Because ERP projects generally deliver similar core functionality, and your implementation team is already very experienced with Microsoft’s Sure-Step Methodology, it can be tempting to skip the formal Project Kick-Off Meeting and simply dive right into the work at-hand.
I’d like to make a strong case for holding a Project Kick-Off Meeting, regardless of the size/complexity of the project, or the experience level of the customer and the implementation team.
Covering key parameters at the beginning of a project in your kick-off meeting ensures team alignment to project objectives and approach. The materials can continue to be referenced throughout the life of the project as a touchstone for the team to check on progress, identify scope changes, and verify timeline and budget. Here are suggested components for your project kick-off deck, and associated benefits:
- Introduce Project Team Members
Important that all ERP stakeholders and project contributors are invited in advance to the kick-off meeting (or receive the materials afterward, if they are truly not available to attend in person).
On the customer side, ensure project sponsor(s), system owner(s), business process owners, and other supporting team members from Finance, Operations, and IT are invited to the kick-off (especially if they will be asked later to participate / provide support or information). Core members of the ERP partner implementation team should also attend so they can be introduced.
- Customer team sees executive leadership (sponsors) at the table, backing the project effort
- Ensures all stakeholders are aware of the project and understand who will be assigned
- Sets a foundation for working relationship between customer and implementation team
A typical ERP implementation scope might seem basic or perhaps inherently obvious; however, prior to an ERP project being approved, there may have been multiple ERP-related initiatives or features discussed internally by the customer during their evaluation or budgeting process.
This means some attendees may come to the table with different preconceptions about the project’s scope and deliverables. This could seriously derail a project later if not addressed up-front.
- Ensure the approved project scope is clearly communicated and understood by entire team
- Verify the scope is correct (as per the signed agreement) – any changes needed / allowed?
- Reinforce upfront alignment among all players: what will be delivered vs what is out-of-scope
- Include approved project budget here also – reinforce relationship between scope and budget
- Share High-Level Project Approach (Implementation Phases) and Timeline
This is a key opportunity for the implementation partner to outline and describe, up-front, the various phases of the implementation or upgrade project in in relation to the overall project schedule and key milestone dates, particularly release/go-live.
- Explain phases of the project where customer team should dedicate time to design or testing
- Answer customer questions about the process, deliverables, dependencies, and timing
- Agreement on how project will be executed and participation needed
- Project Team Roles & Responsibilities
Now that the players have been introduced to each other and to the overall plan for executing the project, it is good to circle back and assign specific names to the various roles on the project team. Also key to confirm for customer team members who will be key decision-makers and subject matter experts on behalf of their business area and who will be playing supporting roles on the project.
At a minimum, there should be a Project Lead (or Project Manager) from both the customer side and the implementation partner who will work together to be a hub for project communication and guide the activities of their respective players. For smaller projects, this role may be played by the System Owner on the customer side and by the ERP Functional Lead on the implementation partner team.
The Project Sponsor should also identify whether they will be the overall decision-maker for the project, or if they have identified key System Owners from the business who will represent their departmental business process decisions and needs during critical design and testing phases of the project. Depending on the size of the project, additional customer subject matter experts will play a role on the Core Project Team providing design input, participating in testing or training tasks.
- Identify early if there are key contributors or stakeholders who need to be added to the team
- Build shared understanding of what is expected from each team member based on their role
- Re-affirm how each team member will execute their role during the phases of the project
- Alignment on responsibilities for key decisions, design input/approval, and test execution
- Reinforce communication needed between Core Project Team and the business areas they represent – the goal is no surprises for the project team or for the customer organization
Great! Everyone is lined up and ready to play their part. This is the point in closing out the kick-off meeting to clearly list specific tasks / activities for the next 1-2 weeks and answer questions.
At this point, it’s also a good idea to decide as a group how often the project team should meet and how project status updates should be shared across the team and to senior management.
- Kick-Off Meeting attendees leave with a clear understanding of what will happen next
- Team provides input on frequency and style of project check-in meetings and progress reports
- Time allowed for questions that were not addressed by the kick-off materials
A kick-off meeting that covers the topics above in high-level fashion can easily be completed in 30 – 60 minutes, depending upon the size of the project and number of players involved.
The reward is that the team will all have a clear understanding of the game plan and how they will be contributing to that plan at the beginning of the project. They will also have a foundation for identifying and communicating issues throughout the project that might impact scope, quality, or timing.
It really is a team huddle and “Go Team!” moment to build enthusiasm and support for your ERP project. Take the first step toward success and team-building with your next Project Kick-Off Meeting.
This article was written by Juanita Schoen, Dynamics Project Manager for Tridea Partners. Tridea is a leading Microsoft Dynamics provider.