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Plans Change – A New ERP Plan 04/29/2009

Posted by TBoehm30 in ERP.
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The only constant is change. (Isaac Asimov).

So once again we have changed our general approach to this project. We are now going to go big bang at each location. Each of the 4 business units will get both accounting and manufacturing for a single go-live. We are even going to space the go-lives a couple of months apart to give the accountants time to catch up after their first month-end close.

This puts the schedule out to June 2010. While I think that schedule is too long, it makes the whole project possible in the eyes of everyone in control. A positive attitude toward success will work wonders for these people.

This gives plenty of time for initial learning of the system, process modeling, maybe some process improvement, documentation and then training. We will do several Conference Room Pilots to test the system, test our process, and challenge the users. These pilots will be the key to success. If they go well, then we will know that go-live will happen on time. If any of them go poorly, then we will have our tasks mapped out for us on what to fix.

By the time we get to our Dry Run at the end, we should have everything scripted out, our key users trained, the data formatted, and everything ready. The final Dry Run before go-live will give us a chance to test all of our last-minute processes. We will then take a go no-go vote to make sure everyone is confident of success.

The new schedule puts our 1st go-live in September. We only have a few months to be ready for that one. We have started the configuration and setup sessions to begin learning how to setup the system. Soon we will have our first process modeling session. That will give us our first real homework in defining the system. If people can do their assignments and really spend some time thinking about how it will work, then we’ve got a chance at completing on time.

The fourth quarter is out of bounds for go-lives. So is January. Because of the amount of work for closing, end of the year responsibilities, and worries over projects like SOX compliance, we will not go-live during those four months. That means that the number two go-live will be in March. That should be plenty of time to fix all of the ongoing issues with the September go-live and get them up and running on schedule.

The accountants were worried about doing their first close on the new system at the same time as a go-live, so we spaced the go-lives two months apart. The second business unit goes live in February, so the third business unit will go in April. That allows March to be used for the first close.

This plan should lead us to success. It is long enough to accomplish all of the milestones, while short enough to please management. It is not so long that the people will get tired of the project, but long enough to give them time to work on this project and their day jobs. It is important that their day jobs don’t get ignored. Manufacturing products is what pays the bills.

They know that and that it’s a global world out there and Technology makes it happen.

ERP Implementation Plan 03/16/2009

Posted by TBoehm30 in ERP.
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Big Bang or Phased Approach
I firmly believe in the phased in approach to implementing large software systems.

When I was working with HP, it split off part of the company to form Agilent. Part of Agilent got bought by Philips. Suddenly our group had to get off of systems run by HP because we were now competitors. We had no choice but to go big bang. Even then, the project was delayed over a month paying big bucks to HP for the privilege.

Doing everything at once meant that the new system experts were spread very thin. They were needed for all problems spread over multiple departments. If there were problems, it was more difficult to find the root cause because so many different activities were going on. It meant that the new system had to accommodate all of the new users at once, and we could never see how the system looked with fewer people.

The Plan
Now I’ve got to guide the choice on how to implement a new ERP system. The company is going to use it for accounting and manufacturing. There are 4 distinct business units in different cities. I am going to suggest going with accounting first at all locations, and then merge in manufacturing as they are ready. Much of the plan can be done in parallel because the personnel for the different functions are separate.

There are so many questions to answer in creating that plan. How much is the minimum time a phase will take? How many business units can run in parallel? How many people will we need to be systems experts at each location? If we stagger the go-lives, how quickly can we set them up? How much testing is necessary before go-live? How many people will we need for the pilot projects?

We have talked quite a bit about the possibility of running the new system in parallel with the old system. The company has a history of successfully running their upgrades in parallel until they are confident of success. The customer we visited who were already using the new ERP system told us that running parallel was key to their success. My research tells me that running parallel is no longer done.

Running in parallel is where you use both systems for production data during a specified time period. You then compare results from the new system with the old. If they match exactly then you have confidence that you can turn off the old system. If the data doesn’t match, then you have to figure out why. Running parallel is too expensive, too time consuming, and doesn’t add enough value. The results are difficult to compare for different systems. There is too much data to control, where some of the new data wasn’t used in the old or vice versa. Too many people won’t take the new system seriously if they still have the old one to use.

The project plan for the new system will include several ‘conference room pilots’. These are what will replace the process of running in parallel. Hopefully, that will be good enough for this project. It will require serious testing, and significant follow through with any issues.

Next Steps
The project manager from the vendor will be here on Wednesday. I hope that we will be able to setup a timeline then. That is when the interesting stuff begins; because it’s a global world out there and Technology makes it happen.