This month Pete Doyle, our Senior Project Manager, takes a look at how global ERP implementations have changed in the last 12 months…
Whilst I’ve managed a broad mix of ERP implementation projects in my career, several of which have also involved non-UK based customers, doing so in the current climate has brought some interesting challenges. In times gone by, it’s been more about organising flights and taxis, coping with jet lag and making sure I can order cold beer in the local language. This time round it’s how to manage projects from the end of a Teams call, without any opportunity to meet my customers face to face and thus form any sort of working relationship.
The events of the last 12 months have been well documented and as we look forward to opening things up soon, I find many of our customers have pressed on regardless of their desire to implement new systems, often in very short timescales. So here is my list of the “new” challenges I’ve seen and how I’ve attempted to overcome them.
Nothing new here and for me it’s one of the joys of working on global projects. The chance to work with customers in different countries to help them improve their use of ERP systems. However, It’s been harder to understand what makes any customer tick when you can’t properly meet and even more so where they are culturally quite different to us Brits. So I took some time to do research, talk to colleagues who’ve any experience of visiting said countries and most of all made no assumptions. The end goal is the same – a successful ERP implementation – it’s just how we get there that needs some flexibility. In particular, the decision-making process and lines of command can vary a lot, so good to bear this in mind so as not to introduce delays.
An obvious one really and whether it’s Teams or Zoom, it’s always going to be difficult to deliver services remotely when some of your audience is barely awake and others are ready for sleep. So the trick has been to find a common time that can serve both, even if it means odd hours for me. Recording calls has been a real help so at least we can share discussions with anyone who couldn’t join at a certain time as well as offering to repeat calls, particularly where training is concerned. The traditional full-on, all-day training sessions are now replaced by shorter, focussed calls with plenty of breaks and chances to chat informally, albeit remotely.
At school, I loved French but failed miserably with Spanish and never got near to learning Japanese. On my previous business trips to the US and the EMEA regions, I was always slightly wrong-footed as everyone’s English was so good and it left me feeling lazy for not trying harder. However, if we’re prepared to at least have a go, it’s always appreciated – not hard to try a greeting with こんばんは or kalí méra. One of my colleagues delighted a Japanese team during a training session by adding in some Japanese translations of ERP terms to cement the learning! Our friends Dr Google or Professor Bing can be useful sometimes. Another tip is to ask for issues or queries to be sent on an email with a copy in both English and the local language – that way when shared during a call, it helps all parties to understand much quicker.
Empathy and trust
This really encompasses all three of the challenges above. The aim of the usual project launch meeting and “site visit” is to meet the customer, have the site tour and often meet socially to get to know each other better. It’s noticeable how for those customers I’ve actually met pre-2020 it’s been far easier to relate to their needs and ways of working than those I’ve only ever met via Teams. When project issues do arise, it’s far easier to resolve them when you already have a close working relationship with, and the trust of, your customer. So I’ve made time with my “remote” customers to not only use Teams calls but also to give them a ring, get to know them better and build those more informal relationships. It’s almost about establishing the common ground between us to become business partners rather than customer and supplier. True for any project, but even more important now.
So in summary, as my two global projects rapidly approach their cutover dates, I feel reasonably confident the extra effort has been worthwhile in order to adapt to a new way of working to meet these challenges head-on. Who knows, maybe someday soon I’ll still finally get to enjoy a cold beer with our partners in Seattle, Singapore or Yokohama.
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