ERP implementation is not a small task. In order to do it right, it is important for a company to think through their mission critical business processes (and document them in some way) so they can decide which areas to attack first, in which order to implement their automation modules, and have a check list that tells them when they’ve finished each stage.
This first process is the discovery phase of business automation and should take a week or two to start (depending upon how many modules and departments are going to be automated) and most importantly is a process that never really stops. The process of discovery, configuration, implementation, fit assessment and adjustment is a process that slows down over time but never really stops… this is because over time the things discovered change. Businesses change size, configuration, they absorb other companies, they change practices, add departments etc.
There are many ways to start this process and get through it, but an experienced implementer can often “feel” his way through the process by following the mission critical business path. What is that path? It’s what I call “first contact to final invoice”.
Here is an off the top of my head rendition I wrote recently to a client who anticipates working with me in the near future…
Note, as is often the case, this company has already implemented Deltek Vision and is asking for help making their configuration work for them. They had made some mis-steps in their initial implementation and will be undergoing a re-configuration and transformation of their data to fit their actual business processes better.
In answer to your question about what you could prepare to make our project better, I’m going to answer you off the top of my head and we can start there.
1. Think about the big picture of your data path, how much Vision is meeting your needs, and what needs are not being met. Some questions to think about might be:
a. when a potential client first makes contact with your firm, how is their data entered, by whom, when? Is there some kind of paper form that gets filled out first? Does someone own a potential client? (commissions etc.)
b. How does a project get proposed? Is there an RFP that your firm answers? What types of proposals are written and how are they sent out? Do you ever execute on verbal “go ahead” from a potential client? Is a contract in place before starting work? Does a project go from “proposal” to “won” stage? What do you do if a project is not won?
c. When a project is being executed, what reports are produced? How often are time sheets entered, posted, by whom? Do project managers log into Vision and run reports or do they request reports from a person?
[and something I should have inserted here… how do your project managers keep tabs on project costs and revenues, over-runs etc? How long do projects generally last? How many staff members generally work on a project?]
d. Is there a post mortem for projects? You have stated in your documents that there is CRM data that needs to be captured… who enters this? I understand it comes out in proposals… what is the format for your key personnel or management resumes? Are they done in MS Word right now?
e. How do you fill your pipeline? How does your firm go out and get more clients?
[and another item that will be addressed when we start… is there a post mortem with your client after the project is completed? Do you sit down with them and review the success of the project to see what went well and what did not? Do you measure their satisfaction overall? How is this data captured and where is it stored?]
Lastly, compiling samples of all forms and reports that are used for putting data into Vision (or other accounting, HR, proposal, project management systems) will be necessary as well.
These are all steps that are necessary before we start looking at the details of which fields to add and where. This is the data design portion of your implementation. Granted, you may have already gone through much of this exercise yourself, but I will need to be educated on this body of knowledge before being able to help you guys out. I often do this entire process myself, but if you have done much of it then that will speed things along (which is always good for the client because time is money).
Thus, if you have any documentation on your business processes, data flows, sample forms and reports etc. and can send them my way, then I’d love to have them on file so when I get started I can hit the ground running.
Lastly… while it is important to document all of this knowledge gained, it is very important to make sure that this documentation is accessible, consumable, and manageable. Not going deep enough can result in communication problems, mis-matched expectations and project failure, while going too deep can also result in project failure because of excessive lead times, lack of an iterative process and burn out among project staff (who have their own jobs to do already).
The trick is to find the balance point… going deep enough, but keeping the process and documentation usable and manageable.
p.s. choosing between a “big bang” implementation and a “phased in” implementation I always choose the phased approach. Less over-load, errors, and less risk involved means a longer over all process but potentially much less expensive down the road. It also tends to be more thorough and less disruptive of business continuity.