How to nail your internal ERP implementation team: options, roles & attributes
ERP implementations are complex beasts. Even the smoothest implementations are a substantial undertaking – and many are anything but smooth.
They take a lot of time. And they cost a lot of money.
How much? According to Panorama Consulting, the average implementation takes more than 17 months to complete, and costs from 4% to 5% of a company’s annual revenue. What’s more, an astonishing four-fifths of implementations take longer than expected.
With such high stakes, it’s vital that your ERP implementation is in good hands – whether you choose to manage it in-house or through a group of contractors.
Before you start building your team, read on to find out about the roles and attributes you’ll definitely need to deliver a successful implementation.
Contractors or permanent staff: Which route is best?
There’s no right and wrong when it comes to choosing between an in-house team or a group of contractors. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and the ‘correct’ approach will depend upon a wide range of factors, from the complexity of the project, to the makeup of your organisation.
However, broadly speaking, the pros and cons of the two approaches can be defined as follows:
In-house, permanent people:
- Greater flexibility to change priorities and control deadlines
- Knowledge is retained in-house once the project is completed
- Reduced risk of key information or company secrets being leaked
- Building and managing a new department can be challenging if you lack the requisite technical skills
- Unlike with contractors, you’ll still be paying the team post-project
- Establishing a new department risks distracting from your company’s core focus
- Contractors are ready to go from the project start date, often meaning the lead-in time is shorter
- No need to expend managerial time on career development plans, appraisals, one-to-one reviews, training sessions, etc.
- Fewer internal distractions; contractors can ‘get on with things’ while you concentrate on your day job
- The difficulty of assembling and managing a contracting team when you lack relevant technical skills
- More difficult for management to understand what’s being done, and whether the team is focusing on the right areas
- Contractors have less motivation to ‘go the extra mile’ than in-house employees
The basic makeup of an ERP implementation team
Every Dynamics 365 ERP implementation is different. A host of factors – the size of your organisation; your location; the level of customisation needed – affect the scale of the project, which in turn influences the type of people required to deliver your implementation. But the ‘average’ team will be made up of the following roles:
- Executive sponsor: Sits at the top of the project org chart, acting as a liaison between company leadership and the core project team. The executive sponsor has ultimate responsibility for keeping the implementation on track and in line with expectations.
- Implementation project manager: Whereas the executive sponsor will likely have other responsibilities outside the ERP implementation, the project manager will be involved day to day, directing, delegating and facilitating actions as required.
- Solution architect: Also referred to as a business analyst or product manager, the solution architect will go through your existing processes and speak to each department to understand what they need from the implementation.
- Functional consultant: Responsible for taking the requirements set out by the solution architect and identifying how the ERP solution can fulfil those needs. For smaller implementations, the functional consultant and solution architect may be the same person.
- Technical consultant: Handles any coding needed to bridge gaps between your requirements and the limitations of your chosen ERP software. As such, they have both technical and functional knowledge of the product, as well as understanding the necessary development languages.
- Test lead: Responsible for thoroughly testing the ERP system – a stage that can make the difference between the success or failure of your implementation. Ensuring that the product works largely as expected from the outset also plays a big part in driving user adoption.
- Super user: Unless you have a permanent developer or administrator, you’ll want a dedicated super user – someone with a genuine passion for the product, and a desire to learn more about it – to provide day-to-day support post-implementation.
It’s almost always preferable for the management aspect of the implementation team – namely the executive sponsor and implementation project manager – to come from within your business. The same is true of the super user. But unless you have people with the necessary technical skills, you’ll need to recruit in order to fill the other roles.
How to identify contractors to manage your ERP implementation
You understand the roles required to deliver your implementation. Now it’s a case of finding people to fill them. If you’re hiring contractors, prioritise those with the following characteristics:
- Product-specific knowledge in Dynamics: This goes without saying. If they’re not product experts, they’re not the right people to deliver your implementation.
- Experience on similar projects: Ideally with similar types of organisation – those from similar industries, of a similar size, or both.
- Excellent communication skills: It’s vital that external experts are able to keep internal stakeholders – particularly the project manager – in the loop.
- Superb time management: With a lot of moving parts, it’s important that contractors are able to manage their time efficiently to maximise their resource.
- Problem-solving capabilities: Lots can go wrong with an ERP implementation, so it pays to work with people who can find solutions fast.
- Ability to work under pressure: Deadlines will constantly need to be hit in order to keep the implementation on track.
How to identify members of your in-house ERP implementation team
Building a dedicated in-house team to deliver your implementation is likely to require more time than hiring a group of contractors. You’re not just looking for people to perform a specific set of tasks; you’re looking for people who’ll add genuine value to your organisation. As such, you’ll still need them to possess most – if not all – of the traits described in the previous section, along with these additional characteristics:
- Shared cultural values: Presumably, if you’re hiring in-house, you want them to add value for the long term. New hires are much more likely to stick around if they buy into your cultural values.
- Desire to progress: Ambition is a good thing. It means they’re driven to keep improving – which is vital if you’re to enjoy the benefits of building an in-house team.
- Ability to provide product support: Your ERP team needs to keep adding value post-implementation. A natural next step is for them to provide ongoing product support and training to new users.
Given the benefits of retaining skill sets and knowledge post-implementation, hiring a permanent in-house team is often the preferred route. If the project is planned well enough in advance, building an entire in-house team is certainly feasible.
Of course, in some instances – where speed-bumps and curveballs crop up during the planning phase – a quicker lead time will be required, which may necessitate hiring contractors. Even in this scenario, it’s still possible to retain some knowledge in-house by building a hybrid team of contractors and permanent staff.
Either way, with ERP implementations potentially running for two or more years and costing millions of pounds, the recruitment stage is vital. But assembling the perfect team from scratch is never easy.
So why leave your implementation to chance? By partnering with a specialist recruiter, you can be sure that you’ll find the best people for the job.
We have vast experience of working with end-users to build permanent, temporary and hybrid Microsoft ERP teams from the ground up.