Our headline is a tad misleading because, while the specifics concern Microsoft Dynamics NAV, one of the world’s leading ERP and business management software systems, the principles of the article could be applied to virtually any software system implementation. This one just happened to be NAV, because that’s what the consultant, a London-based freelancer by the name of Hannes Holst, implemented when he wrote the article. (it’s our firm’s specialty as well, by way of full disclosure.)
In that project, Holst was tasked with replacing an existing ERP system with Dynamics NAV, and the plan was to do it on time and on budget – or under. And they succeeded. The three critical factors, in Holst’s retrospective were…
- Know what the business wants. In our own process at our firm, we label this the business process analysis, but call it what you will, you have to scope the requirements. It’s the roadmap for all that follows. It’s a serious (and yes, billable) engagement requiring both parties’ key staff to engage deeply in thinking about the client’s company, processes and goals. Then, a roadmap is constructed that involves what, where, when, how and who, and guides the entire project team so they understand the goals, benchmarks and processes of that implementation
- Utilize the Dynamics NAV standard. NAV has been developed continuously for well over twenty years now, and covers all the functionality most any business could need today. Standardized functionality has been applied all up and down the accounting workflow in NAV, and it works across many industries. (While we specialize here in manufacturing and distribution, it’s equally adept at retail, service and many others.) So wherever possible, Holst advises, align the business processes with the software. This makes projects simpler, quicker and more agile. Users can start working in some areas very quickly, as other pieces get added later. (There are some caveats in this regard, but the advice is generally true.) Finally, assess customizations in terms of impact to the company, which includes an overarching need, the budget, the need to continually maintain those modifications into the future, and the value of their overall ROI. And when you do customize, wait a while, and then prioritize those “mods” from high to low when you determine which are truly needed.
- Hire an internal NAV expert. You can’t always do this of course, but you can have your most knowledgeable expert on the company’s inner-workings coordinating the project on the client side with the project leader from the consultant’s side. A lot of issues can be resolved quickly when you have process- and software-knowledgeable participants on both sides of that support call. That internal resource at the client side has a lot to do with landing your project on-time and/or on-budget. They can recognize problems early on, unsnag project logjams, warn of impending potential pitfalls, and keep client-side implementers on-task and moving forward. Your whole implementation benefits from the insights an internal expert can bring to bear, and having voices on both sides of the project management spectrum helps ensure that projects are kept honest, flowing, cooperative and, ultimately, successful.
Holst’s full, brief article can be found here (you have to join the forum, but it’s free):