Executive Sponsor Really, Really Important (Really)

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12 Tips for a Successful ERP Launch

Clear expectations and planning can improve your experience and near-term success.

One of the most often-repeated bits of advice for those embarking on any kind of a technology implementation is: "Get a strong executive sponsor." There's a good reason for this. It really, really is important. Really.


As proof, you can read my interview with Pete Martin, CEO of EntryPoint Consulting, a firm that guided TNG Worldwide through an implementation of an SAP ERP system, plus CRM and BI, all in just eight months.


Throughout our discussion, there were many mentions of the great culture at TNG, a supplier of products to salons and spas. It was clear the culture started at the top with CEO Larry Gaynor, who perhaps not coincidentally also owns the company. As Martin explained:


We get involved in a lot of projects where the CEO attends the kick-off meeting and then doesn't come back until the go-live. Those are projects that don't go well.


The executive sponsor needn't be a CEO, Martin pointed out. But sponsors must be "active and engaged." Those are two great criteria for an executive sponsor. I'd add a third: The sponsor should be well-respected. This certainly appears true in TNG's case, judging from the glowing comments of Craig Zampa, the company's VP of Technology Solutions.


Gaynor attended steering committee meetings and wrote about the ERP project on his well-read internal blog, Martin said. The blog fits in with another key success factor, communication. Martin told me TNG clearly conveyed the transformational nature of the deployment to its employees, early and often. He said:


There was communication the whole way about what was happening, what was about to happen, and what the results were afterward.


In addition to executive sponsorship and communication, a third success factor was getting the right people involved on the project team. Martin acknowledged this is tough for midsize companies like TNG, which don't necessarily have talent benches as deep as their larger counterparts. Still, it's important.


TNG populated its project team with "visionaries, people who weren't stuck in the way they were doing things and who wanted to take the company forward," he said. They encouraged a "shared mutual feeling about success."


For their work, team members received financial rewards, Martin said. He credited the decision to devote a chunk of the project budget to these incentives as another sign of the CEO's commitment to make the deployment a success.


To summarize, three factors for ERP success, which Martin said TNG "really nailed:"

  • Active executive sponsorship
  • Frequent communication
  • Team members with a "shared mutual feeling about success"


Of course, there are other success factors as well. Last week I wrote about another one, keeping customization to a minimum, in a post which contained some great advice from my interview with TNG's Craig Zampa. I also shared three other success factors for ERP implementations in a post from January.