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Software project success grounded in strategy

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Software that is designed to direct business operations – ERP software – has earned a bad rap as an expensive and drawn-out exercise that often does not live up to expectations.
This is because software selection gets more attention than business strategy formulation, according to Hein Pretorius of Onpro Consulting.
“The most important question to ask – even before contacting potential ERP vendors for proposals – is: Do you really understand the limitations in your business that need to be diminished with the new technology?” says Pretorius.
“Defining the business purpose before initiating the software selection process is a powerful, sure-fire way to deliver a project that will hold real value to the business.”
Pretorius strongly advises against the typical ERP selection and implementation process that follows a route of software selection first, followed by vendor and implementation partner selection, then followed swiftly by implementation based on “cookie cutter” project plans.
It may seem tempting to follow the implementation route recommended by a service provider with extensive experience, but business owners and/or directors need to remember that the responsibility of sustained business performance remains their own.
It is therefore even more important to ensure that all parties involved in various stages of the ERP software project are fully aware of the business purpose that should guide all decisions made during the project.
Pretorius recommends 10 questions that can help those planning to spend a significant amount of resources on new software to determine the true business purpose:
* What is limiting your business’ growth and competitiveness?
* What behaviours and rules gave rise to the existence of these business limitations?
* How are you planning to overcome these business limitations with the investment in the ERP solution?
* How up to date and accurate are the current business processes, business rules, and data models?
* What are the new rules and behaviours needed to take the business forward?
* How must the new software support the new rules and behaviours?
* Who are the most important stakeholders both inside and outside the business?
* How will you ensure that all identified stakeholders are consulted, collaborated with, informed, involved, and empowered throughout the project?
* What impact will the new software have on the business and its people?
* What have you done to determine whether the business is ready for the project?
“The combination of these ten answers is the business purpose of the project; the core of what the entire project should be based on,” says Pretorius. “The success of the software project should be measured against the business purpose, not merely against time, budget, and a checklist of deliverables.
“This is the only way ERP and other enterprise software will move away from being treated as mere software implementations towards playing a key part in enhancing the competitiveness of any business.”
A final recommendation from Pretorius is to select a software vendor and implementation partner based on how much effort they make to understand the client’s business purpose, not based purely on how many previous implementations they purport to have successfully delivered.
For companies planning to implement an ERP system, Onpro Consulting offers a coaching workshop that is aimed at ensuring that the company extracts as much business value from the ERP environment as possible.