In this brief, two-part post, we’ll look at the commonly accepted process steps for answering the question in our title. While there are many formats and variations on this process, there are essentially about six key steps a company can take to gain clarity on whether to upgrade, purchase new, or stand pat.
The first step is preparation: This is the information gathering phase where you define the internal skills and staff required to staff the process. You’re doing this, presumably, because you question the utility or capabilities or robustness of whatever system you’re using today. So you’re about to engage, possibly, in some real transformation. Therefore, you want to look for a few thought leaders in the company who can help you map out what you’ll need in the future – and whether that will come from what you have, or require something new.
Here you want to identify the purpose of your assessment, and try to gather your subject matter experts. How well can you identify and map your current business processes, in each department? Do the participants have some ideas about what the future processes might look like? Once you have an internal team established, and you’ve asked some of these questions, then consider bringing in the external subject matter experts. These are typically folks who do this kind of thing for a living. Fellow business people (owners, managers and grizzled veterans) are good referral sources.
Be sure you investigate and document your KPIs (key performance indicators) – those few key business benchmarks that you rely upon to determine the overall health of your business. Try to begin to map your business processes at least at a high level, to share with the consultant you later engage.
Step two: Review your processes and requirements. You want to identify, at least at a high level, the key requirements you require of a business management system, regardless of whether you’re inclined to keep or replace. The business process review will largely define the scope of your ERP requirements, and serves as a tool in your selection process.
(At our firm, we use the term Business Process Analysis, or BPA, to describe a process for identifying workflows, mapping processes, identifying key technology touch-points, mapping current and possible future process flows, and ultimately creating a written Summary of Recommendations that serves as the “roadmap” for most of what comes after.)
Step Three: Perform a fit/gap analysis. Just like it sounds, in this step you identify the gaps in your current methods or system between your business requirements and what you have today. Reporting is often one key area. Often, entire swaths of the business are untouched by the current system if the required technology simply wasn’t available when the system was implemented. We often find this in the manufacturing/shop floor and warehousing/distribution realm. Technology exists today that was uncommon ten or twenty years ago that allows companies to better manage product configuration, production and movement within the plant. These technologies open up vast areas for process improvements and cost reductions across the board – and they simply didn’t exist (at least in economical form) a decade or two ago. The fit/gap analysis is intended to identify all these shortcomings, and offer suggestions (including possible software selections) for how to fill them.
In our concluding (next) post, we’ll take a look at the final three steps. Stay tuned…