One challenge that often arises during any technology project—they may entail new system installations such as the launch of an ERP platform, or a migration from a legacy system to something with updated functionality—is the need to reevaluate existing business processes and determine how they’ll be affected by your planned implementation. New technologies don’t always fit cleanly into the status quo, leaving the company with questions about the best way to proceed. Should existing business processes be updated so they work more effectively with the vanilla version of your new system? Or does it make more sense to work with your technology partner to customize the implementation so it matches the way you’re doing things now?
These are big questions. Without clear answers, they will become a source of confusion for the project team and could significantly delay or even derail your technology project. Consider the options and where each might suit your team’s needs.
Making the Technology Fit Your Operations
While this seems to be the simplest route in the beginning, it creates some difficult obstacles. Different stakeholders will have different needs. Just getting all of the platform’s users to agree on the type of customization they want could prove time consuming and problematic. There might also be additional infrastructure changes or updates required later to enable a set of features you hadn’t originally planned to support. One of the biggest risks technology projects face is that an ERP implementation or other system installation could become mired in a never-ending series of customization. This not only greatly reduces the productivity and other benefits the project was expected to deliver, it also consumes a huge amount of resources as the team continues to chase that “perfect” configuration.
Changing Your Business Processes to Take Advantage of the New System
In many cases, it’s more efficient in the long run to revisit existing processes and workflows and improve them to make better use of the new technology. Are you doing things manually now that will become redundant or unnecessary once the system is installed? Is there a way to leverage the platform’s features to eliminate or further streamline today’s tasks? Internal functions can usually be tackled on a per-department basis (and undone—even partially—if they prove unproductive). This gives each user group more flexibility to determine exactly what kind of workflow makes the most sense for them. You’ll still need to put some structure around the anticipated changes and how they’ll be rolled out, but revising business processes is often a more straightforward undertaking.
Though each option has its pros and cons, the riskiest approach by far is to delay the decision until the project is underway. You’ll waste time and money if you charge ahead without a clear idea of where you’re going. The team will consume its resources determining the project’s scope rather than making genuine progress, and the implementation time-frame will quickly slip behind schedule.
Keep your technology project on the path to success by outlining the issues—and potential solutions—up front. This will enable you to chart a path forward and make important decisions before you commit time and resources to the project. It’s a good idea to engage a skilled facilitator, whose experience will be an asset in helping to clarify concerns, opportunities, and future needs. With that information in hand, you can clearly define your technology project and move ahead. You will have removed the turmoil of indecision, allowing the team to accurately estimate and manage resource needs, set timing expectations, develop funding requirements, and schedule their activities using a single master plan.