What Makes a Great ERP Project Manager?

A successful ERP project manager possesses some unique personality traits not common - or to a much lesser degree - in most other job functions.

While helpful during the implementation of an ERP system, these traits are not always ideal for all jobs, and they should be seen as differences, without inferring that the possessor of these characteristics is some sort of super-manager.

Failure Not an Option

The first characteristic is a refusal to fail. All good managers possess perseverance; a refusal to fail takes perseverance to such an extreme that a very fine line separates refusing to fail from being irrationally obstinate. If someone has a long history of performing well in a variety of jobs, they may have a refuse to fail mentality. If someone responds to poor area performance by working more and more hours, they may possess the refuse to fail characteristic. If – despite the fact that it is a bad idea – this person will put project success above his own health, they refuse to fail. The reason a refusal to fail mentality is so critical is that everyone on the ERP team will repeatedly request permission to fail – to be late on a milestone, to go over budget, to compromise on a poor solution – and the ERP project manager must not only refuse to fail personally, he or she must provide the emotional energy to refuse to give the team permission to fail.

Another characteristic of a successful ERP project manager is to consistently exercise sound, and unemotional business judgment. At no point in his or her career will a project manager be required to make so many important decisions in so short a time frame, and not only must he or she be able to defend each decision with compelling logic, the organization must have confidence that the decisions are being made with the single minded goal of advancing the organization’s objectives. In many meetings, the ERP project manager will be the only one who is composed and unemotional. The team and the organization count on that.

Ego In Check

A final critical characteristic is for a project manager to be able to stand before a group and admit he made a mistake – in a decision, in an assignment, in an argument – and allow a better solution to emerge. This trait needs to be used judiciously, because if admitting a mistake is a weekly occurrence, then a crisis in confidence is not far behind. However, if an ERP PM makes – or approves – a big decision that turns out to be problematic, escalating his or her commitment to the bad choice rather than admit an error in judgment can put the solution in jeopardy.

In business, you can teach someone how to calculate a net present value, or to program in Java, or to operate an ERP system, but you can’t teach somebody to refuse to give up, or to stay calm in a crisis, or to have character. Look for these unteachable traits when you are selecting your ERP project manager.

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Phil Marshall

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Phil Marshall