ERP methodology: what works

ERP methodology: what works

There are good versus not- so-good ways to implement enterprise resource planning. Here are your choicesMethodology is a crucial issue for integrators in getting commitment from customers for successful ERP implementation. In truth, you can't have one without the other. The key element of a sound implementation methodology is a well-rounded implementation team. First and foremost, customers want integrators with experience and solid technical knowledge of the selected software product. Since knowledge transfer is a highly prized service sought by customers, the closer the ties you have with an enterprise software vendor and product, the better.

But technical expertise alone isn't enough; customers want integrators with industry experience as well. For instance, in one recent implementation we supplemented our team of technical experts with functional specialists in human resources and payroll. Because of their professional backgrounds, these specialists had a unique understanding of customer needs and were able to provide insights that purely IT-focused consultants might have overlooked.

Flexibility, too, is an essential asset for members of an ERP implementation team. In one real-world example, we conducted an implementation at multiple customer sites throughout the US, a task requiring constant adjustments to different corporate cultures and locations - as well as rules and regulations. Personnel changes also necessitate flexibility; new members of an implementation team must be able to adapt readily to the customer's environment to provide a seamless transition.

Another element of a successful ERP methodology is a sound approach. Integrators performing ERP implementations tend to fall into one of two categories. The first group comprises those SIs that are pursuing what I call the "black box" methodology: taking orders and receiving payment from customers for an enterprise software package that's designed and developed off-site.

The underlying assumption here is "the less customer involvement the better", since these customers often lack the IT resources, staff, and time to dedicate to an in-house implementation anyway.

The second group pursues the "integrated team" approach to ERP implementation, where the customer is involved at all levels of the implementation - necessitating on-site work. Although this approach may require some temporary sacrifice and inconvenience on the customer's part, integrators using this approach say it's the only way for customers to truly "own" their system.

Best option

In my experience, a hands-on, integrated team methodology wins hands down. Besides ensuring good communication between integrator and customer, the integrated team approach lets customers become an actual part of the decision-making process, thereby strengthening acceptance of (and power over) the new system.

Finally, a successful implementation methodology requires clear-cut communication between integrator and customer. Perhaps the most critical time for development of this relationship is "phase zero" - the planning period prior to actual design and development. During this time, the implementation team meets with the customer to gather information for the project plan and to develop a mutually agreeable scope of objectives.

This is the time when integrators should put all issues on the table, including the need for commitment, potential customisation, and business-process re-engineering.

In sum, the ERP implementation team, the implementation approach, and communications with customers are central to a successful methodology that works hand-in-hand with commitment to ensure customer satisfaction.

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