How to sell your ERP project plan to C-level

By now you may have figured out that achieving buy-in for an ERP software project is really more about marginalizing concern, confidence-building, and emotional sign-on rather than ERP systems themselves. However, it should be remembered that there are three elements endemic to any successful ERP solution; hardware, software, and wetware. Among these elements the latter description is the most important, since hardware and software are mostly unresponsive without the introduction of human direction and interaction.

Concise rationalization

When it comes to selling an ERP project plan, aside from required, there are no real differences between C-level and workforce briefs other than financial elements and process granularity, since senior management tends to orient to macro, rather than micro-level discussions.

Recommended reading: Our guide to selling your ERP project to senior management will help you achieve executive level buy-in for new software.

In briefing an ERP project plan it is important to remember that a concise rationalization is always better. This is primarily due to the fact that drilling down into the concept of an ERP system as a piece of technology is usually beyond the attention span of the average C-level. This is not to suggest that senior executives are technologically uneducated or lazy, but that they typically have limited time available to debate the infinite nuances of enterprise systems.

Costs versus returns

I encourage project managers to go through an overview of the plan illustrating system specifications, why it is valuable - delivered with the necessary supporting metrics, how much the project will cost - showcase all recurrent maintenance costs, and how and when the company will begin to realize its projected ROI. This latter bit of information is really the point of the exercise, since there are two central issues at play:

1. The C-level cadre must be confident that the final ROI value will be substantiated.

2. Whether a CEO/CFO team is confident of the technologist’s assertions or not, those senior managers will in turn have to brief the company’s Board of Directors; particularly when the value of the systems purchase expands toward the $1 million mark. The higher the cost, the more ROI questions will be posed by investors or trusted advisors, and, at that level, these individuals couldn’t care less about technology; it’s all about cost versus return.

Once the core briefing elements of the ERP project plan are complete, the C-level cadre typically throws its own questions at the project manager; and provided all of those questions are answered competently the greenlight wait begins.

Sometimes, this decision can be rendered in a couple of days, sometimes in several weeks, and sometimes never. However, even if you fail and don’t get your ERP project acceptance first time, the education will be worth the effort. Because there will always be a 'next time', when the entire circus hits town for another day in the barrel.

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Rick Carlton

About the author…

Rick Carlton dba PRRACEwire, has worked as a tech journalist, writer, researcher, editor and publisher for many years. In addition to his editorial work, Rick has also served as a C-Level executive/consultant for a wide-range of private and public sector U.S. and International companies.

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Rick Carlton