We value children’s stories because great morals come wrapped in fun illustrations and catchy prose. In Laura Numeroff’s classic, the children in the story adopt a mouse, and the mouse’s asks swing from a cookie, to a total house clean, and then to a cookie again. The enduring lesson of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is that there is always the potential to ask for more. What’s nice about memorable morals is how applicable they are to all types of circumstances, from establishing healthy boundaries to avoiding ERP scope creep of a project.Consider this: a third of manufacturers and distributors only achieved partial success in their ERP project (Mint Jutras, 2019). So why do companies risk implementing ERP? They do it for the same reason you renovate your house or tune your car: the value of what you own goes up when properly cared for. A well-implemented ERP yields smoother operations, happier employees, and accurate information for decision making. But like any new addition to your company, it pays to establish a proper project scope so that the cost does not exceed the benefits. Here are a couple of ways to avoid ERP scope creep when implementing, and when to know more is necessary:
Tip 1: Understand what you’re willing to pay for
It seems easy, knowing what you can afford and what you can’t, but just because you can ask for something, doesn’t mean you should. When you start, don’t let people throw numbers at you. Begin by distilling your true requirements. Separate them from your nice-to-haves, then start shopping for the product AND the people that fit those requirements.
Knowing (and keeping) your requirements front of mind stops you from buying a solution that’s too big for your company. Believe it or not, it’s very possible to over-purchase software. There’s a difference between nimble ERPs that flex to accommodate the growth of small/mid-sized companies, and then there are ERPs that are more static and used to help Fortune 500s balance global manufacturing and distribution needs. If you don’t have years and millions of dollars to invest in a global ERP software, the bigger software’s not a worthy investment. So rather than being sold up, remember your needs and be specific about what you don’t need.
Aside from the size of the solution, you’ll also want to consider the price of services in an implementation. This typically depends on the level of ERP knowledge currently in your company. Do you require more service hours that provide more consultant-led work upfront followed by training that will allow you to use the system independently? Or would you prefer a flat fee implementation that will give you the basics and it’s on you to learn and execute? Be sure to consider the bandwidth and expertise of the team tasked to manage the end result. Knowing where they are on this spectrum will get you the level of services you need, not just what you can afford.
Tip 2: Leverage your employee’s knowledge
When gathering requirements, know what’s truly important to your employees. They alone have the most detailed understanding of their process. Meet with them in person if possible. Get into the granular details of their job (i.e., are they shipping orders via manual entry? How are they processing goods, logging them in the system, and then sending them out? Why do they do it this way?). When you account for all these details, you don’t just get a temporary fix or a workaround from a software partner, you get a true solution that solves problems without creating more.
It’s also important to ensure the right team members are included in the decisions you make with your software partner. In the middle of user acceptance testing or a go-live, someone will bring up an issue that requires change. Sometimes they weren’t involved earlier, or perhaps they forgot. Remember, this is a human process, so don’t let this oversight surprise you. It happens, and your consultant (if they’re worth their salt) will adjust.
Tip 3: Recognize when more is necessary
“Because you’ve always done it that way” is not a valid reason to continue business as usual. With new processes come opportunities to change. The way you determine whether it’s necessary is about understanding the value of the change. A good rule of thumb is to ask the following question: is the efficiency valuable enough to justify the spend? For example, creating a shortcut that moves raw materials and eliminates multiple clicks might not be worth it in a process that’s performed a few times a day. However, if it’s a thirty-second process that takes place 100 times a day, that’s a change that could save valuable time and dollars.
Tip 4: Appoint a budget gatekeeper
If/when someone decides to make a change that impacts the budget, everyone should know who’s in charge. A single person should have responsibility to keep the project on time and on budget – they should also have the authority to approve or a deny a request. If there’s a disagreement, know where to take the conversation next so that’s addressed in a timely fashion.
If a change goes through a vetting process and has passed through the right users, a change order will be made on the consultant side to adjust for additional time or materials, and the new statement of work will be re-signed by all. This process can take time but prevents the unwelcome ERP scope creep. Re-visiting the budget with the right stakeholders ensures everyone is on the same page when it comes to the costs spent and the value received.
The moral of the story is in projects like software implementation where there’s always potential to ask for more. Sometimes you need more, sometimes you don’t. When you give employees the opportunity to participate before the work begins and as it progresses, their asks are properly weighed against the costs and benefits. If employees are part of this process, they’re more likely to approve of the change and use the software in the way it’s intended. With these tips, you can avoid the antics of a failed implementation and ERP scope creep, and get the solution you need.
Want more guidance on refining your requirements? Go over your specific needs with an expert and contact us.
Dan Milani is the Silverware Practice Manager for Dynamics 365. He enjoys trail-running in Arizona and spending time with his golden retriever, Molly.
Learn more about the Silverware Team here.