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Collaborative Implementations - Laying the Foundation - Part II

Collaborative Implementations - Laying the Foundation - Part II

collaborative implementation part II-1.jpgCollaborative Implementations


In the first part of this two-part blog, preparations were discussed for laying the foundation for a successful ERP implementation. We’ll continue here through the process to the finish line and the desired outcome. This begins with the kickoff meeting.

Kickoff Meeting – Why it's so important

In my experience the kickoff meeting officially begins the project, but usually the teams have an entirely different agenda going into it. The partner team is intent on coaching their clients to the desired outcome and wants to make sure to be thorough, precise and realistically set the client teams expectations. The client team, however, is usually focused on something different. They are usually excited and thinking about how to fit the extra work into their already busy schedule and also about all the ways the new system is going to be able to resolve their current pains… after all, that was the reason for moving forward with the new software system.

The danger here is that the client project team absolutely must be coached by their project leader to put all else aside and employ a laser like focus on what is being said. This is the only way to kick off the project in the proper manner and have the greatest chance of success… both teams fully collaborating on the agenda and foundation, like one mind. This then sets the tone for the whole project and greatly increases the probability of success.

The Project Task List – The “Waze” to the finish line

The project task list is a living and dynamic set of directions and tasks that must be accomplished, and usually in the order necessary. Often it will have dates assigned and durations expected for each task, as well as assignments of responsibilities. As the project progresses, completion percentages are also added and updated to indicate the status of each. In almost all cases the project will be divided into at least three phases and usually four or five of them. In most cases there should be an executive briefing at the conclusion of each phase as well as a client sign off for the work done to that point. The way we operate, for example, is that either the phase is signed off, or we discuss why it can’t be at that point. The client tells us what needs to be done to their satisfaction to obtain the signoff, and we complete that before moving to the next phase of the project. Satisfaction at each phase is critical, so that unfinished work from previous phases is prevented from “contaminating” subsequent phases.

As progress is made throughout the project, the task list is continuously updated to reflect an accurate status. These updates should be daily if possible, or at least every other day, such as MWF. Otherwise that status may not be accurate. One of the biggest problems in project management is that the results of the work comes too late to make the necessary adjustments to keep a project on schedule and on budget. For instance, if the budget for a task is 20 hours, and on Monday the total used is 0, and by Friday it is 40, one cannot take any action to stay on course. If, on the other hand, the status on Tuesday showed that 16 hours had already been executed the project leaders could take action to ensure they stay on budget. Status update timing is everything.

Lastly, there should be a warning indicator for when projects are slipping in some way. We use color codes in our project status reports to show this aspect of a project’s health. Recently we had a project where phase I was to be completed in a month. When it became clear that we might be late, we changed the schedule indicator to yellow on the status report. A week later we changed it to orange (strong warning, red would mean late). The project teams met to discuss a switch in tactic and resource assignments and a week later the project was back on track to a green status.

Effective Communications – An increased probability of a successful outcome

One of the keys to project management and collaboration is effective communication. One tool is the project status report mentioned above. These meetings, as well all meetings for a project, should be conducted as a “guided discussion”, a military term indicating that the meeting stays on agenda and is never allowed off topic. This takes discipline and commitment, but that is one of the keys to a successful project. It so easy and yet so wasteful to get off on tangents that don’t produce results. We are lucky to have a Director Of Operations with 25 years of USMC experience to lead our project meetings in this manner, and the results this as a very effective approach.

So meetings should have an agenda, and an objective, and in most cases that meeting is conducted to that end. For example, the project status meeting should be covering a review of the accomplishments for the previous week, expected accomplishments for the coming week and a brief and focused discussion of any risks and issues that could impact the progress of the project. These reports should be available to everyone on both project teams, and especially key management stakeholders from both the partner and client teams.

Effective Change Management – Adjustments and changes are inevitable

In almost all ERP projects, there will come a time when your company’s specific needs go beyond what the software provides. We call these GAPS. A good rule of thumb is that there should be no more than about 20% changes to any package to be successful. Sometimes it is necessary to go beyond that, but usually it should be less. Otherwise the there is a risk that the ERP system may not be a good fit. One thing that we suggest to prepare for this eventuality is to set aside an extra 20% of the budget for the change contingency. If the project price is around $50,000 then it would be a good idea to get approval for and set aside an extra $10,000 just in case.

Changes should ALWAYS be managed with a change order. The partner team will normally review the changes required, and provide an estimate. The estimate should be precise with specifications drawn up for approval and at least a range for cost, if not a fixed amount. There should be an estimated date of completion as well as an area for an approval signature area for your approval. Although we have seen some smaller projects with no change orders, it would be naïve to say the least not to effectively plan for this contingency on most projects.

In the next and final blog of this short series, we’ll see how to get to the finish line while effectively collaborating on a successful project implementation together.

About Coretekx HGL, Inc.

Our company, Cortekx HGL, Inc. ( is an Acumatica partner, as well as an experienced Microsoft and Sage partner. We have been providing quality ERP systems since 1995 and done enough implementations to understand the benefits and value a complete system like Acumatica can bring to your company's bottom line.
Want to learn more about ERP implementations or cloud ERP vs. on-premise ERP options? Contact us at 818-593-4777 ext. 211 and we will be happy to help. Talk to you soon!

Cliff Hall,
President, CEO
Cortekx HGL, Inc.

Image courtesy of by Stuart Miles

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