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An ERP experience that forever changed my IT philosophy

 

Agile ERP experience prompts new vow

But, how best to pretty much start over with an ERP while proving that a zero-customizations ERP will actually support the business? That is when we came up with the idea of the Agile ERP (and, yes, I am going to trademark that term).

Agile practices break projects into time-boxed, scope-limited iterations. I have found that one of the most important agile practices is to end each iteration with a demonstration of working software. We decided to apply this concept to our ERP and use the end-of-iteration demonstration to show that a zero-customizations configuration would actually work. We would invite critical stakeholders to the demonstration so that they could see a working process and system.

For the past year, this is what we have done. We created a backlog of higher-level objectives tied to our major horizontal processes (order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, planning-to-production, et cetera). We chose an iteration length of three weeks. At the beginning of each iteration, we determined what configuration items (remember, we don’t allow customizations) we could get done in the next three weeks. At the end of the iteration, we showed a working, functional system that the process owners could start to use in our ERP sandbox.

Every three weeks, the number of doubters decreased. We are now done and are operating the new ERP in parallel with our legacy ERP while we transition data and clients to the new ERP.

This Agile approach to ERP has worked so incredibly well that, in addition to segregating every activity into Category A (deserves innovation because it creates competitive advantage) or B (mission critical, but will never create competitive advantage and so does not deserve innovation or customization) and to keeping my vow to never customize anything in the digital core, I am committing to take an Agile, iterative approach to everything.

If I ever again implement ERP, it will be Agile ERP. The next time I put in a CRM system, it will be Agile CRM. My next network or phone system upgrade will be Agile Phone or Agile Network. That means I will do things in short, time-boxed, prioritized iterations that reflect my categories and my vows.

 

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