Phase two can be a black hole of ideas

When you’re working on an ERP project, you’ll start to hear vague references to phase two. They start as whispers and get louder as the implementation reaches boiling point, when everyone is rushing around to get the solution ready for go-live.

It becomes an automatic response to every business user, every subject matter expert and tester, when they suggest an idea, an update or change to the ERP product.

You’ll hear it from project managers, developers and consultants, who will all say yes to ideas. It’s a yes, but, ‘We’ll look at that in phase two’. Sometimes you’ll hear it said unison.

But often there is no phase two. In the white heat of go-live the suggestions for changes to the ERP product are lost, and after go-live the project managers, developers and consultants move on.

Phase two can be a black hole of brilliant ideas. Your business people know how to do their jobs better than anyone. As the project progresses, they will have ideas about how the ERP product can help them improve their work. Not only should there be a phase two, but it can be a treasure trove.

How the term ‘phase two’ can demoralise and demotivate people

Newcomers to ERP projects get excited when they start to see the potential in the system. They come to the project team with genuine and often brilliant ideas for changes that will create efficiencies in how they work, drive productivity, even help the business expand into new markets with new products.

They put their faith in the project team to listen and help, and slowly become demoralised when their suggestions are batted away, and they realise phase two never comes.

The next time they are involved in an ERP implementation, maybe in a new company, they will try again. This time when they hear the words ‘phase two’ they know it means their ideas are being dismissed. They can lose faith in the ERP product before it ever goes live.

Phase two is a real treasure trove

Phase two is the first step towards continuous improvement. This is when people’s experience of using the system can be actioned, along with business process engineering to extract the most value from the ERP solution.

When the business users are saying what works best for them in terms of the ERP product, and how improvements can be made, it’s vital the project team is listening and capturing their ideas.

Go live is only the beginning of the ERP product life cycle. Once the solution is stable, phase two is when the business starts to realise the value in the new product and the new ways of working and moves into a continuous improvement cycle.

Tips for managing Phase two

Don’t delay go-live, get there as quickly as possible

This might sound counter-intuitive, but the faster the business switches on the ERP solution the faster they can learn how to improve it. You can only discover how people use the system once they actually use it. Plus, you’ll have saved some energy and resource to make all the changes in the first phase after go-live.

Really listen to your teams

Most people have already got ideas about how to improve what they do, they just need the tools to get on and do it. By facilitating good conversations with business users in the planning phase, you can not only accelerate project delivery but achieve value in the product faster.

Make a virtue of phase two

It’s human nature that your people will only start to have really good ideas once they understand the potential of the ERP product. Embrace this. Continue to encourage their ideas and capture them, but don’t try to cram them all in before go-live. There is a difference in what you need to switch on the system, and what can be the first step towards continuous improvement.

Value honest and open working relationships

Work with a consultancy that strives to build a high-trust environment. This is one where people feel validated and respected, where they feel safe enough to voice their opinions openly. Your people are smart and capable. Your consultancy should empower them with tools and knowledge, not deprive and demotivate them with empty promises.
Work with a consultancy that strives to build a high-trust environment. This is one where people feel validated and respected, where they feel safe enough to voice their opinions openly. Your people are smart and capable. Your consultancy should empower them with tools and knowledge, not deprive and demotivate them with empty promises.