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Healthy ERP requirements’ gathering begins with knowledge.

The task at hand is huge. It is a real challenge to keep it from getting obese and over-inflated. Don’t be the “Biggest Loser”. Remember you are looking at your ERP in order to get in shape, sprint to the finish line, and raise the checkered flag!

Follow this set of rules to help guide you along the path to simplifying the development of your ERP requirements.

  1. Gather people that have down and dirty knowledge about how functions are handled today. This person is not always the manager. Seek those that handle everyday workloads. The acronym SME should not be taken lightly. A Subject Matter Expert is just that, someone who understands the good, the bad and the ugly things about their job.
  2. Attempt to solicit the help of SME’s that have an excellent knowledge of the inputs and outputs of their work and their departments. Find those that have a broad knowledge of functional business processes. Find gatherers who see the exercise as important to the company and their own productivity.
  3. Be sure to let your representatives know that their input is valuable. Reward them. It is amazing how far a good catered lunch can go!
  4. Gather them all together in one room. Appoint someone to lead the group in open discussion. It will be a painstaking process, but building lists of requirements requires listeners. Try organizing it as a Day in the Life first, and then move on to the areas that need more discovery. An assembled group will keep you from recording ERP requirements that are repetitive. It also helps to garner the perspective of different people with the same inherent issues. Foster teamwork within the group, and never create an atmosphere of competition. Everyone’s input should be treated equally.
  5. Have at least two scribes in the room, just to be sure all the comments are on paper. The scribes should be un-involved with the discussions, so that they are focused on the task at hand.
  6. Document your current process flows, no matter how rudimentary they may seem. Your partners, moving forward, need to understand how you do business today. Those documents will also serve as the base for reviewing your process improvements later on in the ERP project.
  7. Identify areas for improvement. Prioritize them by choosing those that are going to give you the greatest productivity gains, and the biggest bang for the buck.
  8. Drop the requirements that are more “whining” than substance. Drop the requirements that are entirely mundane. Just because a process is manual does not mean it is the most important to fix.
  9. Put numbers to the needs. Is it a process that you do 1% of the time, or does it represent 80% of your customer requirements or the daily workflow? Ask…does the software need to provide this functionality, or should it still be done manually? This should help you to scrub the data, making sure that the focus for new software is relevant and necessary.
  10. Reconvene the group. Make sure they validate what you put on paper is what them meant. Let them know there services will be required later on in the process. Keep them focused throughout the project.
  11. Finally, the list should clarify where process improvement is needed, where improved integration will yield measurable enhancements to your business.

Then stay involved! Don’t become a couch potato. And don’t second-guess the inputs. Clarify and document!

The process can be daunting. Select a business partner that has extensive experience in ERP requirements gathering. It is not a process for the un-initiated, or a part timer. We encourage you to contact Panorama Consulting Group. We have the tools, the expertise and the experience to pull it all together!

Blog entry written by Jeanne Hedman, an ERP Consultant at Panorama Consulting Group.

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