Reasons for ERP Software project delays

ERP Implementation

ERP Implementation

Evidence suggests that majority of ERP software projects are delayed or doomed by cost overturns.  Even when ERP projects are completed on time or within budget, users often complain that the software they have paid for does not meet their expectations in terms of quality, or features or both.

In other words, a great deal of software that is developed never gains user acceptance.  No respectable field of engineering has comparable failure.  That would be a catastrophe, and construction and automotive engineers would not make a living!

  • Why does the distinguished software industry have such an abysmal track record? A big part of the answer is ‘scope definition’, a phenomenon that causes users to be highly inconsistent and unpredictable, about what they wish their software to do. Experienced software engineers often say that users are notorious for their inability to clearly articulate their expectations from software. As a result, it is alarmingly common for the development (construction) of software applications to begin with insufficient requirements and ambiguous specifications.
  • ERP project is taken as ‘by-the-way’ project whereas in true sense it should be the only priority during implementation phase.
  • And because software is intangible (impossible to see and touch) while it is under development (unlike other forms of construction such as bridges and cars), it is commonplace for needs to keep evolving as the software gets built. With every round of change and clarification. The scope of the project changes (as earlier assumptions are negated and new ones introduced). And timelines are pushed out to accommodate new expectations. This is analogous to building a house for which the architectural design keeps shifting with the changing priorities of the owners. Human experience suggests that moving-targets do not lend themselves to happy outcomes. And so it is with the timelines and budgets of numerous ERP projects.
  • Untreatable as it may seem on the surface, scope creep (changes) is an eminently treatable problem. For example, world-class ERP organizations now employ the use case method to manage user requirements. Instead of asking users what features they want in their software, the user case method guides them to describe their current and future processes and behaviors in terms of stories and scripts (much like playwrights write plays) that are stuffed with actors, actions and entity. It turns out that humans are fundamentally better at narration than specification, and the requirements that originate from this method are decidedly more robust.
  • Further, the software implementation and development process has itself become less linear and more cyclical. These days, large ERP projects are broken down into a series of short, burst sprints that last between 30-60 days each.  Sometime, module wise implementation helps building up confidence.
  • Only a small set of requirements are addressed in each sprint, and no changes in scope are permitted while a sprint is progress. Finally, users themselves play an active role in software evolution. As each iterative cycle draws to a close, representative users (or focus groups) interact with the ‘live’ (albeit partially complete) system, and provide critical feedback. The feedback is analyzed, course corrections engineered, and scope creep managed in a controlled fashion.
  • Software engineers are devising early warning systems that will allow them to predict well in advance how serious the downstream effects of unmanaged scope creep can be. An innovative measure that is gaining currency is the requirements clarity indicator, a metric that allows a panel of software experts to review a set of project requirements early in the life-cycle and determine how well the stakeholders even understand what they want from their stability indicator. Low scores on requirements clarity or requirement stability ought to be sufficient to assume that a project is headed for serious trouble.
  • In conclusion, scope creep remains a major threat to the success of every software project.

However, its impact can be minimized by leveraging best practices that are part of the emerging repertoire of leading IT organizations. Good software engineering is all about deciphering what users need, and not getting distracted by what they demand. It is also about managing scope creep intelligently. Use cases, iterative sprints, task group feedback, as well as indicators that measure requirements clarity and stability allow modern software engineers to do just that.

Above write-up is based on Jyoti Zaveri’s experience of software development and software projects implementation experience.

Domain Knowledge

Domain Knowledge is the knowledge of a particular industry

domain

Domain knowledge is the knowledge about the environment in which the business organizations operates, and it encompasses the understanding of the industry dynamics, history, sectors and segments, business model, competitive landscape, value chain, customers, supply chain, challenges and the industry specific strategies of the target enterprise.

Domain knowledge is necessary because it provides the ability to make good judgments and quick decisions and empower the users to deal with complex business situations.  For implementing e-commerce project it is necessary to learn about the business that you are trying to automate on the internet.  Gaining understanding of the industry means a smarter analysis, clearer logic underlying business decisions, closer attention to key dimensions of implementation and operation, and more disciplined performance management.

