Five common pitfalls that could threaten your ERP project – and ingenious ways to dodge them

Sep 15, 2021

Behind every enterprise resource planning (ERP) project is a key individual who is charged with driving it - and is ultimately responsible for its delivery. If this is you and it is your neck on the line, then take a minute to read this blog. Because, whilst you might be brilliant at running your business, driving an ERP project to a successful completion requires a very different set of highly specific skills, knowhow and experience. Above all, you need to know the avoidable mistakes or pitfalls that might cripple your process.

As an experienced and trusted adviser on a significant number of ERP projects, we know precisely how to steer you safely through your project from start to finish. Below, we examine five very common reasons behind ERP project failure – and reveal how to successfully dodge them.

Before you begin…

There are only ever three valid reasons for business change:

  • To increase revenue or sales; and/or
  • To increase value to customers; and/or
  • To reduce your costs to become more competitive and/or increase return to shareholders.

If the project you are embarking on is not doing any of these, then … should you be doing it?

If you are confident that your project meets these three tests then you are ready to consider our top five potential pitfalls – the ones that many system implementors prefer we don’t talk about! We think you need to know what they are – and how to avoid them…

1. “Show me the Monet…”

Only a skilled workforce will ensure the meticulous adoption you need for project success. Many organisations fail to realise that ERP is just a tool and, as with all tools, you need a skilled workforce to wield it properly. Your organisation will need change and adoption programmes in place, with skilled people primed to drive you towards the changes arising from the project.

Otherwise, you might as well give your project driver a palette of paint and expect them to produce a Monet. The best-case scenario is that they produce a reasonable reproduction of a Monet. But if you want a true Monet – then you really need Monet!

Ultimately, ERP alone will not change your world: success depends on how you and your team use it. Your project will only succeed if you ensure your business team understands ERP properly and adopts it effectively.

We are here to help you unlock this and get the right skills in place – contact us now to discuss how we can do this for you.

2. Slower, lower, fewer? Getting the scope wrong

Many organisations fail to correctly judge the scope of the project and instead endeavour to do too much or too little; go too fast or too slow. They also fail to appreciate the fullest possible range of benefits. You need to correctly assess your scope and make sure it matches your business teams’ ability to deliver the change. Find out how we can help you scope your project accurately, giving you the best chance for an ultimately successful outcome.

3. The perils of entering unchartered territory…

To fully leverage the benefits of your ERP project, you need a project charter.

Many companies start projects without fully understanding what they want to get out of them. This often leads to situations where you are throwing money at your project without having any clear strategic aim. Maybe only one department is driving the change or there isn’t strong enough (or any) cross-departmental consensus for - or understanding of - the motives for the project.

A project charter will encourage all your organisation’s department leads to agree how the project will roll out and its desired outcomes. It will also allow your company to identify if this is one of those universally dreaded project types: a ‘pet’ or ‘panic’ project. The bane of many a good company’s existence, these are to be widely avoided.

A charter will ensure you are documenting the project benefits and deliverables along the lifecycle of the project. ERP projects have longevity: ultimate delivery can take a long time, meaning that much can happen along the way. Your MD may retire, for example, and an incoming MD may decide to pull the project. If you can point to the value added since the outset, you will strengthen your case for seeing the project through – or at the very least appreciate the benefit gleaned so far.

Imagine, for example, the situation right now for a tourism or leisure business that embarked on an ERP project two or three years ago. The recent Covid epidemic has probably wreaked significant impact on progress. If you have a charter in place, you could at least confirm the deliverables achieved or point to the success of the pre-pandemic stages of your project. Above all, you could demonstrate that, from the outset, the project had real substance and (more importantly) buy in from your business team regarding aims, budget and targeted outcome. In short, it wasn’t just another corporate white elephant.

Many projects are deemed failures when in fact they aren’t. Your charter will enable you (and those you answer to) to appreciate all the positive benefits gained along the way – even if your project fails to reach its original final destination.

Let us help you get a robust and effective charter in place; contact us now.

4. Wrong staff instead of the right stuff

An ERP project must have the right internal team. You will need the right [operational sponsor and you will need precisely the right] operational leader. When it comes to an operational leader, this is the person who will be using the system and driving value achieved from it. Crucially, this will be the person in your team who will reap greatest benefit from getting operational return – it may even be driving their bonus…

Identifying the right member of your team could be tricky:

  • They cannot be too senior – they may retire or be promoted to such senior levels they are no longer interested or able to commit enough time.
  • They cannot be too junior – they will not have the authority, budgetary clearance or experience to make crucial strategic decisions.

Ideally, you want someone on an upward trajectory who will personally and organisationally reap benefit from your ERP project for at least the next ten years. For example, if the business is in manufacturing, the operational leader could be a regional operations director or someone of similar standing whose future is tied to its success.

Find out more about useful pointers on picking your ideal operational leader.

5. Picking the wrong partner

This is where the wheels come off many ERP project wagons. Make sure that your failure is NOT your partner’s success: for example, the more things that go wrong with your project, the greater the billings to your implementation partner.


  1. Ensure you have an advisory partner that is in the “Goldilocks zone”:

    Not too big or not too small but just right!

  2. Be crystal clear that you understand precisely what you are signing up to:

    When contemplating your advisory options, the super-responsive UK sales team you are talking to might be impressive, but will they hand over to similar calibre project advisers who will give you plenty of onsite support? Or will you get offshore experts who are rarely available during your business hours or are unable to visit your site?

  3. Ask for named individuals who will be your principal points of contact: 

    Don’t end up with a revolving door of project advisers whose names will change as they get moved to other projects, so you never know who to ask for and you are reiterating the same dilemmas so often you begin reciting them in your sleep…

  4. Confirm how may on-site days of support you will get
  5. Carefully consider the type of contract you sign up to:

“Time and materials contracts”: gives you more flexibility and means you are still calling the shots, determining the output and success, who will work with you, and what are your priorities, for example.

“Fixed price contracts”: you are setting the price but then you have no say in any of the decisions above as you are handing everything else to your partner. These are only effective if you are fully aware of what is going on and are not subject to myriad change requests.

Your success is at the very heart of our approach. Our UK-based project teams are deeply committed to providing you with on-site presence, end-to-end fidelity of contact points and project-dedicated advisers along the full length of your project lifecycle.

We have never failed to deliver a project and we are confident about getting involved at any point in your ERP project’s lifecycle. If you have a project which is going off the rails, struggling to make progress - or even get off the ground! -  or you are no longer sure your system implementors are the right fit to achieve the project objective(s), then contact us to discuss how we will help you turn it around.

We invest in building and nurturing strong organisational – as well as professional and personal – relationships. This is demonstrated by the pleasing fact that most of our clients have been customers for over ten years. We begin each project by ensuring a robust relationship exists ahead of project commencement so our team already intimately appreciates your company’s unique goals, culture and ethos from the very outset.

For you to truly profit from any ERP project, you need to partner with our team rather than get your advisers to do it all for you. So we’ll help you line up the right tools, the right people and the effective strategies you need to succeed. We’ll help you avoid the pitfalls, like the ones above, rather than watch you fall into them just to increase our billing.

Because you can be as brilliant at running your ERP projects as you are at running your company. Let us show you how.

Book a chat today and find out how we can help you get the most out of your ERP projects.


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