Part I: Selecting the ERP & Project Team Assembly
Knowing the comprehensive lifecycle of an Oracle Applications implementation project prepares you for the impact on IT & the organization, and most importantly, prepares you for the change it makes of the way your business operates. Our focus will be on the ERP software selection process and the assembly of the implementation project team.
Phase I: Software Selection Considerations
1) What does the business really want?
Selecting an ERP system begins with understanding not only where the business is today, but where the business is going. One of my favorite quotes from Wayne Gretsky is, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” The system selected needs to support where you are today, but more importantly, needs to be used as a tool to take you where the business needs to go.
Once understood where the business is going, the business partner and IT team need to look at the organization as a whole and what change is acceptable, how much change is acceptable, and who actions the change. Is there a Change Management team from HR? Does the business own the change? Or does the software force the change? A successful project will look at all these aspects during the planning process to ensure there is a roadmap to success.
2) What will it take to support a new system?
In changing the system, the business will need to consider the services required from IT to support a Tier 1 ERP system. All Tier 1 solutions are complex and require servers, network equipment, databases, storage, and client work stations. Comprehensively, the skills required may be more robust than are currently available with the existing IT staff. A resource plan needs to include preparing for the configuration of technology as well as the ownership once implemented. If these skills are not currently existing within the organization, the IT manager must decide if they are skills available for hire, if the team needs to be trained, or should these responsibilities need to be outsourced. There is no correct answer other than all the skills need to be accounted for in order to achieve a successful project.
3) Who in the organization is responsible for support?
Post-production needs, such as support roles, should be addressed before ERP selection as well. There are various roles to support an Oracle Applications environment. Roles including business analysts, business system analysts, developers, system administrators, application database administrators need to be identified. In larger organizations, these may be unique roles. In small organizations, less than $100mm, many of these roles may become just a few positions. To support your new system, a mechanism will be required to capture issues, capture work tasks to resolve, and ultimately a company knowledge base to share solutions.
Once the software selection process has been completed, the next phase in the lifecycle will be the implementation. For the rest of this post, I will speak in the terms of Oracle Applications.
Phase II: Project Team Assembly
1) What skills are required for a successful Oracle Applications Implementation?
Assembly of the project team is very important to the project. Enterprise is imbedded in the acronym of ERP. The new system will impact your organization. That being said, high caliber people are needed to understand what the business does today and where the business wants to go in the future. These resources should be considered “change agents” for the business. The most successful Oracle Application projects are those where the business has complete control and ownership of the system- a system should be customized to the organization’s needs.
Oracle is built for large and small business alike. As such, no two implementations are the same. Many functional areas require decision points on what data and processes are right for the business. It can be easy to say that we want it all, but there needs to be two halves of the commitment: 1) We want it all, and 2) We will support it all. The decision of how many data elements to put into the system must equal the support agreement to own the system. Any Oracle Applications environment will fail if it is not supported. Oracle has imbedded work flows in the modules. which can be strung together to comprehensive work flows, also known as process flows. The resources involved in the project need to be able to understand this entire lifecycle and work through the “Work Flow” or “Process Flows.”
In an Oracle Applications implementation project, the team must always ask themselves, “What can Oracle Applications do for us?” This is typically the mantra of seasoned resources, most likely outside consultants. Like all technology, Oracle changes functionality, user interfaces and more. Many functional resources will be focused in one or two process areas: Financials, Distribution, Procurement, Supply Chain, Manufacturing, Customer Relationship, Human Capital, and Human Resources. Oracle Applications in one form or another have been around since the late 1980’s. These functional focused resources need to collaborate with the business resources to assemble a best in class, best for the business system. A minimum of 10 years of functional experience is widely considered substantial to be considered a “highly skilled consultant.” Skilled resources will be able to support the vision of the balance between what is needed and what can the business support once implemented.
Technical skills are commonly required for Oracle projects in order to support data conversion, interfaces to and from other systems, custom development, and/or report definition. The finite skills required for a technical resource is dependent on the scope. Knowledge of subject matter along with the proper tool skills is important. Different skills are required to load data to the system, develop reports, and develop custom solutions, along with different technical language. Oracle Applications can utilize: Java, PL/SQL, JSP, BPEL, C++, UNIX, and Linux just to name a few. Your technical resource must be well versed with the right tools and language(s) to be successful.
Lastly, an often overlooked skill set is that of an Oracle Project Manager. It is easy to ask for a Project Manager who is certified in Project Management (PMP). It is more difficult to take a project manager without Oracle Applications experience and make them into an Oracle Project Manager. Qualified Oracle Project Managers have years of application experience and have worked with a variety of applications with clients large and small in different business areas. You want to be able to rely on your project manager to tell you what they have seen before, identify alternative solutions, and validate that the business is making the best decision for them.
The lifecycle of an Oracle Applications Implementation Project begins long before and goes well beyond the “go-live” of a project. In knowing first where your business stands and what you expect to gain from the ERP system, and what resources it will take, you can the ERP system based on your business goals.
Read Part II: Oracle Applications Implementation Lifecycle: Requirements Analysis and Mapping the Right Solution