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Five (so far) Elements of a Successful ERP Project

by Dave Hannon

April 25, 2011

By Dave Hannon


Wow, what a loaded title! There’s no WAY I can present a magic list of the things that a successful ERP project has, right? Well maybe not—but I can START one and you can help me add to it, either by posting a comment here on the blog or sending your addition to me at for adding here.

After interviewing a number of IT executives about their ERP implementations, here are five things I think every successful implementation has to have. Again, this is the just the tip of the iceberg, and I’ll leave the rest up to you. 

  1. An owner. I mean a REAL owner, not someone who has been “assigned” ownership on paper, but really doesn’t understand the project or have any stake in its success. But an owner with the motivation, interest and skills to take responsibility for the project for better or worse. (We can debate for hours on who that owner should be, but for our purposes here, we’ll settle on the need for an owner).
  2. A project manager. And this is probably not the owner. This is someone willing to drive the project, willing to ruffle the feathers when needed, willing to commit to a realistic schedule and focused solely on this project alone. (Hint: This person needs to be incentivized properly—not someone who benefits if the project goes longer than expected).
  3. A schedule. Don’t roll your eyes at me! They exist. Companies do come in with ERP on time (even on budget once in a blue moon). But it means setting a realistic schedule based on your company’s goals, not what other companies did or what someone in the C-suite thinks it should be. And it means having a project manger (see #2) that will hold feet to the fire on the schedule.
  4. Expertise. Every ERP implementation is its own animal—the combination of solution set, legacy environment/integration, business model, staff, etc. basically means no two implementations are alike. So finding the right expertise, be it internally or externally, is more than just hiring vendor A. Because implementation vendor A has references in the manufacturing space, doesn’t mean they have the “expertise” to implement your set of ERP modules at your company.
  5. A business case. Thought I forgot this one, didn’t you? No, “Because our legacy system sucks” is not a business case. Nor is “because our competitor did it” or “to transform our company to a leading-edge blabbity blah buzzword.” A business case is not written by the marketing department. It must clearly articulate the specific benefits the ERP will bring to various parts of the business and, quite frankly, might not even involve IT. It should come from, well, the business, with input from IT.

What did I miss? Please help me grow this list by posting or sending me your Elements, until we develop a comprehensive checklist of ERP best practices that might help out companies that are just starting their work on an ERP project.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that insiderPROFILES magazine has a wealth of extremely well-written (Laughing) SAP case studies to look through for bits of wisdom and insight.

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Cindy Jutras

9/25/2013 8:54:23 PM

I recently created a similar blog post entitled Top 5 Reasons ERP Implementations Succeed

You can read it at

William Newman

9/25/2013 8:54:23 PM

Regardless if there is a (system) owner, some change leadership needs to be employed to move from "now" to "then." Often the sponsor or owner of the initiative may have the political wherewithal to create an environment to "make things happen" but often lacks the socio technical skills to actually do so. A change advocate, creating the specific mechanisms to define and illustrate the need for change (hopefully found in the biz case) as well as the coaching of specific key stakeholders to see a large project to completion is definitely a critical success factor.