What is the best team structure for ERP implementations?

Implementing an ERP system is an extensive process that often impacts every department within an organization. Depending on the size of the company organization, deploying an ERP solution may require months of planning for a successful launch.

Without proper planning, ERP projects tend to fail. This process requires an effective team structure with carefully defined roles and responsibilities.

Increase the chance of a successful ERP implementation with this guide to the best team structure.

 

Categorize the Scale of the ERP Project

The structure of the implementation team depends on the scale of the project and the size of the company. Smaller companies rely on fewer tools and contain fewer departments compared to larger organizations.

Often organizations will engage with a specialized ERP implementation partner to help them with their ERP implementation. For larger projects these companies will provide a team of dedicated consultants to work on the project and they may include technical, functional and project management resources. These services may be provided by the professional services arm of the ERP vendor themselves or they may be provided by a system integrator such as the Big 4 – Deloitte, Ernst & Young (EY), KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Multinational organizations may need a steering committee to guide the project, along with multiple implementation divisions consisting of dozens of executives. A small business organization does not need a committee, nor does it need to fill the same roles. Keep these details in mind to develop an effective team structure.

 

Project Oversight Committee

An oversight committee or steering committee is used to oversee the overall implementation process. The committee consists of senior executives and decision-makers, such as CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and various VPs.

In some cases, a formal committee is not established. The typical responsibilities of the committee are simply handled by executives at the highest level in the company’s organizational chain.

For smaller businesses, these roles are filled by the business owner and upper management.

The decision-makers are not directly involved in the process. However, they should receive periodic updates from the project team and provide the support and resources needed to complete the implementation.

 

Project Owner or Project Champion

As with a committee, a project owner is not directly associated with the implementation of the ERP software. The project owner or project champion is the person responsible for ensuring that the team meets the goals of the company.

The project owner may also assist the implementation team to address any unforeseen issues or obstacles during the process. If the company establishes a committee, the project owner may also act as an intermediary between the core team and upper management.

 

Core Implementation Team

The core implementation team is the group responsible for planning and deploying the ERP software. This group works directly with individual departments and workers to ensure a smooth transition to the ERP system.

The core implementation team consists of the following roles:

  • Project manager
  • Functional team members
  • Technical team members
  • Other team members

Establishing multiple teams is often necessary when dealing with deployment across multiple sites. Multinational organizations and companies with multiple locations need teams at each site to deal with the implementation process hands-on.

 

Project Manager

The project manager is responsible for every stage of the implementation process so could be considered the head in the ERP implementation team. The manager works with the project owner or steering committee to define the goals and the scope of the project. Other key responsibilities of the project manager include:

  • Selecting members for the team
  • Delivering updates to the project owner
  • Comparing and selecting ERP vendors
  • Developing a project plan
  • Coordinating with team members

The manager keeps the project running on time and ensures that the process is meeting the goals outlined by the committee or project owner.

The Project Manager may be a full-time employee of the organization or they may be an employee of the implementation partner. Alternatively they may instead be an external contractor not connected to either the organization or the implementation partner.

If multiple teams are used, the responsibilities of the project manager may be divided between multiple project supervisors and/or team leaders. The team at each site should have its own supervisor while a single project manager oversees the entire project.

A project manager is not to be confused with a program manager. Whereas a Project Manager is concerned with an individual project, a Program Manager is concerned with a group of similar or related projects, while a Portfolio Manager is concerned with a group of projects related or not. So the hierarchy is Project to Program to Portfolio.

 

Functional Team Members

This may include department heads, supervisors, managers in each area of the organization, such as financing, human resources, and operations. These manager level members provide the big picture for their department and are most concerned with how the systems operates as a whole and how it aligns with their goals and strategies.

At another level we have functional team members who may be line level employees who are experts in a particular business processes, they know the details, and they have the store of knowledge of how things are actually done in the organization. These are the ones who use ERP software for normal business tasks and operations. During the project it is recommended to backfill and hire temporary staff to fulfil and cover for their normal duties so they can properly dedicate time to the project.

Functional team members assist with defining the needs of their own core areas. For example, a team member who represents the finance department should understand the daily, monthly and annual procedures of that department. They help ensure that the ERP software assists with those procedures.

Subject Matter Experts

In particular, functional team members include Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). In the context of ERP SMEs are those users who have expertise in a particular business process. If they are internal to the organization they will be experts in the “As Is” processes of that particular organization, while an External SME will have expertise in the industry best practices and and in the process capabilities of the new ERP system, they can help guide the organization to the “To Be” processes.

