Accelerating ERP/COTS implementations have been an elusive goal of vendors, implementation partners, and customers. For five years I worked for the #2 business software maker focusing on accelerating implementations. During those five years I chased the dream and learned many lessons along the way. Following are some of the key lessons I would like to share with you.
If you did a search on accelerated or rapid implementation you would most likely find the following enablers for rapid implementations:
- Software with built-in best practices
- Industry preconfigurations
- Implementation tools and templates (Needs Assessment, Fit/Gap summary)
- Deployment (ex. SaaS, Hosted)
Notice anything missing? It’s interesting to note that these accelerators are software-focused. Not to say that the above tools/templates are not important, however, there are more important factors that can have a greater impact on accelerating implementations.
It’s a known fact that the customer needs to provide the right resources (Business, IT) with deep knowledge and experience with the existing business solution. What I see lacking is guidance to customers regarding what they need to do to prepare for a rapid implementation. If the implementation partner and software vendor is serious about accelerating implementations then they will provide customers with a preparation checklist that enables the implementation partner to “hit the ground running” with the customer. At a minimum the customer should perform the following:
- Take all required software training BEFORE the implementation partner arrives. This activity will enable the customer to effectively and clearly communicate with the implementation partner.
- Document your existing business processes. For effective collaboration with the implementation partner the customer needs to EDUCATE the implementation partner on their current business solution. A picture is worth a thousand words and accelerates knowledge transfer!
Consultants that are successful at accelerating implementations are an elite group. These individuals are business solution experts that are both functional and technical. They have the ability to help the customer make both software and business decisions. At a minimum the consultant should understand how the ERP/COTS software supports an ENTIRE business process (Order to Cash), not just a specific business function (Expense Reporting).
The ability to make decisions quickly is one of the most overlooked aspects of accelerating implementations. Decisions move implementations forward. Following are the recommended methods you can use to speed up decisions:
- Conduct prototyping during the sales cycle to define core requirements, validate software results, and eliminate options. The more questions you can answer during the sales cycle the faster the implementation can move.
- A rapid implementation approach requires full-time dedication from business owners. Business owners will be the key decision-makers and must be empowered to make decisions within hours, not days or weeks.
- Need to have a clearly defined scope. This includes (a) what’s in scope, (b) what’s out of scope, (c) and who’s doing what. Just as important to scope definition is to define constraints and assumptions.
At a minimum the ERP/COTS scope statement should contain the following sections:
- Packaged software features in scope (product scope). This also includes restrictions on software features in scope (example: only five customer types will be included in the rapid implementation).
- Packaged software features out of scope (product scope).
- Implementation activities and party responsible (project scope).
- A clearly defined scope allows the project team to focus on the activities that have a direct impact on the project objective(s) while filtering out “out of scope” work.
Methodology and Approach
I have observed two areas that slow down ERP/COTS implementations: customizations and evolving requirements (even with a predefined scope). From my experience my approach has been to minimize these areas by the following:
- Only implement the software functionality that supports the business activity the customer performs TODAY. New business activities typically result in evolving requirements because the customer has no detailed experiences or agreed-upon expectations.
- Take a solutions-driven approach to gathering requirements. Using a traditional requirements-driven approach will result in identifying more gaps (both value and non-value-add).
Not every project or customer is a candidate for a rapid implementation. Implementation partners and software providers should conduct an assessment to determine the FIT for a rapid implementation. One thing you can bet on is that there is no such thing as a STANDARD rapid implementation. Each instance is unique and requires an experienced implementation partner that understands rapid implementations.