Agile – a new ERP Implementation Journey

Although the speed of change in most businesses is running at the fastest pace ever, the standard ERP Project Management approach to implementing a new ERP system continues to follow the recommended steps. These steps come with structure, formal sign-off and no concept of revisiting the defined solution once the process moves on. Stages that cover determining the business needs, designing and testing, then implementation can take place. It sounds like the project will always be in control – so why are so many ERP projects “failing?” It is in visiting these stages, that have led to this approach to being named “waterfall methodology.”

Generally speaking, the reasons why ERP projects fail are:

  • A budget and implementation plan based on anything other than the reality of the situation
  • Critical business processes and requirements not formally documented
  • Scope changes running out of control
  • A lack of management engagement and commitment
  • Too functionally rich and too heavily reliant upon customisations, to allow for robust but straightforward testing

Agile Methodology has grown up to address the issues of trying to implement any business system in a purely sequential way based upon a scope determined right at the start of the process. Agile ERP Project Management offers flexibility while still encompassing controls and procedures. It recognises that the key to successfully managing projects is to break them into stages, plan the current step in detail while maintaining flexibility about subsequent stages.

Agile knows that you don’t often get it right the first time so is focused on evolving quickly. Agile listens to the user responses and then adapting the solution through a series of iterations. It makes sense to build more straightforward solutions that are fit for purpose, easy to test, smoothly adopted, and simple to maintain. Subsequently, modify these solutions based on user feedback.

Business needs and goals change so quickly these days. You cannot afford to spend months designing the ultimate business process by following the traditional method of ERP system implementation. An agile approach builds minimum viable processes, deploys them quickly, testing the results against the old process.

Mistakes and modifications can be quickly spotted and change rapidly made. Also, bringing people from different divisions within the business together to develop a single business solution represents a significant shift from previous thinking.

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So how does the Agile ERP Project Management methodology address the five areas of project failure outlined above?

  • The focus in the selection process is on selecting a system that closely meets business needs. The budget and implementation plan should also focus on implementing a vanilla system as soon as possible. This focus will control costs but also enable the business to start realising benefits quickly – while allowing solutions to improve through further iterations.
  • Business processes must align with the standard functionality in the system, instead of spending a lot of money and time on replicating the old ways of working.
  • With a robust solution based on standard functionality, changes should only happen where there are business-critical gaps. These should be formally documented and signed off before any modifications are carried out.
  • Shorter, more focused timescales make it easier for management to engage in the process. They can see when the new system should start delivering business benefit within their area of responsibility.
  • By implementing the base system, then developing the solution iteratively and by focusing on business-critical processes defined at the start of the process, the overall solution should be simple to test and easy to adopt.

In conclusion

All parties involved in the ERP implementation need to adopt the Agile approach. Vendors should look critically at the way they implement projects. As experts on the solution, they should actively encourage their client to see the benefits. The client and any implementation partner should be robust in challenging any requirement that moves the solution away from the standard – whether suggested by users, IT or the vendor themselves.

As a result, everyone will start to see projects that deliver more business value. However, at a lower cost than projects run following waterfall principles can ever hope to achieve.

If you would like to find out more, contact us today for an initial, no-obligation discussion about how we can help you and your business deliver your vision for the future on +44 (0) 1282 463710

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