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How does HR impact your ERP Project Team?

An ERP implementation is unlike any other project. The stress is enormous, the process is unfamiliar, and once you start, there is no going back. It should not come as a surprise, then, that existing human resource policies rarely are prepared for many of the ERP team issues that arise, and often, HR questions are left for the project manager to sort through. What follows is not a guidebook on how to handle these issues; just a few examples of things you will run into, and why they get complex quickly.

1. Bonuses

At some point, someone in the ERP team will ask whether or not there is going to be a cash bonus for a successful implementation. The first question is, who owns that decision? There is no empirical evidence that implementation quality or employee retention are improved if there is a performance incentive, so there is no compelling business reason to give a cash bonus. On the other hand, it is certainly a good answer to the rhetorical question “why am I working so hard on this?” Administration of a bonus can be problematic since it can be difficult to strictly define who is and who is not the ERP implementation team. Linking a bonus to the quality of the implementation is problematic as well since it is difficult to get a reasonable definition of the quality of an ERP implementation. Keep in mind non-cash incentives, such as additional vacation time, which can be an easier sell to top management.

2. Performance objectives

This is a really tough issue for an ERP implementation team. At the start of your project, you determined business objectives; most businesses implement ERP to increase efficiency according to research, now it’s time to assess whether you achieved that, and how your team impacted this success. On the one hand, performance objectives are clear cut: on-time, on-budget, and good quality implementation. However, this requires a “one fail/all fail” philosophy since the entire ERP team either hit those criteria or not. Does that mean everybody on the team performs the same? The paradoxical question, of course, is “If the ERP team fails, can an individual team member still succeed and have an outstanding performance?” If yes, how do you articulate, in advance, what a team member has to do to get an “outstanding” rating, regardless of how the ERP team performs as a whole?

3. What happens to me after the project?

This can be a dicey one, especially if the ERP team has been populated by cast-offs from the business unit. It is best if everyone can agree on a repatriation plan at the very beginning of the project, but if that doesn’t happen, there is not a whole lot of recourse. Being placed in indefinite career limbo after a difficult implementation is demoralizing to the entire organization.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but it will give you a sense for the types of issues that arise. Most ERP project teams are not prepared to deal with these thorny discussions, and would much rather concentrate on implementation problems. The question is, in your organization, who will be responsible for providing thought leadership around these types of concerns?

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