On the lighter side, here is a joke:

Get Domain expertise

Get Domain expertise

There was a family with one kid. One day the mother was out and dad was in charge of the kid, who just turned three.

 
Someone had given the kid a little ‘tea set’ as a birthday gift and it was one of her favourite toys. Daddy was in the living room engrossed in the evening news when kid brought Daddy a little cup of ‘tea’, which was just water. After several cups of tea and lots of praise for from father for such yummy tea, kid’s Mom came home.
 
Dad made her wait in the living room to watch the kid bring him a cup of tea, because it was ‘just the cutest thing!!’
 
 
Mom waited, and sure enough, the kid comes down the hall with a cup of tea for Daddy and she watches him drink it up, then she says to him, ‘Did it ever come to your mind that the only place that baby can reach to get water is the toilet??’
….Mothers know!
 
Moral Of The Story:  Domain knowledge is very important!  Else your project may fail.

Communicating between end-users and software developers is often difficult. They must find a common language to communicate in.  It is necessary to learn the jargon (vocabulary)  to communicate effectively.   The consultant may play an important role to bridge the gap between business executives and software engineers.

Examples of Domain Knowledge that may require for a project in the respective business category.
  • Automotive Domain.
  • Banking Domain.
  • Education Domain.
  • Engineering Domain.
  • FMCG Domain.
  • Retail Domain.
  • Telecom Domain.
  • Travel Domain.

In ERP / e-commerce project, domain knowledge is knowledge about the environment in which the target system operates. Domain knowledge is important, because it usually must be learned from software users in the domain (as domain specialists/experts), rather than from software developers. Expert’s domain knowledge is transformed in computer programs and active data, for example in a set of rules in knowledge bases, by knowledge engineers.

IT enabled marketing ideas – RFID and Facebook Page

Here are some innovative ideas that bridge the gap between Brick & Mortar and Click & Mortar.

Automaker Renault used the innovative “Facebook Pillars”.

Simple, Innovative and Fun

AutoRAI Motorshow is an automotive event in the Amsterdam, Netherlands, and featured brands such as BMW, Audi, Mercedes, Porsche, Ferrari, etc.  How to get competitive advantage? Renault cars were accompanied by especially designed Facebook pillars.  The 2,50,000 visitors to the show were invited to collect their free Renault RFID micro-chip embedded cards from the Renault stand, which they could then link to their Facebook profile. Once the card had been linked, simply swiping it in front a car’s pillar would count as a Facebook Like”, posting a link to that car on the card bearer’s profile, as shown in the video above.

Here is an idea # 2

Facebook friendly hangers

Innovative ways the offline world is making the most of the online world

C&A a Brazilian fashion retailer, has an IT enabled idea to bring customers’ Facebook approval into full view in its real-world stores.  It has posted photos of a number of the clothing items it sells on a dedicated Facebook Page, where it invites customers to “Like” the ones that appeal to them.  Special hangers on the racks in its bricks-&-mortar store display those votes in real-time, giving shoppers a clear indication of each item’s online popularity.

For more information regarding comprehensive overview of an entire market, click here to view Brand Analyses, Facebook Page Like, and Facebook Talking About figures………in the real-time!

Do you think innovations, such as above examples, will become more and more common?  Can you afford to be left behind?  We will appreciate your comments, shares and of course Likes.

Replacing ERP Software?

Are you planning to change your ERP vendor?

ERP Implementation tips

ERP Implementation tips

Replacing system management software is like visiting a medical clinic for injection, painful but necessary.  First, try to get upgraded version if any, from your existing ERP vendor.  Probably this means more investment, but worth considering.  Once you rule out this option, and decide to look for new ERP software, consider the following points:

  1. Once again define the new requirements, this time make a function wise list.  For instance, accounts, material, sales, and so on.  It is important to do the ABC analysis, A essential list, and C is wish list.  Remember if everything is A, you will have to pay for the customization, so let go of some point as wish list.  Share the list with the new ERP vendors, and try to match.  Here the trusting the new ERP partner is important that you want the truth.
  2.   Do some business process improvements.  Do not (do not, no this is not a spelling mistake, just to emphasise) automate without improving your existing methods.  Chances are you will automate the mistakes; this means ERP will do mistakes faster.  This exercise is called BPR (business process re-engineering).  All the problems with the existing system are in fact opportunities for improvement.  Ensure that you are aware of the issues, and that the new ERP software system will help resolve them.  Learn more about BPR here  http://www.dnserp.com/b__p__r_.htm.
    Do some BPR before ERP

