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Anyone who has taken part in a major company venture is familiar with the many pitfalls that can disrupt the process — from planning to execution. The same is true with an ERP upgrade or installation, according to several experts with Forterro, an international group of ERP software and services companies.

“In some cases, companies find themselves wasting time — sometimes months — on planning for an ERP project, only to see it indefinitely stalled or completely abandoned,” said Scott Malia, COO of Forterro.

Manage the approval process

Other ERP project failures can happen later in the process — primarily because the right team members weren’t involved from the start.

Malia said it’s not unusual for a team to invest five to six months researching ERP solutions, assessing vendors, and putting in all the preliminary work — only to have someone higher up determine that it’s not in the budget.

“It’s one of the main things that leads to companies not making a decision,” Malia said. “They fail to realize who in their company needs to approve the ERP implementation. They have no idea how far in or high up the buying decision needs to go.”

In addition to involving the appropriate executives, seek board approval, Malia recommended.

“I’ve heard customers say a million times, ‘No, the board doesn’t need to make a decision,’ only to find out later that the project did require a board decision,” Malia said. “These customers are surprised, but they should remember that ERP is a major expenditure. To avoid the frustrations that come with needlessly investing time and resources on researching ERP solutions, dedicate time to understanding the approval process and to getting the necessary approvals.”

“Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting your time and buying nothing,” Malia added.

Get top management involved

Forterro’s experts also suggest to enlist key team members’ help with the execution of the project.

“An ERP project’s success relies on insights from both owners and managers about the company’s overall objectives,” said Håkan Magnusson, sales executive for Sweden-based Jeeves, one of the companies in Forterro’s network.

“The No. 1 mistake the management team makes is not showing an interest in ERP planning,” Magnusson said. “If you leave that to some other guys in the company to decide, it could fail completely, and the company ends up with a software solution that conflicts with with the strategy of the company.”

Alexandre Crettol, director of professional services for SolvAxis in Switzerland, also stressed that support from upper management will help to ensure the project stays on schedule. “You need to be able to make decisions quickly and keep the project going,” he said.

Keep stakeholders in the loop

Forterro’s experts also noted that it is important to not lose sight of the people who will actually be using the ERP system.

”You may have users in there who were not part of the initial planning,” Malia said. “They didn’t contribute to how they wanted to specifically use the system. As a result, you may run into issues, where employees are going outside of the system to perform their functions. This could be another point of failure.”

By requiring commitment throughout all stages of your ERP project, from pre-approval to end user training and feedback, you can significantly increase the likelihood for ERP success.