You’ve decided that the time is right to move to a new ERP (enterprise resource planning) system, and you need to know what you should be doing to prepare for the transition in order to maximize the pay-off from the investment and minimize disruption from the change. Your time invested in a design project with your solution provider will yield these benefits and more. BTerrell Group utilizes a 4-step project design process that requires participation from the customer seeking to benefit from a new ERP.
Step 1: Identify and document goals and requirements
Put down in writing the reasons for deploying a new ERP system. For example, your company is growing, and you need to be able to accommodate the growth in accounting activity with the current staffing level. This step will help determine the return on investment from the new system.
Identify key business processes. This includes not only the critical activities that keep cash flowing and the supply chain working, but also the necessary business management reports and indicators. Documentation of these processes can vary from process flow diagrams to simple descriptive paragraphs such as a “user story.”
A user story is a method to document a requirement that is one of easiest to prepare and simplest to understand. In a user story, the who, what and why of a requirement are described in the language of the user. Here is an example of a user story describing a functional requirement:
As a customer support representative, I want to be able to quickly view and track a customer shipment during a phone call, so that I can respond to customer questions during a phone call.
A non-functional requirement describes a quality of the system, such as security, flexibility or scalability. For example of a user story describing a non-functional requirement might be:
As the CFO, I must ensure that unauthorized access to the MRP system is prevented, because the proprietary manufacturing process provides a competitive advantage.Specify legacy data to be converted
If the current system can be maintained, the most cost-effective option is to convert only the data needed to operate your business and produce financial reports. Using the legacy system for researching historical transactions can result in significant cost savings.
Step 2: Plan the project
The next step is to select the project team members, which starts with the project owner, the person ultimately responsible for the outcome of the project. The role of the project owner, or “product owner” in Agile terminology, is vital to make certain that the project delivers value. A separate project manager is also selected that will see that the project plan is carried out within cost and time parameters. The project manager may be an employee of the customer or may be a professional from the solution provider’s organization. Other team members are selected according to types of work and expertise required by the project.
It’s tempting to begin planning the project activities right away, but that is putting the cart before the horse. Planning should take place around the elements of functionality that will be delivered by the project. These requirements or user stories should first be prioritized before identifying activities and durations. Priorities must come from the project owner, because no one else will be able to better determine their relative value. In Agile planning, there is an intermediate step of estimating the relative work size of the requirement in “story points.”
From Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn
The result of the ERP design process includes a project schedule that identifies deliverables and delivery dates. It’s important to keep change management in mind when transitioning to a new ERP. Some organizations believe that it’s better to rip the Band-Aid quickly and quickly deal with the pain, while others prefer a phased or iterative approach in order to deal with change in an orderly way. In his book, Agile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn points out that a ship at sea can see only a few miles to the horizon, so a mariner must retake his or her bearings periodically. Likewise, by taking an iterative approach to planning, an organization can react to changing conditions far more effectively.
Step 3: Build and test a model system
No plan is ever perfect. Therefore, the plan must first be tested. So, the next step of ERP design involves modeling the planned deployment in a test environment. The ERP software is installed and configured according to the design, and all or a representative portion of the legacy data is converted. A test for each of the functional and non-functional requirements must take place in order to determine readiness for deployment. When a problem is found, it is addressed and corrected during the pilot phase. Addressing a problem while in production is almost always more costly because of the interruption in business process that accompanies it.
BTerrell Group refers to this testing period as the “conference room pilot”, and we consider it an essential component of a successful deployment. The testing should be performed by the users themselves, who are usually best suited to understand the system inputs and required output. They are also afforded an opportunity to learn how the new system functions. Developing testing scripts can be as simple as duplicating a sufficient number of transactions from the legacy system.
Step 4: Review
The last step of the ERP design phase is the pre "go live" review meeting, where the status of strategic goals and each functional and non-functional requirement are discussed. Sometimes, a previously unknown or under-appreciated requirement surfaces that requires either a new solution or work-around. The review is another opportunity to address these surprises before going into production with the new ERP.
Successful ERP deployment does not happen without good design and a good team to carry it out. Make certain that you and your implementation partner invest the right amount of time upfront in designing your ERP implementation with a needs analysis project before the deployment work begins.
BTerrell Group assists customers in the deployment of ERP, CRM and HRMS systems from Sage and Intacct. To determine if transitioning to a new system is right for you, contact us for a free 30 minute consultation.