I have been involved in several global upgrades, a job that includes meeting the Asian units early in the morning and then staying up late to meet with the sites in the Americas. Here I have listed some critical success factors when rolling out your business system globally.
1. Project board with sufficient authority to make decisions
The project board must consist of decision makers who have the mandate to make the decisions on behalf of all the sites/entities involved in the upgrade. For example - all divisions involved in the upgrade must have a person representing them in the project board. In my experience, using active projects boards is a factor to achieve project success.
2. Central team with tight communication
It is important to establish a central team of process experts with sufficient time allocated for the project. Back them up with application consultants if necessary, but let the central team be responsible for testing and training as well as second line support during the project. This gives good control over the project.
3. Established and active network of key users
All sites must be involved in the upgrade. The best way is to have local key-users who are the link between the central team and the end-users. A best practices is to make these key users responsible for local first line support during operations. It will motivate them to be active and learn the new system. During the project they need to take responsibility for the local verification/testing to ensure that the sites' operation is not endangered by upgrading the software.
4. Good communication through out the project
Seems obvious but is really a key factor to a successful upgrade so it deserves to be mentioned. Plan the communication carefully in the project plan and stick to it. Extend written communication with information meetings.
In one project we phased the information meetings over the day to accommodate project members in different time zones. It allows for smaller groups and more time for questions and discussions. You might get tired of hearing your voice saying the same things for the fourth time of the day, but it is worth it. Dare to repeat yourself!
5. Controlled scope: 1-to-1
A global upgrade is a huge project. To handle scoop-creep and requests for new functions is a challenge. Make it simple. Agree initially in the project board to stick to the same scope as the previous solution is covering. Also try to envision the next phase, where process improvements and enhanced functionality are implemented step-by-step, after the initial upgrade project.
For example, in one project one of the project board members never left a project board meeting without having aired his concerns on the coming phase 2 activities. Without the initial agreement to stick to a 1-to-1 solution, decisions and prioritization of new requirements would have taken a long time and risked both the project timeline and budget.
An agreed scope will facilitate communication and decision making. However during the project keep track of good ideas and requests so it is possible to start to implement enhanced functionality once the project is closed.
6. Testing is key to successful ERP implementations!
The companies that keep an updated library of test cases that reflect the scope of the ERP-system has a good advantage in making an upgrade with limited disturbance to operations. By having standard test cases it is easy to follow-up and get a sign-off from each site that the necessary testing is performed.
In one project, the global test cases revealed that the global processes were not followed. It was a good piece of information for the central team to understand for further process development after the upgrade project was closed.
7. Finally, use online tools to follow up test and issue- handling
I mentioned above that is it important to keep track of the testing. How do you do it? The most efficient way is to use an online tool, such as JIRA, where test cases can be assigned to testers and followed up globally.