Properly identifying all of the project's stakeholders is a tall task. It is rare, especially with a large Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation project to identify all of the stakeholders at first glance. Of course, not executing on this step properly will lead to a dire consequences at the end. Before your implementation project ever has a chance of becoming a success, ALL the stakeholders must be identified, their requirements and objectives must be understood, documented, and delivered. In this article I will talk about tools project managers use to identify stakeholders, get them to engage in the project and facilitate a successful working relationship within the team at large.
Of course, the most obvious thing to begin is those departments that will be using ERP system directly. Now we need to approach their respective managers and identify additional subject matter experts (SMEs) from those teams. Department heads and SMEs are at the beginning of our list. Sometimes the users of the ERP do not belong to the organization per-say: they can be independent contractors that utilize the company's ERP to log their hours or update order deliveries from their mobile phones, and so on. Sometimes even vendors or even B2B customers are indirect ERP users that need to be brought in as a stakeholder. We recently worked on the implementation project where B2B customers were brought in to help with the part of the ERP that is exposed to the authorized customers to login and place their orders directly into the system (Integrated B2B Commerce system). In those edge cases when the stakeholders are not part of the client’s or implementer’s organizations, the comeeties need to be formed and stakeholders need to be enticed to join the requirements gathering and implementation discussions.
Your employees are a stakeholder too
Now we need to start compiling the list of business processes that will be affected by the implementation- directly or indirectly. You need to be careful here, and take into account not only the current state of the system but also the future state. For instance, even though right now the receiving process only consists of comparing Inventory being received against PO printout- it does not mean that this will be the procedure after the new ERP implementation. The receivers may be asked to print out their own receiving tickets or post PO receivers after quantities are verified, thus becoming new ERP users. Processes may change to now require scanning of the incoming inventory with mobile handheld units, or driving chipped inventory pallets through receiving RFID gates, and so on. All of that needs to be carefully analyzed, and this list of affected business procedures can be used to determine the departments that will be responsible for executing above mentioned processes. Our list of stakeholders should now contain those department managers and their SMEs.
The contractor may also be an interested party
Oftentimes there are systems that will be migrating from an old ERP system to the new. When this is the case- the 3rd party software vendor may become another stakeholder of the project. This is especially true when 3rd party software is not off-the-shelf common software or when there is simply no existing integration within the new ERP to this software yet. Another project team that is totally unrelated to the ERP implementation but may nevertheless compete for the same resources automatically becomes another stakeholder in your project. Also, let us not forget those stakeholders that are brought in to work on the project directly- an employee or contractor on client’s side that was hired specifically to work on the ERP implementation or tasks surrounding it.
The first line of stakeholders
Finally, at the top of that impressive list are those individuals that are driving this ERP implementation. Even though I’m intentionally bringing them towards the end of my list- on the actual project documentation they will always be listed first. They are the ones cutting the proverbial check. And even though these individuals may not want to be involved on the day-to-day basis, it is critical to convince them to become a project sponsor - someone who can resolve the conflict of interest if the project committee cannot agree on the resource allocation or some other similar issue.
Whose interests need to be taken into account when implementing ERP?
So, if we want to put together the actual bullet list, it would look something like this:
- Project Sponsor (CEO/CFO)
- Departments that are current ERP users (Heads & SMEs)
- Departments that are future ERP users (Heads & SMEs)
- Other affected departments (Heads & SMEs), sometimes in other subsidiaries
- 3rd party ERP users (Customers, Vendors)
- Individuals directly assigned to this implementation project
- Project teams for the parallel projects that are competing for the same resources
- 3rd party software vendors
Only when all of the project stakeholders are fully identified, the project manager can begin working on scheduling the project meetings to gather requirements, identify initial estimation timelines, and begin conversation on the UAT efforts for each stakeholder. It is also important to work on building enthusiasm amongst the stakeholders for the project. Having people feeling enthusiastic and invested in a success of the ERP implementation will go a long way in a requirement’s gathering session, calendar flexibility, UAT, Risk management, and many other areas of the project.