Instead, organizations would do well to focus on the critical layer above project management: program management. It provides a framework to manage and follow up on the many individual projects that compose a typical ERP implementation.
A look at the program-project relationship
The individual projects that compose an ERP implementation — from selection to change management — become part of an overall program management.
They each need to be monitored and controlled from an individual perspective of project management and from the collective perspective of program management to reap the real business benefits of an ERP implementation.
ERP implementation success depends on program management success, which, in turn, depends on attaining success of individual projects that come within the program management.
Because projects are the building blocks of any program, any failure at the project level will automatically have an impact on the overall ERP program management effectiveness.
Program management vs. project management
But what exactly goes into program management? To answer that question, it’s important to understand some of the major differences between program management and project management.
ERP program management…
ERP project management…
Carries a less well-defined end date until an outlined organizational state has been achieved, or is ongoing as part of continuous improvement.
Has defined start and end dates.
Focuses on delivering business benefits, such as reduced time to close monthly or quarterly accounts, faster and accurate shipment to customers, and a shorter lead time in procuring materials; requires involvement of program management’s team even after projects end, for example, to offer extended guidance on making best use of the new ERP system.
Focuses on delivering tangible and quantifiable deliverables, such as the timely availability of hardware and infrastructure, and having networking in place to ensure seamless data transfer.
Is more complex and requires strategic planning; contains multiple projects and drives operational changes.
Is simpler, as the focus is only on delivering defined deliverables — such as hardware and its installation, infrastructure and networking, ERP software and its successful implementation — within the agreed-upon timelines.
Requires that changes at the project level be constantly monitored and their impact on the program and its projects are controlled and managed.
Includes change control that is more focused, including preventing implementation scope creep, timeline slippage or cost overruns.
Requires a macro view, which must consider the combined effect of a portfolio of projects, which should provide medium- to long-term benefits.
Includes a micro view — only concerned with the delivery of what has been defined, is on time, and is within budget and with acceptable quality.
Five phases of ERP program management
ERP program management promotes the culture of integration. While individual projects focus on getting things done, the ERP program management ensures all these defined and temporary projects synchronize and integrate with each other in terms of the overall benefits the organization wants to achieve.