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People Make Projects: The 7 essential skills every project manager needs.

People Make Projects: The 7 essential skills every project manager needs.">

Research conducted by Gartner has shown that up to 75% of ERP projects fail to meet their objectives. Meanwhile, global consultancy McKinsey estimates that more than 70% of all digital transformations fail. Interestingly, a Deloitte CIO Survey cites poor project management as one of the top barriers to a successful ERP journey.

At Cooper Software, we deliver hundreds of ERP-related projects every year for our customers. From short, sharp engagements lasting days or weeks to multifaceted ERP implementations that can run for years. We have a deep understanding of just what it takes to properly scope, plan, and deliver projects for our customers.

We know that success primarily comes down to the team assigned to manage the project. We like to say 'People Make Projects.' Our project management team is the link between us as a service provider and our customers. However, managing a project is more than just having the correct tools and processes in place. What underpins everything is the people involved and their skills and characteristics. For us, that’s the people who make up our Project Management Office (PMO).

Our PMO team has grown significantly in recent years, not just due to the company's growth, but because we understand how important it is to have the best people available, with the proper skills needed to manage our customer's ERP projects. This team of highly experienced people set and maintain the standards for all of our projects. They lead from the front to make our projects happen. In addition, the unique relationships they nurture between all project stakeholders, combining trust and communication, play a vital role in the success of our projects.

Over the next few months, we will bring you a series of blogs focusing on our PMO team and the particular projects and challenges they are consistently delivering on. In the meantime, we thought it would be helpful to outline just how critical our PMO team is to our business. While the roles and responsibilities of all those within our PMO team vary, it’s fair to say that regardless of position, each team member has a comprehensive skill set that is critical to the successful management and conclusion of our ERP projects. Here, we consider 7 crucial skills that our project team possesses that are integral to our ERP projects' successful management.

1. Leadership

On every project, this is perhaps the most critical skill of all. For some, leadership is inherent. For others, it is a skill that is developed and honed over time. Regardless of whether you are natural or not, anyone in charge of a project is the leader. It is the role of our PMO team, particularly the Project Manager, to lead the rest of the team to a successful outcome. They have to be both motivators and mediators depending on what is happening in the project. What’s more, a significant characteristic our PMO team needs is the ability to work with people from all walks of life, with varying skills and different levels of experience. A project manager must bring the wider team together by understanding each member’s strengths and weaknesses to get the best out of them.

2. Communication

Going hand-in-hand with leadership, it goes without saying that our PMO team are excellent communicators. There are many different stakeholders on any ERP project – the customer, the ERP vendor, and the ERP implementation partner and consultants, to name a few. The PMO team must keep everyone up to date and, most importantly, win their support by developing great relationships where stakeholders are confident in their ability to run the project and bring results. Achieving this is through excellent communication. Our team must be able to communicate with each group effectively and appropriately. Understanding the different personalities within the team is vital, and knowing how best to work with each of those personalities will create a cohesive team that brings results.

3. Flexibility

When an ERP solution is in development, flexibility is critical. During the life of a project, things may shift, either slightly or significantly. Resource availability might change, solution testing might bring to light development issues, or timelines may vary while a specific piece of functionality is developed. Our PMO team must have the ability to be flexible with their plans and the ability to understand and tackle the changes to keep the project on track and everyone onside. COVID-19 has been a clear example of how we have had to adapt our project management processes almost overnight to deliver remotely instead of face-to-face.

4. Multitasking

It’s a given that running projects require a significant amount of multitasking. As well as having a grasp on every aspect of a single project, our PMO team must be able to work across multiple projects at a time. They must stay in control of their projects and avoid any miscommunication. It is vital that the team remain entirely up to date on all the details of each project they are involved in and potentially even those they are not, as they might be required to step in at a moment's notice.

5. Risk Management

It's a given that all projects carry a certain degree of risk. What's important is managing the threat before the project is even off the ground. It's a skill to identify and understand the different degrees of risk and address them before they become an issue. Before embarking on a project and throughout each stage, time must be spent identifying, assessing, and controlling risk. Things happen during every project which is sometimes outwith anyone's control, but again, sometimes planning for unforeseen circumstances means they can be better dealt with if and when issues do arise.

6. Prioritisation

The ability to network, build relationships with internal and external partners is critical. For our PMO team, leading a project involves constant dialogue with key stakeholders about what will be done and when while listening to and understanding the demands that need to be met. A project manager must be skilled to push back at times but in such a way that is considered so that all parties feel listened to and valued. There’s also the issue of dealing with tensions between team members, especially when people are under pressure to deliver on various levels across multiple projects. Having solid skills around prioritisation and negotiation could be the difference between a project becoming disjointed and falling into disarray or proceeding in an organised and considered way that satisfies all parties.

7. Scheduling

Creating a realistic and achievable project schedule with properly defined tasks, resources, dependencies, milestones, and timeframes is an essential skill that takes practice and a sound understanding of the nature of ERP projects. Here is where our PMO team has to excel. They need to set the project schedule and then manage the people and processes to ensure the project is delivered on time and within budget. The team’s understanding of time management is critical here. Having a solid grasp of the project, how long each task will take to complete, and applying realistic and achievable timescales to projects will bring success.

While the above is only a snapshot of just what is involved in managing an ERP project, it's undeniable that diligent project management plays a key role. Proper emphasis must be placed on selecting the right project team, with the necessary skills and experience that will develop a robust project plan, enable excellent decision making, and with the flexibility to react to whatever changes occur during the life of the project. We know that our team has the skills, knowledge, and experience to deliver for our customers but most importantly, our project successes speak for themselves.

 Get in touch to find out more about how we can work with you on your next ERP project.