ERP Success Factors: Aligning Scope and Expectations

By Ocie Anderson, PMP, Director of Consulting Services at Navigator

Scope and expectations form the definition of a project. The scope of work must align to achieve the expectations of the stakeholders. The same project results can be viewed as either a success or a failure by individual stakeholders with different expectations of the project. This means that different stakeholders can view the same scope of work, see the same project outcomes, and come to different conclusions as to whether or not a project was successful.

So as part of my framework for ERP success, I would like to go beyond project scope and discuss how to align stakeholder expectations for ERP Success.
“Different stakeholders can know the same scope of work, see the same project outcomes, and come to different conclusions as to whether or not a project was successful.”

The statement of work or the scope statement forms the definition of an ERP project. The scope of work is delineated and the appropriate resources are assigned to complete the scope. As project managers, we ask a lot of questions when developing the scope of an ERP project:
  • What processes are in scope? Which modules will be implemented?
  • How many custom reports, interfaces, conversions, enhancements, and forms are required?
  • How many users are there? How many locations? What is the training and roll-out strategy?
Cost, time, quality, people, hardware, software, telecom…all are resources and constraints to consider when scoping an ERP project. However, there are some equally important aspects in between scope and success that must be aligned, and they are expectations.  Expectations are the beliefs that something will happen or be the case in the future. Many stakeholders will have expectations about what capabilities the project will deliver for them, their department, or their company. It is similar to scope but requires different types of questions to be asked in order to determine what they are. Without these questions, there may be a difference in understanding of capabilities to be delivered between the stakeholders.

Defining Expectations
  1. What does success look like to you? One method is to ask the question directly to stakeholders and sponsors. This should be done in an open-ended format, from which dialogue can take place. This question will bring to the surface the things that are most important to them. Not everyone is as concerned with being on-time and on-budget (although some certainly are). Some stakeholders have a stronger need to innovate, and make their business more competitive.
  2. What will we be able to do that we cannot do now? This is a question to ask the heads of each department and I find it to be one of the top misses on ERP projects. When a company spends millions of dollars on a new ERP system, they expect to have new capabilities. Those expectations need to be discovered and aligned with the scope. Sometimes new processes, modules, applications, or people are required in order to achieve the expected functionality. Do not overlook people. Training often focuses on how to use a system but doesn’t always provide the functional knowledge required. In some cases, hiring new talent may also be required to achieve the capability.
  3. What will we know that we don’t know now? This question is similar to the capability question but is focused more on information. What are the business intelligence and analytics capabilities expected? Will they require new data sources and are they in scope? What is the expected frequency and speed of information required? Real-time or periodic? The answers to these questions can dramatically change the scope of work or even the tools implemented.
  4. What is the expected timing for establishing new capabilities? There are several “gotchas” on ERP projects and one is timing. New functionality may be implemented but it may be missing data in order to be useful. Some functionality requires transaction data or historical data. In some cases this history can be converted from other systems but in others it simply doesn’t exist. Waiting for six months or a year before enabling new capabilities is not a success for a client that isn’t expecting to do so.
  5. When scope changes, do expectations? This is another “gotcha” to be mindful of on ERP projects. The scope is developed, expectations are discussed, scope is aligned to meet the expectations....and then scope changes. Other priorities (such as time or cost) may necessitate changes. I once had a sponsor who eliminated a third party tool from scope and was later shocked to learn that they didn’t have a certain capability after go-live. They had unknowingly eliminated the capability along with the tool. When scope changes, it is important to reset expectations and make it clear what will be gained or loss.
With expectations, the success of an ERP project is in the eyes of the beholder. An experienced ERP project manager will likely know how to manage scope. There will likely be a statement of work that provides the details of the scope, along with assumptions and declarations of what is not in scope. A great project manager will document the scope as part of the project charter. They will use the documented scope and a great parametric estimating tool to define what resources are needed and determine a project budget. But a project manager who is focused on success will seek to understand the expectations of the stakeholders and sponsors. They will align those expectations to the scope. Then, they will communicate and confirm changes to those expectations whenever the scope changes.

Are you aligning expectations to scope on your projects? Reach out to Navigator, we can help you.