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When searching for new ERP software, there are many factors to consider, like company experience, customer recommendations, desired features, and product infrastructure. One of the factors that may get overlooked but is essential to a smooth transition is project management. We all know that implementations are complex. There are so many moving parts, it can be challenging to ensure that there is consensus among the team and all tasks are completed on time.
In the Challenges and Best Practices of Managing Government Projects and Programs study of public projects and programs from diverse sectors, two of the six key recommendations were using mandated project management processes and engaging stakeholders. The research found that the application of project management practices positively affects the outcome of government projects.
People at all levels of the school district – from budget managers and warehouse supervisors to payroll technicians and school principals – need to feel like they are part of the process. The best way to keep people engaged is through purposeful communication. By communicating all aspects of the coming implementation, school business employees have the opportunity to become champions and stakeholders.
During the initiating stage of a project, the most important task is for everyone to understand and agree upon the project. Standard project management practices ensure that communication is clear and accountable. Two common project management deliverables are the Project Charter and the Communications Plan.
Using a Project Charter – which outlines the scope of the project – stakeholders can see the entire plan in a single document, detailing the project goals, scope, assumptions, and constraints. A companion of the Project Charter is the Communications Plan – which defines how communication in the project will be handled, including regularly scheduled meetings and milestone reviews. During the planning stage, the Communications Plan provides a stable set of expectations, resulting in a smoother transition and more cooperation from all of the players in a school district.
If people don’t know what changes are coming, they may resist. Clear communication is an agent for encouraging acceptance and cooperation.
Now that you have the buy-in, you need to execute and control the implementation process. Of course, you haven’t stopped communicating. At the beginning of the project, industry-standard project management protocols call for a Kick-off Meeting where an overview of the project is presented to all stakeholders. The Kick-off Meeting and the presentation of the project plan gives everyone the opportunity to ask questions about the project, anticipate how it will affect them, and understand how the project will be managed.
At the meeting, the Project Management team, which has representatives from the software vendor and the school district, can present the timeline and incremental milestones to the entire district. Gantt charts are a common project management tool for managing the timeline. Yes, they can be intimidating, but they are a great visual tool to ensure that overlapping priorities can be achieved in a timely manner. Using Gantt charts (or any other illustrative project scheduling tool) and project plans, everyone can visualize the tasks and dependencies required to achieve the goal of the project.
When people have assigned tasks with reasonable deadlines and accountability, they are more likely to meet the challenges of the project with a positive and productive attitude.
The beauty of project management is that it is repeatable and effective. Research shows that it works. Companies that use industry-standard project management practices are going to have the processes in place that are more likely to result in an implementation that is on schedule and positively received. When looking for new software, especially for projects as large as ERP replacement, confirming that project management is in place – with all six stages: Project Launch, Requirements & Data Gathering, Configuration, Rollout, Go Live and Project Close Out – safeguards your project timelines and increases the likelihood of smooth transition.
Young Hoon Kwak, P. M. L. (2014). Challenges and Best Practices of Managing Government Projects and Programs to the Theory and Practices. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/research/research-summaries/kwak_challenges-and-best-practices-of-govt-projects.pdf