Choosing an ERP Project Manager: Track Record

One very objective aspect of ERP project manager selection is a candid appraisal of his or her track record. These historical accomplishments may not be the ones that HR and executive leadership are used to measuring and evaluating, but a good PM will have left these legacies behind, wherever he or she has gone.

First, a project manager should have a proven history of staffing and developing high performance work teams. Recognizing this characteristic helps an organization avoid two types of errors that are potentially fatal to an ERP project’s success: First, ERP Project Manager should never be someone’s initial managerial role. Assigning someone to manage an ERP team who has not had extensive experience at leading teams is just dumb. The second error to avoid is naming a manager-as-hero to the position. You do not want someone who will ride into every crisis situation in the eleventh hour to save the day; you want someone who knows how to avoid crises in the first place. Your project manager should be at his happiest when his ERP team is developing, maturing, and making good decisions without him.

Diverse Experience

An ERP project manager should have a broad understanding of how different functional areas interact. This is normally a function of having had a variety of job experiences. To be sure, someone can acquire variety as a result of being shuffled around an organization, never bad enough to terminate and never good enough to promote. But if someone has a checkerboard background in different areas – both functional and different business units - as a result of being sent wherever help is most needed, then that individual is going to have a better comprehension of how the ERP pieces fit together than someone who has remained in one functional area his or her entire career.

An ERP project manager should know how to use computers to make money, and have a track record of being a competent adopter of new systems. In every organization, there are people who have a long career history of being involved in designing, developing, testing, and/or using new computer systems as they have been introduced. This is not because it is a specific part of their job description; it is because they are interested in it and good at it. Your IT department can identify these people by name.

A project manager must be able to articulate a vision. In the midst of the ERP implementation, things can appear so chaotic, and activity so disjointed, that it is important to the team, and the organization for the project manager to be able to pull back every so often, to remind everyone of the vision, and to connect all of the on-going activity to the attainment of the vision.

These are things that can be determined about a potential ERP project manager, just by examining their work history, and talking with former peers and subordinates. When it comes to a successful ERP implementation, leadership skills trump all other considerations.

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Tom Stephenson

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Tom Stephenson