Taking the Functionality Out of ERP Selection and Implementation Decisions

Does using this model solve all of life’s problems? Not by a long shot. However, it does help properly frame the criteria we can use to make decisions that optimize business value.

One final non-ERP example. A software company had planned its next major upgrade. Its product managers and software development managers had mapped out the functional specifications for the new version. The specs included more than 3000 function points and a timeline of over a year. The CEO of the software company was concerned about the risks associated with a project this large and so asked me to conduct a risk assessment. All I needed to hear was “3000 function points and more than a year” to know that the project was high risk. I introduced the model and we agreed on the decision filters that would help us identify the Differentiating functionality. We then mapped the function points onto the model. There were about 350 Differentiating function points with most of rest being Parity function points (although, to be honest, we found a few Who Cares function points). Knowing which functionality would truly differentiate the company in the marketplace and which functionality needed to be “good enough” we re-planned the project. We anticipated creative designs to the Differentiating functionality. We agreed to not over-design the Parity functionality and explore re-use of existing code, where possible. The result of using the model to define functional design was a better product (the Differentiating functionality was truly superior) at a much lower cost and shorter timeline. Simplifying the design and development of almost 90% of the code was a significant cost and time benefit.

Finally, a few caveats. Using this model shifts the work of a project from systems to people. This model assumes that humans can adapt to streamlined, simplified, standardized business rules and processes. To be honest, some humans have an easier time of this than others. Also, it is critically important to stress the mission critical nature of the Parity activities (and those that perform the Parity activities). These activities and people are essential to our success. However, their importance does not come from their uniqueness. Rather, from their operational excellence.

Niel Nickolaisen is the CIO and Director of Strategic Planning at Headwaters, Inc. and the author of “Stand Back and Deliver: Accelerating Business Agility”.

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