An ERP implementation is the implementation of a business solution. In order to be effective there must be alignment between business and their IT partners (internal IT organization, implementation partners, etc.). Collaboration is a key enabler for alignment. However, being in the same meetings or having the latest collaborative technology does not ensure collaboration. It must first begin with have a common understanding between the parties. Consider the following illustration:
First, we need to understand that business, IT, and the implementation partner are coming from different perspectives. All parties have strengths and weaknesses. Business best understands their existing business model and the underlying success drivers. The implementation partner understands the ERP software package and has multiple years of ERP implementation experience. IT best understands how technology supports the existing business model as well as how best to utilize existing corporate IT technologies. Alignment is generated only when a common understand of the business model, ERP, and technology capabilities is shared by all three parties. When this alignment occurs there is effective communications and faster decision-making. Decisions move implementations forward. Now, let’s spend some time defining activities that we can do to expedite alignment.
Recommended Steps to Develop a Common Understanding for Effective Collaboration
Document Existing Business Processes. It is an area that I see many ERP implementations lack. The typical challenge is hear from business is “Why document my existing business processes if I know they are changing?” Here are my reasons:
- Business users usually do not have a consistent understanding of their business model. Going through the exercise of documenting business process will highlight these differences and drive understanding.
- Documenting the existing business model will enable you to highlight the exact organizational changes that will occur. How can you manage organizational change when you do not have a clear understanding of what’s changing.
- Business process maps can be a key source of information to quickly educate IT and the implementation partner on the existing business process model.
Educate IT and the Implementation Partner on the Existing Business Model. Business should take a formal, iterative process to educate IT and the implementation partner on the existing business model. The entire project team should be involved in this training and should progress from a solution-level overview to a detailed business-role level.
Level Description Suggested Duration
Business Solution Provide an executive overview of the existing business processes, systems, and organizations that make up the existing business solution. Four Hours
Business Process Provide a work flow of business activities that result from a business event. Key variations and exceptions should be noted. Two Hours for Each Business Process
Business Activity Grouped by Role Provide a “day in the life” experience for key roles that support the business solution. One Hour for Each Role
Have the Implementation Partner Conduct Supplemental ERP Training. Education is an iterative process – you will never learn everything you need to know for support ERP in one class. I always say that the implementation partner completes your ERP training. Implementation partners have hands-on experience with configuration and maintenance of ERP solutions.
Implementation Documentation Should be Business-oriented. Nothing encourages alignment more than being able to think like your end customer. Too often we create project documentation that focuses more on technology than business reasoning and justification. There are times were I am guilty of moving too quickly from what needs to be done to how will it be done with fully understanding why does it need to be done. At the end of the day we build ERP software to drive a business result – not a software result. IT and the implementation partner should partner with business to develop business-oriented project documentation.
Business to IT alignment is a strategic goal that can only be reaching by taking tactical steps to bring Business and IT closer together to generate mutual understanding and trust. Implementing ERP is an opportunity to generate greater alignment by developing a common language for effective collaboration. When alignment is achieved then decision-making is effective resulting in a more successful implementation.
Blog entry written by Brett Beaubouef, Senior ERP Selection Consultant, and adapted from his book titled Maximize Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for Effective Packaged Software Implementations.