Most ERP project teams understand the value of functional and integration testing. It’s an important pre-go-live step to ensure the software works according to design specs and that data flows accurately through the system.
Conference room pilots (CRPs) are also critical to addressing several non-technical critical success factors. However, not all implementations fully leverage the value of CRPs to address these areas, which according to our research, is a key contributing factor to ERP implementation failures (click here to read our 2008 Report, which outlines in more detail).
Key Outputs of an ERP Implementation’s Conference Room Pilot
- Business process/workflow definition. CRPs are an ideal time to document detailed business processes and workflows as they will look in the new system. ERP software vendors typically have generic process documentation of how the system works, but it is usually not in the context of the client’s specific processes or presented in a way that users can relate to. Well-defined and documented business processes and workflows are key to communicating and training employees on how the new processes will work. Ideally, this activity should begin during the ERP software selection cycle.
- Business process/workflow gap analysis. In order for employees to understand the new system and processes, it is extremely helpful to relate new business workflows to the old way of doing things. Legacy systems typically create habits and understandings that are deeply embedded within the organization, so it is important to highlight the specific ways old processes will change relative to the new. Changes range from simple terminology differences in the new system (example: calling something a job order vs. a work order) to major process changes (example: POs require electronic approval before processing).
- Organizational change and impact analysis. Once processes and gaps have been defined during CRPs, the ERP implementation team should define how each major department/workgroup will be affected by the process and system changes. Once defined, these changes should be communicated to employees well before end-user training begins to help them assimilate and gain comfort with the changes. This is a key component of an effective ERP organizational change management plan.
These areas are often overlooked in the CRP and testing process, but they are arguably just as or more important than the technical focus of most testing activities. As we remind our clients, ERP implementation challenges are less about technology and more about process and organizational change management issues. Factoring the three areas above into your ERP implementation activities will help address these critical success factors.