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ERP Mini-pilots: How to implement an ERP system 08/07/2009

Posted by TBoehm30 in ERP.
Tags: , , , ,

One of the keys to success in a new software system implementation is to get everyone familiar with the system in advance of go-live. If someone is learning the system on the first day, then that is too late for them. The users of the system need time in advance to play with the system, to experiment with different methods, and to become familiar with using the software.

Now is the time on my current project when everyone should be doing mini-pilots. They should be working on their own with the new ERP system. The accountants are changing the accounting parameters to see the repercussions of certain actions. They are trying out processes such as invoicing, accounts payable, and accounts receivable. They then check the journal entries to validate the accuracy of the transactions. They are cutting checks and running reports.

The people who are in charge of manufacturing are trying out the MRP system. They are creating work orders, purchase orders, and receiving inventory. They are inventing routings, BOMS, and work centers. They are checking that the cost rollups work correctly. The manufacturing processes must work smoothly on day one because that is the way the company makes money. Without a clean manufacturing process implementation, the project won’t be declared a success.

A big ERP system has hundreds or thousands of parameters that can change the way that the software behaves. Accounting needs to make sure that each activity is tracked in the correct account. Since the system is flexible enough to handle dozens of different types of processes, the accounting codes are determined by a very complicated setup linking products, customers, account types, and account codes. The parameters have to all be right, and now is the time to make sure they are set correctly.

No detail is too small to test. When a sales order is created, turned into a work order, then invoiced, and paid, we will need reports all the way through the process. Each report has to be carefully studied to validate the data. Any time a major parameter is changed, the whole process should be repeated.

Purchase orders, or purchase requests, have an approval process that needs to be setup and tested. Security has to be in place – or at least planned – so that people can’t be making changes that affect the rest of the company. Knowledge has to be shared so that parameters aren’t changed and then changed back without everyone knowing.

Everyone is working hard to learn the new system. There are literally hundreds of parameters and setup features that they are looking at. Can the users receive more product than originally ordered? Can users pay out a different amount than was on the original PO? Are users allowed to run batch processes?

Every screen has to be tested and validated. Any time a screen doesn’t behave as expected, the parameters are checked and changed to fix the problem. That means going back to the beginning again and verifying that the parameter change didn’t alter the original behavior of other transactions.

We also learn more about the system every time something doesn’t work as expected. We dig into the details to figure out the answer. If we figure it out ourselves, it is a success that won’t be easily forgotten. If we need help from the vendor, then they usually give a great summary of related issues.

This time period is a very unstructured time. Everyone is working on their own, doing their own thing. We won’t know how much real work they have put in, until the next meeting where we go over the system. I haven’t given them a schedule like I have for the Conference Room Pilots. Since I am working with responsible, hard-working people, I know that they will figure it out.

The time to do Mini-Pilots needs to be long enough (more than a week) to allow people to get a good feeling for the software. It also needs to be short enough (less than 6 weeks) so that people feel the pressure to work hard. If the time is too long, then people will tend to procrastinate thinking they have plenty of time.

As the consultant driving the implementation, I have been trying to meet with people to get their impressions. I have worked with people on different functional areas to help them understand the software. I have been inserting myself into their daily routine so that they won’t forget about the project.

I think it is working, because people are starting to get nervous. They are working even harder knowing that the go-live is getting closer.

This is great because we all know that it’s a global world out there and Technology makes it happen.



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3. Debt - 09/02/2009

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