Creating an Implementation Methodology for Your ERP

There are many generic articles available on the internet today on ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) Implementation Methodologies. This is not one of them. In this article, we provide a high-level but specific review of how knk Software approaches ERP implementations, based on years of experience of planning and conducting implementations in publishing houses. 

Most articles attempt to pigeon-hole the recommended methodology into one of several well-known strategies such as a Phased Approach, Big-Bang, Parallel Run, or Conference Room Pilot methods. They also introduce the terms of “Agile” and “Waterfall” project management strategies. All these approaches will work depending on the company and circumstances. We have developed our own approach which, as a guide to the reader, we can summarize as an “agile” strategy, using a phased approach. 

Let us first briefly eliminate the methods we do not recommend. ERP implementations are complex affairs that often take more than 12 months, conducted while the company, by necessity, continues to operate its business. That means that the situation is not at all static, even though we would like it to be. That is the primary reason we rarely recommend the “Big Bang” approach, where typically all business functions go live at one time and consequently the risks are high, if only because business changes continue during implementation. We do not recommend parallel runs, which place too much stress on employees to run two systems at once for an extended period. And the conference room pilot approach demands skills and knowledge of the “to-be” system on the part of the user group that are just not there at the time. 

Phased Approach 

We prefer a phased approach, using an agile project management technique. It lends itself to the publishing industry that we serve (for reasons that we will describe later), puts less strain on the users, and can be achieved even though the ERP system in question is an integrated solution with a central data repository. 

So how do we do this and why is it recommended? 

Assume for a moment that you have selected your project team, that use-cases have been defined during the system selection process, and that you have developed a budget in conjunction with the selected vendor. On that subject, knk develops a detailed project plan and budget with each client before license contracts are exchanged, following detailed workshops (that should not be confused with software demonstrations). In this way, the client gets a more realistic estimate of the project scope, costs, and duration, before making any commitments. We have written elsewhere about how to build the project team but suffice it to say here that it should comprise representatives from all key stakeholder departments and should be led by someone from a business function that stands to gain the most from the new system – and someone that knows the current system well.  

Data Mapping

The first step is to begin data mapping – even before the software is configured and loaded. The reason for this is that data mapping and migration is a lengthy process, performed several times, and so the earlier you start, the better. The second reason is that key-user training is better done using the user company’s own data and so if, at least, the master files are loaded prior to training, then the whole training process will be far more successful. 

Use-Case Summaries

Having defined all your use-cases during the RFP (Request For Proposal) and selection process, it is useful now to summarize each use-case definition into one-line headings. This is to help the trainers easily view the content of all the user training sessions, and to make sure they cover all the key workflows. 

Key User Training 

Now you can load and configure the software and begin the user training program, which is focused on the Key User team (using a train-the-trainer approach). This process includes showing the team the system operation, rules, set-up, and configuration, and specific training on all the core modules. 

Most clients choose a phased implementation and go-live of the system. This often follows the sequence of financials, then distribution, followed by royalties and rights later – mostly because many publishers pay royalties on a three- or six-month cycle, and so spreading the implementation of royalties until later, for example, eases the burden on the project team and thus lowers the overall project risk. 

End User Training 

When all the Key User training has been completed, you are ready to begin end-user training – performed by the Key Users. By this time, the project team can define any necessary customization and, if not already begun, define in detail the interfaces to third-party systems and how they should be executed. Customization can often be made by using the inbuilt configuration capabilities in the software, but occasionally adaptations must be made and now they can be designed, and their implementation planned. It is important to emphasize that any customization should be kept to an absolute minimum and financially justified over the life of the system.  

User Acceptance Testing 

When the user training programs are completed, you are ready for UAT (User Acceptance Testing), assuming the data migration program is well advanced and understood. Data is migrated over (again) using the latest mappings of “as-is” and “to-be” files and the migration programs that you have developed. It is important to document the final use cases as adjusted, tested and approved at the culmination of UATs. 

Final Data Migration and Go-Live

When all users are fully trained, most clients are ready to define and agree Service Level Agreements for post-implementation support, and now the final preparations are made for the last data migration run prior to go-live, in phases – as much as phasing the implementation is possible with an integrated system. The project is not closed until approved by the Steering Committee, all metrics confirm stability, and events such as month-end routines are accomplished without incident. And after go-live, you need to continuously measure value and efficiency and adjust when necessary. 


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