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Submitted by Jim Benson on 19 April 2012

ArcherPoint ERP Project Approach – A Practical Analogy

At ArcherPoint, we liken an implementation project to the challenge of building a custom home.  It is a great analogy. There is a vision in your mind and pencil is put to paper, adding rooms, features and functions that deliver the best home for what you think it might cost.  Meetings with an architect help shed light on and validate the initial “design”, typically at this point a set of rough sketches and lists of requirements in the finished product. This same architect, or others, can then translate your vision into a detailed drawing or blueprint, which no doubt undergoes a series of revisions as you learn from and provide feedback to the designer, making design changes and trying to keep to the original budget.

Image of a house under constructionBut eventually, the house design is finished and the selected contractor begins to build your dream home on a lot of choice.

Then reality strikes. What looked very good on paper or on the computer screen, does not feel right when walking through the newly framed home. The bedrooms feel small; the dining room is not long enough. The family room windows are not placed in the right position to get the afternoon sun. And the cycle begins. You tell the contractor that some changes need to be made to the home before it goes any further. The contractor replies that anything can be done, but there could be cost ramifications for each change request. And it will take longer for the home to be built.  What do you do? The house must be finished in time to get the kids into a local school. And your funds are limited. Decisions must be made.

This process of refinement goes on and on until the house is complete. Electrical outlets are moved, or added. Cabinets modified. The front door choice is altered.  Your spouse does not like the choice of interior wall colors. Essentially, changes are unavoidable because it is impossible to build a great home purely on paper.  You cannot know up front exactly what you want. You can only know what you think you want. It is not all bad. This is just the reality of building a home.

As challenging the above scenario might seem, there is a worse situation. You could approve the initial design, select the contractor, and head off to parts unknown until such time as the builder gives you a call to say that the house is ready to be occupied. It was completed on time and on budget. Then imagine the conversation to be had as you enter the home and realize that it is not the dream house you had envisioned.  At that point, the contractor probably will say that either the house must be torn down and rebuilt, or seriously expensive modifications will be needed. The bottom line is the home must be accepted as is, or the desired product will take longer to build and cost much more than expected.

And so it is with ERP implementations. Despite the best planning, there will be mid-project course changes. Count on it. With great discipline and flexibility, these changes may be minimized, but they will never be eliminated. ArcherPoint believes the best approach is to find the changes early, allowing these course changes to be made with less effort and risk. The implications for the project timeline and cost are better and quickly understood.

The simple fact is that every ERP implementation effort is unique. It makes no sense to attempt and apply a “one size fits all” to engagements of this nature.  After all, if your goal was to run your business exactly as your competitors do, then why invest in customizable software like NAV in the first place? Just buy what the others run and save yourself a lot of money and pain.

At ArcherPoint, we take the view that good planning is essential. Much serious thought and work should be devoted to learning all you can and build a plan to the customer constraints (scope, budget, timeline), but realize that it WILL change going forward. The implementation effort is largely about refining requirements and prioritizing them to insure that the final product is the best you could have given that money does not grow on trees and the project must be completed in our lifetimes.

And so our approach employs the correct methodology that will best achieve the results desired by the customer. This gives us flexibility to take the right steps, supported by techniques and tools to track and monitor progress on an immediate basis as we navigate the complexity of a real world ERP implementation.

We have taken the best principles of adaptive project management and built an approach that stays absolutely focused on delivering the most business value given the set of constraints imposed by the realities of our goals.


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