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Should COVID-19 halt your ERP implementation? 12 questions

The COVID-19 pandemic is casting doubt on whether ERP and enterprise business applications projects should move forward. Here's help on deciding.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected virtually every aspect of business life, and that includes ERP implementations and other enterprise application projects. As a CIO or project leader, you must work with other decision-makers to quickly reevaluate your technology priorities.

Regardless of the amount of time, effort and money invested in your enterprise business application project, you have a decision to make: Should you carry on with an ERP implementation, pause it or cancel it?

Whether to move forward on an ERP implementation comes down to a few factors: the importance of the implementation to business success and how COVID-19 is affecting the implementation. Those same factors influence whether you choose to move forward on any enterprise business application project, such as a new CRM or HR information system, whether those are stand-alone projects or part of the wider ERP implementation.

With that in mind, here are 12 questions to help you determine whether and how COVID-19 should affect your ERP project:

  1. Will your organization survive this COVID-19 crisis? This is a critical question that your executive team should be able to help answer. While they may not have a clear yes or no answer, they will be able to provide guidance on the viability of the project given the current circumstances.
  2. Given your organization's new reality, is the ERP implementation affordable? If a contract has not been signed with a vendor, it may be possible to negotiate discounts or perhaps select a lower-cost vendor.
  3. Will your organization require this ERP system as planned once the COVID-19 crisis is over? If your company must significantly reduce its workforce, close remote sites or eliminate product lines, your requirements may need to be reevaluated. Perhaps a simplified system will better suit your future needs.
  4. How far along is the project? At the earlier stages of the project -- for example, when gathering requirements and evaluating vendors -- your investments will be limited, making it easier to delay or cancel the project. Once the contract is signed and the implementation started, you can still ask the vendor for the project to be suspended, but there may be associated costs. If you are near the completion of the project, you may want to delay the rollout until business returns to normal.
  5. Is travel an important part of your ERP implementation and rollout strategy? Now that travel is supremely difficult, especially international travel, you will want to consider having team members work remotely. If travel is an integral part of the project plan, then you may need to delay the project.
  6. Can you get internal leadership buy-in? Given all the other priorities caused by COVID-19, it may be impossible to get time with key decision-makers. If you won't have the time and buy-in of internal leadership, then you may want to pause the project.
  7. Can your organization afford to maintain the project team? If members of the project team are laid off, you may not have enough people, or the right people, to move the project forward.
  8. Do you have an adequate project team? If your organization decides it will not reduce headcount despite the slowdown, the project team may have additional time to dedicate to the project as other priorities are reduced or eliminated. In addition, if projects have been deferred or canceled due to COVID-19, employees -- including ones from outside your department -- might be available to help on the implementation project.

    As part of understanding what the ERP implementation project team looks like as the impact of COVID-19 continues, you'll also need to understand if all the stakeholders have time to dedicate to this project. For example, if you need help for the finance or HR team, they may not have the bandwidth to work on the project if they are analyzing financial implications of COVID-19 and helping the company evaluate options related to downsizing, work sharing, utilizing government programs or if they are receiving an increased volume of questions from employees. These new tasks may prevent them from working on the project until the crisis is over.
  1. Can the project team work from home? For example, you'll need to understand whether members of the project team are set up to work remotely. If so, it may be possible to carry on with the project immediately. For anyone not set up to work remotely, it might be easy to get them what they need to work from home if the infrastructure is available.
  2. Do dependencies exist? Perhaps your current system is no longer supported or will be sunset soon. If your preference is to delay the project, you should contact your current vendor to ask if support can be extended, possibly at a cost.

    Another potential factor is that the ERP system is the basis for a series of enterprise business applications you plan to implement, and therefore, delaying this project will cause delays elsewhere.
  1. Is your vendor in a position to support you? As software vendors experience a drop in sales and see projects delayed, they may also do layoffs, reducing their capacity to take on new clients and complete existing projects on the stated schedule.
  2. If you delay the project, when can the vendor restart? With many companies delaying their purchases and projects, it may not be possible for the vendor to meet your preferred start or go-live dates if you delay your project.

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