Current State Meets Future State: The Magic of Starting ERP Projects
How do you make planning ERP projects into reality? There are often various demands for an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system to perform some automation or another that the system is not currently able to do, or perhaps the entire system itself needs to be upgraded or reimplemented. These ERP projects, large or small, require time, money, and resources. The challenges seem to arise in actually getting the stars to align—that is, gathering all the requirements, coming up with the correct solution, and then receiving approval on the funding to make it happen. At which point, hopefully, the solution partner and the business have the proper resources and schedule available to actually perform the needed work, testing, and deployment to a live system. This can look daunting at first glance, especially if you are the one trying to pull it all together.
Now, depending on the size of the business, there can be various stakeholders involved in each of these components, all with their own agendas and ideas. It can sometimes seem like a miracle that any new projects are ever initiated, much less completed. First off, we must understand the situation, or current state, in which we’re operating. Then we take a look at the future state, or where we’d like to be in x amount of time if said project were to occur and be successful.
The fun is bridging the gap between current state and future state. This brings to mind the definition of “business analysis” from the BABOK® (A Guide to the Business Analysis Body of Knowledge®): the set of tasks and techniques used to work as a liaison among stakeholders in order to understand the structure, policies, and operations of an organization, and to recommend solutions that enable the organization to achieve its goals. The key word here is liaison: communication or cooperation that facilitates a close working relationship between people or organizations. The magic occurs when the facilitator can elicit requirements and bring about agreement amongst the stakeholders and requirements.
Agreement is what makes it real. Clearly identifying what business goals or objectives these requirements will fulfill demonstrates business value and will help the business case justify and secure necessary approval and funding for the project to start. If the stakeholders disagree or the project doesn’t really provide any value back to the business, it will most likely not even start, or if it does, it will have so much opposition and resistance that the risk level will be high.
Making a project real requires a clear vision of the future state, how it will benefit the business, and a clear set of agreed upon requirements. Since not everyone always agrees, good communication and resolution skills are required. A good partner with all the right resources at hand can facilitate a smooth business analysis, identify issues and risk, bring agreement among all stakeholders, and help synthesize solutions that meet the business goals, as well as stakeholder and solution requirements.