Super Users

Super-users are individuals who receive in-depth training to fully understand the features and functions of the ERP software. Smaller organizations may have a single super user who learns the new processes for each department.

Large organizations often require multiple super users. For example, each department may have its own super user who knows all the ins and outs of the new software and how it impacts their daily operations.

Crossover and overlap exists between a Subject Matter Expert and a Super User,  they may be the same person. The nuance, if any, is that the SME is an expert on the process while the Super User is an expert in the process as it exists in a system. In the end, the internal functional team members are the employees who will spend more time working directly with the ERP software.

 

Technical Team Members

Usually there are some technical ERP team roles. Large organizations may have several individual technical team members while smaller organizations may combine technical team roles into one role. Similarly in certain circumstance functional and technical roles may be combined, so called Techno-Functional. This may be the case where both detailed technical and functional process knowledge is required, for example, SAP SD (Sales & Distribution) Pricing Consultant.

System Administrator

For on-premise ERP deployments the organization will need a System Administrator to install and run the ERP software. For ERP deployments in the cloud this is not necessary, although technical administration resources may still be required for Cloud ERP, for example security professionals.

User Administrator

User Administrators are responsible for provisioning user accounts, granting and revoking user access and user roles to users.

Developers or Programmers

Developers or Programmers are specialists in the programming languages and frameworks associated with the ERP system. ERP is a COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) packaged piece of software which is ‘canned’ and ready made. Experts encourage organizations to eschew ERP customization where possible, however developers are the people who are called upon to customize the ERP system when it is deemed absolutely necessary. For example, SAP developers coding ABAP program add-ons to handle a must have process not catered to by the standard delivered SAP system. In addition, these programmers may be called upon to write and develop data conversions and data interfaces.

Configuration Consultants

Configuration Consultants aka Functional Consultants are experts in the configuration options available of the ERP software. ERP is a parameter driven so and they are familiar with the available parameters and settings which drive business rules and process behavior.

Configuration can be contrasted with Customization, although the lines can blur. Configuration is adapting the system with the available options delivered and provided in the ERP system, for example, configuring a type of product. Whereas Customization is the development of new system objects not provided by default, for example, creating a new input screen to mirror the process used by your previous system.

Often these functional consultants or business analysts will specialize within a general business area, for example, Finance or Logistics Supply Chain or Human Resources or within a sub-area module, for example, Manufacturing, Distribution, Warehousing.

Report Writer

Some organizations may also require a report writer for a successful ERP deployment. The writer compiles reports related to existing business operations, helping with the transition to new software.

ERP software provides a central database for storing information collected from each department. This may lead to changes in the way that your organization compiles reports.

The report writer is responsible for analyzing existing report procedures and implementing new report procedures using the selected ERP system. In some cases, the duties of the report writer are handled by a super user or members of the IT department.

In modern ERP systems this traditional reporting role is gradually getting replaced by job roles such as Data Analyst, Data Warehousing Developer, Business Intelligence Specialist etc.

 

Other Team Members

Depending on the size of the ERP project there may be other ERP roles and responsibilities on the project.

Change Manager

Even if the project does not have a dedicated resource assigned to the role it is recommended to have someone whose responsibility is for change management. Change managers implement strategies to help make business transformations successful. They assess the impact of changes on organizations and individuals and their readiness to adopt change. They help manage the inevitable resistance to change and ensure that new changes are positively reinforced.

User Trainer

Larger projects may have a dedicated user trainer to roll out training on the new ERP to all the new users. It is important that this training is started early and not conducted at the last minute, in addition this training should be ongoing post go-live.

ERP Tester

Depending on the size of the project there may be dedicated ERP Testers to assist with system verification, notwithstanding the functional team members and technical team member will still share testing responsibility including User Acceptance Testing and System Testing.

 

Last Thoughts on Setting a Team Structure for ERP Implementation

The ERP implementation team structure outlined above provides a general outline for a typical ERP deployment. However, the team structure used for the deployment of your ERP system should reflect the specific needs of your organization. It could involve a mix of internal and external resources; vendor and non-vendor resources; IT and non-IT resources; permanent and temporary; managerial and non-managerial etc. The project team structure will also defer depending on the stages of the project at the time: from preplanning to ramp-up to project core to post go-live.

Remember to define the scale of your project. If your company has multiple sites, establish teams at each location. Select a project manager to oversee the entire project, and designate a project owner to take responsibility for the success of the project.

If the process of selecting a team and implementing an ERP system seems too daunting, consider working with ERP implementation partners. Implementation partners can assist with any step of the process or handle the entire deployment.

 

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