Menno Huijben
Sep 16, 2010
Posted in category: 2010 Member Articles

ERP is not a house

Planning on replacing your legacy business system with some new ERP suite?

Making a requirement specification including all those new features you need to develop your businesses?

Getting proposals from providers filled with blueprints & templates activities, crowned with a promised “Big-bang go-live” a few days before your legacy system will stop working?

No, you are probably not doing that. But, there are still plenty of companies and providers out there making project plans and contracts according this scenario.

And we all know it does not work. These are the ERP projects that go over budget in all possible ways – time, money, burned out people, unhappy end-users, and less working features than expected. And that’s when you’re lucky. You might as well lose your capability to invoice for a few months or so.

So why are “Big-bangs and Blue-prints” so popular? People like to be deterministic. If you build a house you make first the drawings, do a cost calculation, find a contractor, order the materials, and then your start building. First the foundation, then the walls and roof, etc. Simple.

If we are going to spend several millions on an ERP project we better do it right. First design and document what we want, negotiate a fixed price on this scope, and then start building.

The problem? ERP is not deterministic. ERP is not a house.

A lot of aspects in an ERP project are not deterministic and require time to learn, define, explain, teach, adjust, and accept. People need time to understand new concepts – especially when they are still doing their normal work in parallel.

What’s the use of defining a blueprint by people who have only for 50% gasped what the new system is about? What’s the use of a project plan that does not budget for the time it will take for people to comprehend and prepare for the coming change?

Consider an ERP project to be a journey. You know where you want to go, but you do not know exactly how to get there. And you are not alone on this journey; the whole organization, including customers and suppliers has to come along.

All kind of unexpected things might happen on your journey and you need to be flexible to respond to these events. You will learn and get new experiences during your voyage that might even make you question, Are we on the right way?

This does not mean you cannot be systematic and well organized. Even for an adventurous expedition you can buy tickets and reserve hotels in advance, but when you arrive and the hotel is double booked, or the train delayed you have to learn to cope with this.

Accepting that ERP is not a house will help you to setup your project in the right way: cater for enough agility and flexibility, while keeping the human factor in sight. Have a pleasant journey!

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