I have been working on custom software projects of all sizes, along with building our core business management software product, for over 28 years now. During that time I’ve seen highly successful implementations, failed projects and everything in between. Today, I believe the key to successful ERP projects lie in the agile methodology.
I’d like to think we learn from every project we do so I thought I’d share some thoughts on the key things I believe make for a successful outcome when looking for ERP software enhancements or looking to build a new module to cover a part of your business that’s been manual or spreadsheet driven until now.
The drawback to the traditional Waterfall method
If I look back at some of the ‘less-than-stellar’ outcomes we have had for clients (which thankfully have been few and far between!), they tend to have one thing in common. From the client’s perspective, the responsibility for the success of the project rested almost totally with the developers of the software i.e. the relationship was one of customer-vendor in the same way it might be when purchasing a car. I believe this is a bad place to start from….
Here is how it typically went….The client and their users describe the requirement, the developer or consultant tries to get an understanding of it including the business case for it along with all the inputs and the outputs. They attempt to cost the work and build a specification. Once the price is agreed, the work begins.
We then return triumphantly to the client with a completed solution only to have cold water thrown on our efforts due to a misunderstanding of the requirement. Now the battle for additional costs and more specifications begins, the relationship starts to sour and the perceived value to be gained by the project is diluted. Everyone feels bad!
Traditionally this process is called the Waterfall (maybe a reference to the subsequent tears!) method. When building modern ERP software, this kind of dynamic is not a good fit…..especially in projects where the scale won’t facilitate days of intensive discovery.
The solution….change the relationship and engage the client early and often.
Agile 101 - Framing the relationship not the requirement and engaging the key users early
We know how important a particular software enhancement can be to your business. It is therefore important to be involved during the development process and making it clear that ‘we are in this together’. This methodology ensures the path to delivering the project forms part of the solution. It also enables you to see:
Spot potential pitfalls early
Understand the efforts involved &
Feel ownership of the solution
For us developers, we increase our chance of getting the correct result and also gain a more intimate understanding of your business; adding our own value and suggestions when necessary.
This method of deploying a successful ERP project means stumbling blocks during the design or implementation stages become problems shared and often give rise to enhancements.
In many cases the project may end up looking very different when completed, but the happiness index is always higher and the quality of the fit for you is always better. For us this is the most important maxim of the agile methodology.
So my advice? If you need specific customisations or new modules tailored to your individual business, be sure to ask from the outset what the vendor’s process is!