It goes without saying one of the primary goals for ERP evaluation is to select the “best-fit” package. However, who is selecting the software or making the software recommendation, can have a major impact on end-user acceptance of any system. Of course, a system that is not accepted by the user community will cost much more to implement and will not achieve the full range of potential benefits.
While we need cross-functional involvement during the evaluation and perhaps some outside assistance, there are three groups of individuals that you do not want driving your software selection process.
The first mistake is when senior management edicts a certain package (for whatever reason). This top-down approach can foster a let it fail mentality among end-users that ultimately must make the new system work in the real world (within the day-to-day business operations).
The heart of the issue is most employees want a voice in important decisions that affect their daily jobs. In most cases, their fears are legitimate. Their concern is people that do not understand their jobs will select the wrong package, thus making their jobs even more difficult to perform.
While running a business is not a democracy, senior managers are usually the least qualified people in the organization to select software. Even if they happen to pick a good package, many employees will resist (openly or subtlety) any solution that is being jammed down their throats. Successful ERP requires more than just attempting to “sell” or force solutions upon employees.
When selecting software, senior management’s role is to set priorities, provide the right evaluation resources, and provide strategic input to the selection process. They should ensure due diligence on the part of the evaluation team and then approve or reject the team’s software recommendation. Sending the team back to the drawing board is fine, but software edicts are a different story and add significant risk to any project.
The person responsible for managing the evaluation process speaks volumes to the rest of the organization. Therefore, the second mistake is when the IT department is responsible for driving the evaluation. For example, when IT runs the selection, many employees could mistakenly view the project as just another technology initiative (and ERP is much more).
Of course, the IT department must support and assist with the evaluation and is directly responsible for portions of it. These include evaluating technology, assessing vendor support, and perhaps helping users define their needs. However, this is different from leading the initiative or determining if the software addresses business needs. Both of these are the responsibilities of the users.
An outside consulting firm perceived as leading the charge; or worse yet, selecting the software is the third mistake. The use of software selection consultants to provide an evaluation method, and to coach and assist is fine, but the client team must have overall responsibility for the evaluation and selecting the software.
For example, it is no secret that many employees view consultants as outsiders (who do not understand the business) and sell crazy ideas to senior management. In this case, the software decision will be viewed by most employees as “consultant driven”, something we want to avoid.
The correct approach is to assign a creditable manager from the functional area (business side) to lead the evaluation team. Perhaps with the assistance of a consultant, the role is to plan and facilitate the evaluation steps to select the best-fit package and supplier, while considering the total cost of ownership. Furthermore, no matter who is the evaluation leader, the software selected should address the needs of all departments involved — not just the needs of one department.
Leadership from the user community creates a greater stake and ownership in the software decision. Of course, a certain amount of “selling” of any package to employees is always necessary, but where there is user buy-in from the start, they will have a higher propensity to overcome obstacles during the implementation. This is the case even if the software later proves to be less than the best choice. In other words, the users own the solution.
Beyond the team leader role, when the right end-users are involved in the evaluation, there is a greater chance of selecting the right package. This also increases the likelihood that their peers (not directly involved in the evaluation) will accept the software decision. Never underestimate the influence some non-managers have over other employees. When we fail to involve the people that do the work, the informal grapevine will convey that the wrong software package was selected. Regardless if this is true or not, it is “noise”, we do not need.
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