Accountability and the ERP Upgrade Process

by Bob Green | Mar 19, 2014

Happy March – already! I’m back with my monthly unbiased perspective on the business software environment.

Before I get too far along, know that this topic, Accountability, is one that could fill a book or more, even if it relates to the narrow focus of an ERP upgrade. It’s just one of the key factors, albeit an important one, in success or failure of any big systems project – or any project for that matter. And, much of our thought leadership on ERP upgrade processes have consistent themes of readiness, reality, accountability and responsibility – so, I welcome you to get refreshed on these postings, always available at our SingerLewak Insightswebsite.

Also – since this concept is a bit more complex, know in advance that this article is a bit longer than my normal couple of paragraphs.

Accountability – a brief definition

I looked into definitions for this term. Here’s an amalgamated version, for reference: “The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them…”

Accountability – from internal sources

This matters a lot. An ERP upgrade project reaches far, and impacts many parts of an on-going organization. Accomplishing all processes from requirements gathering to data migration and “go live” requires strict project management, as well as committed participation by many members of the company. If you’re overseeing such a project, I recommend highly the following be reiterated by you, to your team:

  • Management: please maintain the commitment you made to the success of this project. That means you may need to bring on more support staff, pay more overtime, or get more involved in project status meetings than your expectations led you to believe. And, if the project, like many, goes on longer and costs more than expected, please be involved actively, when requested – for things like steering committee meetings, scope change dialogs, roll-out plans, etc. This is just a reminder that you bought into this process. We’ll make sure that we find a way to the finish line with your continued support among other important factors.

  • Why is this important? When things aren’t going so well on an ERP upgrade where management has not been particularly involved, the risk of abrupt project cancellation or constriction of funding, etc., is very real – due to lapses in memory, commitment, familiarity and accountability to see this to the end.

  • To yourself: remember that you made a commitment to the organization to see this to the end. This may mean long nights, challenging budget management issues, stresses from overloaded subject matter team members, and pressures from the vendors. Fatigue can set in with detrimental effects – don’t forget your commitment to the success of the project. It will come to fruition. You need to maintain your role, and seek help when you know it’s needed. And, be proactive!

  • To your employee team: similar to the things I suggested you reiterate to yourself, do the same to the employees on the ERP upgrade team that you’re managing. They need your leadership, and the constant reminder and assurances (with integrity, please) that the project will get done, and that it is managed well. And, please remind them that the upgrade can’t succeed without each member doing their assigned project tasks – even if they are already very busy.

Accountability – from external sources

Sometimes this matters more. Here’s why. The sales team that was so helpful and nice when you were in the presales/buying cycle is no longer involved during the implementation. The sales engineers who demonstrated all the fun things that made you sway your decision to product X versus product Y are busy selling to someone else now. Sound familiar?

Successful implementation firms are typically accountable from the beginning of the relationship.

We strongly recommend that during the presales phase you ensure that someone on the vendor’s team will be a responsible, accountable participant in the implementation process if they win the deal.

I can’t stress this enough. Really. The implementation vendor should have an owner, or a key executive involved from the get-go, particularly if you are doing a project worth well into the 6 or 7 figures.

We’ve been introduced to too many situations that were in high risk of failure because no one in vendor LEADERSHIP was familiar enough with the process to be accountable for the on-going implementation project. Sounds easy to avoid, but, remember: software vendors are in the business of selling software – and, then, implementing and maintaining the effective use of the software. But, sales have to happen first. Just be sure when you’re in the sales process and you’re meeting the nicest sales executives and talented demonstration/sales engineers, someone in that room will be with you the whole way to the implementation finish line – if indeed you buy that product. If it’s clear you’re only working with the sales team – be warned.

The transition from the sales team to the implementation team is among the highest points of failure of any ERP upgrade. To mitigate this risk, be sure someone in the vendor’s leadership is clearly accountable for the claims made and expectations shared in the sales process.


If you’re considering an upgrade to your ERP or business software, feel free to ping us with questions about the process, as well as to help you justify undertaking the challenge in the first place.

We’re here to help. Unbiased, independent, and experienced. We’ve got CFO, CPA, software and technology leadership skills that are uniquely positioned to help our clients in this area. My contact information is below.

PS – last month I did a “Facebook Chat” sponsored by the AICPA, about pitfalls to avoid in ERP upgrades. Scroll through it, if you’re interested – click here!