ERP system acquisition projects are rarely deemed to fail. All the well-advertised failures come later, during implementation and afterward. Nevertheless, the seeds of these failures are invariably planted in the earliest stages of ERP acquisition planning.
ERP implementations fail – when they do – because implementation projects allow a few well-known risks to go unmanaged. These risks go unmanaged because the control of results slips from buyer to seller. It doesn’t have to work that way.
It is a truism that in any complex activity, the critical, defining decisions should be made as early in the process as possible. In ERP implementation projects this principle is routinely undermined by the nearly universal practice of separating acquisition and implementation activities into separate projects, performed by separate teams operating under separate control.
Projects to implement ERP tend to be difficult, expensive and drawn-out. They are often full of painful surprises and overrun budgets and schedules that were extravagant in the first place. They fail entirely in an alarming number of cases. Why this should be so is not immediately apparent. If we list, at a fairly high level, the tasks required to implement an ERP system in a company that’s already familiar with ERP practices, what we see is a significant but not daunting amount of work.