Progressive Leadership for ERP

Knowledge transfer is only the beginning to enablement.

Many implementation partners (including myself) have handled enablement as an event or milestone that occured as part of the cut-over to production.  We as implementation partners too often assume that the traditional, informal “do what I do” approach between consultants and customer was sufficient for customer enablement.  If the traditional approach was sufficient for customer enablement then one can argue that there should be no need of post production support. 

When ERP software is implemented in a production environment it is usually the first opportunity for the customer to lead in the support of a new business solution.  For the majority of customers that do not have hands-on experience with supporting external packaged software this can be a difficult challenge.  Customers typically ask their implementation partners to provide post-production support until the customer has confidence in their business solution support (technical, business) capabilities.  

There is a better way.  An approach that will more effectively provide the knowledge, experience, and capabilities the customer requires to be self-sufficient.  This enablement must be completed and validated during the implementation.  There will be less need for post production support to address the enablement gap for customers.  Let’s elaborate on one of the key processes that will prepare the customer to lead during the implementation.   

 Progressive Leadership Style

A key competency for any implementation partner is their ability to enable the customer to support and manage the new ERP software.  This will require the implementation partner to employ different leadership styles during the implementation.  There should be a logical progression in leadership styles that naturally transfers ownership from the implementation partner to the customer.  We will use the following illustration for our discussion.

Customer Enablement by Project Management Leadership Styles

Leadership Styles

Let’s discuss each leadership trait in more detail in the context of an ERP implementation life-cycle. 

  1. In the early strategy and planning stages of an implementation the implementation partner should use a directive leadership style to lead the customer.  The implementation partner leads in setting the direction and the pace of the implementation. 
  2. As the customer is educated on the packaged software and implementation approach the implementation partner moves towards a coaching leadership style to enable to customer to take a more active leadership role in the packaged business software implementation.
  3.  With the facilitating leadership style, the implementation partner has moved from an active leadership role to a passive leadership role.  The customer is leading and managing the implementation project.  
  4. The supporting leadership style is the final stage where the implementation partner provides what I’ll call ad-hoc/as needed support & guidance. 

 Summary

The first day of any implementation is the first day of transition from the implementation partner to the customer.  Many treat transition as a last step in a go-live event.  This approach results in customers not being ready or confident in supporting their business solution.  A customer should never feel that way!  Allowing the customer the lead will naturally drive the implementation partner to be more focused on knowledge transfer to the customer and results in better success rate for customer preparation.

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