There are many considerations when pondering the selection and implementation of an ERP or business management software system. In a recent blog article, Eric Kimberling of Panorama Consulting Solutions in Colorado suggested three in particular. We’re summarizing his thoughts below because we think he makes some key points that too many folks who are “new” to ERP may not know enough to consider.
Kimberling starts from the premise that determining the best ERP strategy is trickier than most people think. All too often, sellers of ERP systems make it sound easy. (These are professional salespeople after all, so they’re paid to make it sound easy, right?) As Kimberling points out, there is a tendency in the industry to over-simplify the effort and risk associated with ERP implementations.
This, he notes, is borne out in the fact that so many ERP implementations fail. “There is no one-size-fits-all strategy that works in every situation,” says Kimberling. Too often, he notes, “organizations fall prey to the fallacy that a generic, boilerplate ERP implementation strategy and plan is going to work for them.”
To mitigate those risks and avoid the mistakes made by other firms, he suggests three things to think about when trying to define what type of implementation approach will work best for your organization:
- Reengineer business processes, or ‘pave the cowpaths’? Kimberling wisely points out that many firms will rush into their ERP projects without first taking a hard, critical look at their current processes – thus merely automating their already inefficient processes, which someone once referred to as merely paving the cowpaths. After all, if you simply continue to do what you have always done, isn’t that usually the path of least resistance? Unfortunately, it also represents a gigantic failed opportunity to transform your company, and your ERP deployment, into a massively more beneficial environment for improvement.
- Standardization or autonomy? During project planning, it’s important to decide what processes across the company will be standardized and which should remain independent (autonomous). This is a prime example of where a one-size-fits-all implementation strategy will not work. Regardless of what is the right decision for your firm, it requires serious discussion. Generally, less standardization will lead to greater costs for time and resources during training, testing and deployment. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the pros and cons should be debated during planning.
- Use “waterfall” or “agile” development? A waterfall approach is an organized, sequential approach to implementation. Think planning, designing, building, testing… phases, steps, that sort of thing. It’s a more formalized process. Agile is a generally more iterative and less structured approach, in particular to rolling out new functionality. You discuss… see how things work ‘out-of-the-box’… rough-design… test… re-design, test some more… and so on, until it works just right. It works better in smaller, more nimble organizations. There are pros and cons to both approaches (and in our own firm, we tend towards a hybrid in many cases). The point is, it’s important to think it through, and plan at least your overall comfort level for either approach.
These are just three of the variables you need to consider – buy they are key ones, and worth thinking about in depth before you take ERP action.