a knowledgeable Project Manager on your side:
- They can help you define your requirements before you go to the market.
- They can help you identify opportunities to expand or contract scope for better solution management.
- They can help you manage expectations around timelines and budgets if you intend to go to the market for a partner to assist in your implementation.
- They can assist in the development of your RFP and the review of responses.
- They can assist in the development of the SOW (Statement of Work) once a selection of Partner has been made, giving you the best opportunity for a balanced and fair contract.
- They can help manage deliverables, Risk, Issues and Quality Gates from the partner over the course of the project.
- They can act on your behalf and represent you during specific Change Control, Change Management and Scope definition discussions.
- They can help you define a future roadmap that makes sense for your organization based on your business and your requirements.
When should you start looking for this paragon of virtue?
The earlier the better, you want the Project Manager to be part of your organization from inception if possible. If you have a PMO (Project Management Office), you want them to know your processes and where there is a need to expand those processes to include specialized ERP methods or standards your new PM can assist the PMO in doing so seamlessly.
Now to the hard issues you will have to consider when you are looking to add a specialized PM to your team. Unless you plan to become an ERP shop, plan on contracting for the duration of the project rather than hiring full-time. Use a reliable and known national search firm, they are out there and will serve you far better than the fly by night firms who sub-contract through multiple layers, alternatively you can become your own agency and post on reliable sourcing sites such as LinkedIn, or even Dice.
Some reality checks;
- Expect to pay between $90 to $125 per hour for an experienced ERP Project Manager; this rate is exclusive of travel. Expect to pay between $130 to $170 inclusive of travel for an experienced ERP Project Manager.
- Expect your traveling contract Project Manager to work a four (4) day on-site workweek, usually Monday through Thursday with availability on Fridays for conference calls. Most traveling consultants work this schedule with Fridays reserved to catch up on paperwork, reports and other work they cannot complete during the hectic office hours.
You do yourself a grave disservice when you try to combine roles or as I call it, go for the twofer and now we are back to the beginning. The twofer is that non-existent resource who claims to be both a technical or functional expert and a Project Manager, all too often the Partner positions the Twofer as just this prototypical resource, billing them at a rate they do not deserve while you languish in the desert of low or even no information. Keeping in mind a project manager from a partner, even a mid-tier partner, will generally bill at $200 per hour and 18% travel.
Do yourself a favor; get yourself a real Project Manager one with experience and knowledge in the solution you are working with.
This is not a Project Manager, this is a Technical Resource or a Twofer:
Finally, Project Managers are not industry experts and do not need to be. Many of us have worked across industries for years, our experiences and knowledge across industries have benefited our clients because we can talk about what works and doesn’t work from a project management perspective, everything from qualifying resources to qualifying deliverables and risks. Project Managers need to be able to communicate in a variety of circumstances and across organizational chalk lines, we need to be able to present to boards and walk manufacturing floors; to capture requirements, ask questions and deliver information, including bad news. What we do not need to know is the specifics of how energy is delivered, airplanes are flown or chemicals are stored. This is why we have functional experts and solution architects; this is why we are positioned to ask the right questions of the right people. You do yourself and your organization a huge disservice by narrowing your search to project managers within your industry.
Do yourself and your organization a service, when you are ready to take on your next or your first ERP project find a Project Manager with the skills, competencies and experience necessary to make you successful. Be willing to pay the market rate to get those skills in-house, make this resource part of your team early. Don’t short change yourself, you won’t regret your decision.