Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ERP Life Cycle?

The lifecycle of an ERP implementation begins with the understanding of the critical goals and objectives of the business enterprises in running of the businesses and focusing on the process of streamlining the business processes which are being planned to get integrated technologically.
To start with, while building the Business Case or the Business blueprint, the first focus that is needed, before the initiation of the ERP project is to analyze what the project will be trying to accomplish and at what cost, using what resource in time, money and man efforts, besides also working on the ROI (Return on Investment) details and a communication plan for all strata of the users involved in the implementation that include the Top management , operational management, all the staff members at all levels in an organization who would be the users , stakeholders, sponsors etc.An other very important initial activity involved in the ERP implementations is the designing of the information system for a business, which is an important role of an System Enterprise Architect because unless the requirements are not defined in advance and well understood, the result could be fiasco because the goal of the ERP is application of the technology to what is right for the business and not what are the technology tools that are involved in designing an ERP.
Another salient aspect to be considered in ERP project lifecycle is the prototype based training session with the users which ought to involve the actual business enterprise data in a test environment to simulate the ERP package software running the business. This implies the loading of actual operational data such as bills-of-materials, routings, business partners, customers, suppliers, etc. into a test environment for simulation with the ERP software. This approach provides the business user with an exact look and feel of the information as well as the user interfaces that is used in the business operations and system design respectively and also facilitates to trace the gaps in the business processes. The testing of business processes along with the ERP implementation can plug lot of gaps simultaneously in the development phase.
Normally, a popular approach before ERP implementation is to have a trial run of the existing business processes or pre defined business processes through the new system in a simulated environment using the actual data of the business enterprise. This process is often referred to as the Conference Room Pilot (CRP) and is normally is designed to be the final verification that the new system is set-up correctly to function in the live business environment.
The normal lifecycle of an ERP Implementation Project shall consist of the following milestones:
1. Business Process Study: Regular interactions with the client grow in order to understand the various business processes and the way they are presently carried out.
Setting the objectives of ERP implementation; setting the expectation of the client
2. Pre-Implementation Training: A pre-implementation training, detailing the concepts and features, shall be given to all the end-users at the client site. This shall improve the lead time in collecting the inputs for the preparation of specifications. I don't think this activity will take place in normal ERP implementation life cycle stages.
3. Requirement Analysis: The requirements of the client are collected, using the SRS (Software Requirements Specification) form, to further the process study.
4. GAP Analysis: In relation to Information Technology, this analysis points out the differences or gaps that exist between the standard capabilities of the desired system & the expectations of the client. The deliverable is a GAP Report.
In order to get maximum benefit out of the ERP processes must be re-engineered and then mapped with the redesigned processes
5. BMR (Business Mapping Report): This follow-up of the GAP Analysis should address the identified solution(s) for the gap areas.
5a. Master Data preparation and management: This is perhaps most ill-treated activity which ultimately leads to delays if not addressed at early stages of the project planning. A team must look after these before and after the project to ensure accuracy in master data as this may lead to erroneous results causing panics after Go Live.
6. Project Plan: This milestone shall set the actual plan for execution and roll out for the roles and task allocations.
7. Installation of Software: The Vanilla installation of the complete software should now be carried out to ascertain the infrastructure preparedness at the client site.
8. Customization of Forms & Reports: The Client's requirement as to the customization of forms (user interfaces) and reports (existing as well as new requirements) are addressed here.
The system must be tested for complete processes and each type of transactions so as to check its robustness.
9. Migration of Historical Data: Beyond the opening balance incorporation, if the client desires to bring the historical data, this step will be required to plan the conversion and clean up - prepare the data for the new environment.
10. Design of Routines & Workarounds: Though this is not a milestone, the additional routine and workaround requirements (as identified in the GAP & BMR) shall be addressed through this step.
11. Setup & Configuration: The new environment shall be setup based on the SRS and the software shall be configured (on different deployment methods) fully.
12. Testing Environment: A testing environment (a simulation of the live environment) shall be created in the new software to enable the end-users to acquaint and equip themselves for beginning in the live environment.
13. End-User Training: The next milestone shall be giving training to the end-users on the setup, configuration, transaction processing and report generation. This shall be the post-implementation training phase.
14. System Walk-Through: This milestone requires entry of sample transactions by the end-users in the testing environment.
15. Go Live: This is the Sign-Off phase where the project gets implemented.
16. Post Implementation Support: An immediate support commitment, subsequent to the implementation, and the detailed modes of support, etc., are given to the client.

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