Decisions – Not Documents – Move ERP Implementations Forward

Information Alone Does Not Generate Value 

I grew up in a time when information was hard to obtain.  Generating information was seen as a valuable exercise because information was a scarce resource.  The first software development life cycle (SDLC) I learned was Waterfall.  One of the key focus areas for the Waterfall SDLC was documentation (i.e. information).  However, there is a limit regarding what value information can provide.  In our enthusiasm to create information we sometimes go to an extreme and generate so much information that it becomes a roadblock.  What we often forget is that the key purpose of gathering information is to make decisions!

There is a direct relationship between the speed of customer decisions and the speed of ERP implementations.   The faster a customer can make a decision results in a faster implementation cycle.  Naturally, customers want to make right decisions therefore the project team must gather the right information.  To gather the right information we first need to understand the key decisions that must be made as part of the ERP implementation.

Decision-Oriented Information Gathering

Before the project team begins gathering information they first should consider what key decisions the project must make.  The ERP implementation scope will determine both the information gathering scope and key decisions to be made.  Consider the following illustration:

Gathering information to support decisions

Decision-Oriented Information Gathering

Simply stated, the scope for an ERP implementation consists of the software features that will be deployed (product scope) and the project activities and audience for the deployment (project scope).  Once the implementation scope has been defined, the project team can better identify the information requirements.   Gathering the required information and presenting that information in the appropriate context will enable the customer to make both software configuration and fit/gap decisions.  

Utilize Best Practices to Drive Decisions

A best practice is a process, method, or approach that is considered the most effective at delivering a desired outcome.   A best practice is repeatable and has proven itself over a period of time.   For ERP implementations there are two areas of best practices that should be considered:

  1. Industry best practices
  2. Configuration best practices

Once the implementation scope has been clearly defined, the project team should leverage industry best practices to assist the customer in making decisions.  Providing these best practices up-front to the customer will streamline the information gathering process.  As the project team moves from gathering information to driving decisions on ERP configurations and Fit/Gap, configuration and gap decision best practices can be referenced to provide proven knowledge to key decision makers.   Having the right Implementation Partner can have a significant impact on effective information gathering and decision support.  An Implementation Partner may not know every single decision that the customer must make as part of their ERP implementation but they should be able to identify up-front the key decisions required based upon the scope. 

Consequences of Not Driving to Decisions

The ability to make informed decisions is fundamental to ERP implementation success.  I would like to encourage the two key players that impact the decision-making process for ERP projects:

Customers

We live in a society where we like to keep our options open.  Many say that keeping your options open will make one flexible to future opportunities.  Many customers have applied this concept to technology and business systems.  I have seen this philosophy trickle down into a customer’s decision-making approach for ERP implementations.  Customers desire to have a business solution that is both adaptable and flexible.  It is an understandable and legitimate requirement.  However, customers need to keep two things in mind:

  • Keeping your options open (i.e. not making decisions) will slow down the implementation project and increase your risk for failure.   
  • People, not technology, is the most flexible and adaptable component of a business solution.
Strengths of Business Solution

Business Solution Strengths

Implementation Partners

Implementation Partners should be able to provide industry and ERP configuration best practices to their customers.  These best practices should be formally documented and provided early in the implementation where they have the greatest benefit.  These documents will provide evidence that the Implementation Partner can provide a repeatable and reliable service.

Summary

As a project manager, I’ve observed where project team members focused more on producing information and focused less on producing decisions.     Producing information (i.e. documents) is far easier than driving decision(s).    There is a false perception that generating more information will result in more knowledge and enable customers to make better decisions.  Nothing is further from the truth.  Only when the right information is communicated in the right context then knowledge is created for making informed decisions.

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About Brett Beaubouef
For the past twenty years Brett has helped customers select, implement, and manage ERP solutions across five industries (manufacturing, professional services, staffing, retail, and telecommunications). Business process knowledge and experience includes human resources, benefits, compensation, recruiting, time & attendance, finance, resource scheduling, contract administration, services procurement, sales, billings, project accounting, and project/portfolio management. Software selection experience includes evaluation of both ERP software and proposed implementation services. Brett has recently authored a book on leading ERP/COTS implementation strategies.

7 Responses to Decisions – Not Documents – Move ERP Implementations Forward

  1. What a good written article! This is very worthed to read and also easy to read. I will looking for more such blog article! Hey, do you have facebook or twitter? I recommend it on social bookmarking sites just like as stumble upon! However, thank`s for this article.

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