    Do some BPR before ERP

  3. Stay focused in defining the scope.  Module wise write down master, transactions, and reports.  Again, do ABC analysis of the same.  See sample scope given here http://www.dnserp.com/dns_scope.htm.  FAQ: Can I change the scope?  Ans: Yes, but after discussing with the ERP supplier and before starting to implement.
  4. Select your task force.  Motivate them, yes allocate a budget.  Offer incentive.  Involve key people at the start.  Write important milestones.
  5. Size of the ERP company is not that important, small or big, what is important is how important it is for them to make your ERP a success.
  6. Arrange for a demo with your own inputs and try to match the report – at this stage without customization.  About eighty percent of your requirements should be met.  So prepare your own data to input for the demo run.
  7. Brainstorm with your senior management to identify potential reasons of failure, and take steps to guard the same to reduce risk.
  8. Assign one (or better two) main ERP coordinator/s, dedicated resource/s.  Consult domain expert and other consultants such as tax, ISO, 6-sigma, etc.  Ensure their valuable time is available.  Study http://www.dnserp.com/implement_erp.htm.
  9. While evaluating make sure the implementer/s are also interviewed and their time is committed.
  10. ERP implementer and ERP coordinator team should have project management skill.  Ask ERP vendor to show their track record of other similar size ERP success story, I mean show the document that was used to track ERP project management in the past.

Hope you will find this ERP tips useful and will share with others, by using the social icons given below.  Let us know your comments, add point that we might have missed out, your feed back will be appreciated. 

I lost one hour. Seriously, whole of America did.

At 2 a.m. this morning, clocks moved forward an hour with the shift from standard time to Daylight Savings Time (DST).   This is logical change and not adaptive change. This is logical because everyone is changing their timetable.  For instance, getting up one hour early due to ‘Daylight savings Time’ is logical.  No huge adjustment of life priorities is triggered.  Our body clock can change without much difficulty.  But if you decide to get up one hour early to do meditation or go for swimming is difficult, because it is adaptive change.  In both examples same thing ‘get up one hour early’ is involved.

Using new technology such as Blog is adaptive change.  No matter how hard you try some people are not comfortable using facebook or LinkedIn.  You must have seen the clip that shows expert secretary changing from typewriter to a PC, and throwing monitor, because she is used to do the carriage return.  Or changing from manual system to automatic ERP system is a painful transformation.  Changing from legacy way of marketing and using the digital platforms is not an easy because it requires adaptive change.

Daily we make logical changes.  We use our training to solve routine problems, such as dealing with customer’s negative feedback, or altering action plan when sales target is not achieved.  We do customer survey and make a road map to address the issues.   But note that these examples are pertaining to external changes.

On the other hand adaptive changes are transformative, which compels us to change from inside, in the mind.  We want to reign in our temper because it is affecting our relationships with customers and colleagues, but not matter how hard we try we cannot ‘control’ it.  Our frustration spills over, and now we have to fix the damage.

Anupreksha or the cognitive behavioral therapy is a psychotherapeutic approach, which aims to solve problems concerning dysfunctional emotions, behaviors and cognitions through a goal-oriented, systematic meditation procedure.  There is empirical evidence that this is effective for the treatment of a variety of problems, including mood, anxiety, personality, eating, substance abuse, and psychotic disorders.   We can treat ourselves by a meditation technique; there are treatments for specific psychological disorders.

Only by fixing our inner feelings of frustration can we make an adaptive change.  We could decide to use cognitive behavioral therapy or Anupreksha, or some other method for the internal change.  To make such changes you need to recognize when you are facing an adaptive change, that requires subconscious level of thought and effort.

The real leadership, the kind that surfaces conflict, challenges long-held beliefs, and demands new ways of doing things-causes pain.  When people feel threatened, they take aim at the person pushing for change. As a result, leaders often get hurt both personally and professionally.

(Reference: Leadership on the Line, renowned leadership authorities Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Wikipedia, and Preksha meditation system).

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