Take AIM: The Algorithm ERP Implementation Methodology Part I

Tried and true, “Practice makes Perfect”. Pick your favorite axiom and the fact remains the same. When you do something over and over again a few powerful things happen:

  • You get really good at it
  • Every time you do it, you improve upon how you do it
  • Your incidence of failure or substandard outcomes drops like a rock

And with a process as critical as the implementation of your new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, all three are very, very important to you. After all, half to three-quarters of such projects are completed late, go over budget, or aren’t adopted readily by users resulting in project failure. This is why you want to work with someone who has implemented your ERP many times for many clients, and who has a clearly established, meticulously detailed, and thoroughly documented methodology to assure success.

One Size Does Not Fit All
In one M.A.S.H. episode, “Hawkeye” Pierce tells “Hot Lips” Houlihan, “Margaret, you’re looking for a custom fit in an off-the-rack world.”

ERP cannot be an off-the-rack implementation. One size does not fit all. At Algorithm, we’ve helped countless manufacturers, distributors and wholesalers upgrade their business processes and ERP systems and we can confidently say that there are no consistent and uniform “best practices” that apply to every implementation project equally. No two businesses are identically alike, and so it is with ERP implementations. They’re different for every business.

That does not mean we don’t establish guidelines for moving through all the customary steps required of a quality implementation project, and that’s just what we’ve done. We’ve even developed a useful chart to illustrate the general flow of these projects.

ERP Implementation Timeline

This post is the first in a series that will take you completely through this most fundamental project step-by-step. By now you’ve already intuited that when we get this right, everything else becomes much, much simpler.

Discovery & Discovery
Algorithm clients experience two rounds of discovery. In the first round, as part of the sales process, we conduct discovery about their business’s current state, that is, what are their processes? Where are their problems or pain points? What is the data they need and appreciate, and where can we can provide even more value? This is vital to our preparation of a meaningful proposal for them.

Here’s a hint. If an “ERP Expert” company proposes that they implement really any system for you and they start telling you about it before they conduct any kind of discovery, thank them and wish them a fond farewell. They’re not so concerned about solving your issues as they are about solving their own.

Getting to the First “Why”
The purpose of the sales discovery process is to discover the big “why.” Why do you want or need a new ERP. Why are current processes and systems insufficient to help you realize your goals and achieve your objectives. Successful sales discovery enables us to produce a proposal including an overall scope of the work we will perform for you, and the value you will enjoy from our work.

Next We Focus on “How”
Once you accept our proposal and we go to kick off the project, the first step will be another, much deeper round of discovery.

The purpose of discovery in the implementation process is for us to learn everything we need to know about the foundation of your current processes and practices. How you do what you do so we know best how to integrate your chosen ERP into it, and how you can extract maximum value from that ERP. We also work to figure out what our constraints are. Uncover issues that could possibly engender delay during the process so we can eliminate them or mitigate them in advance.

Then we identify the quick wins, the low hanging fruit. Things we can improve for you early in the process. You want your team to see rapid improvements even during the implementation process to build their enthusiasm for the new system. Their eager and rapid adoption when it goes live is critical to the success of the project. It has been estimated that upward of 75% of implementation projects fail due to users’ failure to adopt. Remember, your users are the most important ingredient in the success recipe for your systems.

If the sales discovery process can be said to have been conducted at 10,000 feet, implementation discovery is the total opposite. Here we dig down deep for the details. We collect everything related to your business operations. Where all the data sets are. Where all applications are run and who uses them. The purpose, capacity, and structure of each workload.

You’ll find we ask why a lot. Often we get the worst possible reason, some variation of “that’s how I was trained to do it” or “that’s the way it’s always been done.” Our job is to create efficient repeatable, value-generating processes, so we never accept those answers. We dig down deeper to develop an understanding of what each process really produces. Many were created to prevent repeating a problem that only happened once. When we’re done, there won’t be any of those left. Many businesses are run based on decades of inherited knowledge passed down from one manager to the next. We ask why and how a whole lot.

We watch papers being passed from one department to the next to learn what is done with them at each step. If we’re going to need it during the rest of implementation you can bet we’re going to find it now, well in advance, so we’re totally prepared. This is how you guarantee the success of every implementation.

“What” You Can Expect
Once all the necessary “whys” are collected along with the data and the process detail, we construct the project plan, which expands upon the original scope of work providing explicit detail at every step required to successfully complete the implementation on time and within budget. Beyond explaining everything you can expect right “out-of-the-box,” we’ll also define the important “whats,” detailing what you will be able to do with your system at the end of each phase of implementation, and what you should be able to observe that demonstrates successful completion of each phase. These acceptance criteria provide you with good reason to be confident that we’re proceeding according to plan every step of the way.

Occasionally, during implementation discovery, we’ll uncover something completely unexpected that wasn’t shared with us during preliminary sales discovery that is not included in the original scope provided in our proposal. In the majority of cases we will simply incorporate it into the scope and the project plan. If the magnitude of what we’ve found is significant we may submit a change order request that will modify the original scope and fee. While such occasions are rare, some companies simply have forgotten skeletons in their operational closet that we will need to dig up and dispose of.

Next Steps
In Part II of this series we’ll continue along the implementation process and talk about how we completely and successfully prepare to “go live” with your new system.

CONTINUE: The Algorithm Implementation Methodology Part II

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