Our prior post attempts to answer the question captioned in our title by suggesting the first three, commonly accepted steps in the process: Preparation; Process Review; Fit/Gap Analysis. Today we’ll conclude with the last three steps.
Step Four: Architecture. In this step, which may be a part of one of the next steps, you identify the hardware foundation for your solution. It could be cloud based for certain well-defined verticals and for more generic (i.e., pure accounting) solutions, or it may consist of hardware, either on-premise or off, that will serve as the underlying architecture for your solution. The hardware however is always a byproduct of – and dependent on — the desired software solution. This step is the natural follow-on to any potential solution identified in the earlier fit/gap analysis.
If you’ve decided on standing pat or upgrading your current solution, you still need to ensure that the hardware it runs on is up to the task and offering you the speed, functionality and scalability you require today. If you’re considering new technology, new or upgraded hardware will be a part of that overall consideration.
Step Five: Scope definition. Just as it’s important to define what your choices will do, it’s important to define what they won’t – at least initially. Here you determine the bounds of your new implementation. This is the place to look at where you potentially will, and will not, modify the workings or code of the proposed new solution. We often advise clients to work as much as possible with their new software “out-of-the-box” and to forego all but the most critical, business-necessary modifications until they’re up and running and have had time to truly understand the capabilities of their new system.
We find most companies are a bit overwhelmed initially with what their new system can do for them. It’s almost too much to wrap your head around all at once. So initially, take it one step at a time. There’s plenty of time later to decide where you want to fine tune your system (assuming your selection can be fine-tuned and modified – some systems are better at this than others).
Finally as to scope, remember, this is where you can best identify and control costs. A good, tight scope definition helps your software partner quote more accurately, and helps you ensure the budget is both realistic and achievable – in both dollars and time to implement.
Step Six: Proof of concept. Once you’ve reviewed your processes, identified gaps and potential solutions, defined requirements, hardware, scope and acceptance criteria, you need some assurance that the proposed solution will work. If you’re already familiar with a trusted adviser and software partner, they can step you through this process with either basic PoC demonstrations, or a combination of referrals, conversations and software high-level reviews.
This is not user training and does not involve porting over of existing data (aside from perhaps a few sample records for demo purposes). It’s not a full prototype or a complete system test. Proof of concept simply means a general acceptance that the overall processes you have identified as key to your flow can be accommodated in the proposed solution. There may be some cost associated with this step, depending on the depth of your requirements for proof. The key thing is to have established trust between your firm and your implementation partner for the long road ahead.
There are any number of variations on the steps and flow of your selection process, but the outline we’ve provided covers the fundamentals of an accepted method for determining your requirements, and whether your current solution will get you through, or a look at new technology is in order.
In all cases, keep an open mind… be honest and open about your expectations and your budget… and remember that ERP is, above all, a strategic investment in business improvement. We may be biased after 30 years of doing it, but the relationship with your provider – and their business and technical capabilities and understanding of the business environment in which you operate – are the keys to success. Remain honest and open with one another throughout the process, keep the expectations realistic and the lines of communication open, and you will ultimately be one of the success stories.