Your new ERP system is installed; your team is figuring out how to move around and use it. Inevitably there are additional wants, fixes, irritations, and broken situations. You call the software provider, voicing your concern and they respond offering to send a team to your location. Thinking that the situation is handled you advise your team that help is on the way and move on.

Couple of weeks or months later you are hearing the same complaints. Your staff is fed up with the system and want to change software vendors again. You have just made a huge investment and the provider is willing to send another onsite team. You need to manage the software vendor. What do you do differently this time?

Make sure you have a champion for the software. Most likely there is someone in your organization who likes understanding and managing the workings of the new software. The person everyone goes to for advice on the system. Frequently a staff person with an unrelated job; could be the accounts payable clerk, customer service manager, administrative assistant.

Have a written list. The champion, with your help and sponsorship, should request a list of wants, issues and complaints from everyone who works with the system. The champion will need to work with the staff to understand each of the issues and combine them into a coherent list. Keep track of who has which problem and what they would like to see as a resolution and then prioritize the list.

Communicate with the vendor. Make your champion the point of contact with the vendor. Specifically, for this task, perhaps for all communication. Send the vendor your list before they visit. This provides an opportunity for research on their part so the visit can be more productive and may arrive with some issues all worked out.

Manage the vendor relationship. The vendor wants you to be a satisfied and productive user of their system. During the follow up visit the champion should manage communications with the vendor and help the vendor work with the other staff members. Use the issues list as a focal point and systematically monitor progress.

Communicate with the staff. The champion will need to communicate frequently with the staff. Be sure to inform staff on what is happening with their specific request. Quick meetings with an annotated copy of the issue list is a good way to communicate with all at once.

Follow up. The champion needs to maintain momentum and the vendor will need monitoring. The staff will need continual involvement as the cycle may repeat. Getting people to work together on problems of this magnitude can build a great team building process.

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