Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Jul 19 2010   7:56AM GMT

The CIO and his role in ERP deployments

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

More often than not, we find that a CIO initiates the idea of getting ERP into an organization for managing enterprise data. So the CIO has to go through the initial barrage of questions relating to the need of ERP; later on he has to prepare for the financial justification. Once he’s through with all these hurdles, the CIO then makes a plan for ERP procurement, and its subsequent implementation.

At this point, the CIO faces a dichotomy. The CEO sends the message that since the CIO got what he advocated for, he should manage the show. This means that the CIO should lead the project and make it successful. Now that the trap is set for him, the CIO picks up the bait.

Now comes the critical question—is the ERP just an extension of the other software packages that the CIO has been running? Since the ERP is another software, is the CIO is obligated to run the show? Many CIOs are possessive, and don’t want to hand over the mantle to someone else. He takes up the challenge, and in many a case, struggles to keep his head above water. Why does this happen?

The rest of the organization perceives of ERP as just another IT project. As a result, they pass on all privileges and responsibilities to the CIO. Now, the poor CIO has to live up to the generated expectations. Therefore, he proceeds ahead with the sole purpose of getting the ERP to run and generate promised reports. The organization does not get much out of its investment, and the CEO is obviously not very happy.

It’s not too difficult to find the reasons in such situations. An ERP project is more about helping businesses to run efficiently, rather than being a mere software implementation. Therefore, it calls for a greater participation from the business. Since an ERP implementation’s scope extends to improving business processes and generating better quality of information, various business heads (as process owners) have to come forward and take ownership for their respective areas. If there is so much play at the business level, is it not prudent to call in someone from business to head the project?

On this front, I will share my experiences with you. After having persuaded the management to introduce ERP in the organization (in 1998), I suddenly found myself in this familiar position. The CEO gave me the go ahead to start the project. I took the courage to tell him that this project’s head should be from business, along with the suggestion that he speaks to the ERP vendor as well as the implementation partner for advice. So the CEO searched for people within the organization based on this suggested profile, but not finding a suitable person, he reverted back to me and suggested that I fill the position.

I had then set two conditions for accepting this offer–first, that he should announce ERP as a business project, and not an IT project. Next was the clarification that I was chosen since I was the most suitable for that position—not because of my IT connection. These moves worked wonders, as the perception of the organization to this ERP project changed, and thereafter we received good support from everyone.

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