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Agile Implementations

What is Agile Methodology?

Agile Methodology is an approach to project management, originally used in software development. It was developed to help respond to the unpredictability of projects through incremental, iterative work cadences, known as sprints. Agile methodology attempts to delay decisions to the latest point of time that does not affect total time of the project. This provides many opportunities to assess the direction of a project throughout the lifecycle. This is achieved through regular cadences of work, known as sprints or iterations, at the end of which teams have to present finished product that provides incremental value. In contrast with “waterfall” methodology agile work cycle can be described as “iterative” and “incremental” with focus on providing maximized “value” to the project at each iteration at earliest possible time.  The results of this “inspect-and-adapt” approach to implementation greatly reduce development time, maximize value of the product and reduce negative Cash Flow.

What is wrong with “Waterfall” ERP Implementation?

“Waterfall” methodology starts with comprehensive need analysis that takes 4 to 8 weeks and produces a “Functional Requirements Document” (FRD) that becomes the basis for future implementation contract. This looks like a very logical approach that defines the boundaries of the project, allows the contractor to make reasonably accurate estimates and gives a customer an idea of what they are buying. So why over 65% of projects go over budget and over 90% take substantially longer to implement?

First - most businesses are quite complex. They build their own ways to operate, sometimes because it is “Best Practice”, sometimes because it is “Necessity” enforced by customers or vendors or government, sometimes because it is “Archaic” and they just do not know how to do it better or their current system does not allow working differently. In few weeks of needs assessment it is practically impossible to look at every aspect of the business and make definitive determination of what is “Best Practice” or “Necessity” or “Archaic”. Several things can go wrong: “Best Practice” will not get into FRD and company will lose value; “Archaic” function will be recorded in FRD leading to wasted time and recourses; “Necessity” will not find its way to the FRD leading to change in scope and thus increasing the time and cost of the project in the future.

Second – in most cases the needs assessment is a “one way” process. The contracting company is trying to understand the business process and requirements of the client.  It is not enough time to present “different ways of doing business” that are native in the new ERP system. This would involve training of the customer on the new system and this is not normally in the scope of the needs assessment. This could lead to the unnecessary development, wasting time and recourses.

Last (but not least) – business is constantly changing.  An average size implementation project takes 6 to 12 month to get completed after the needs assessment (and FRD document). During this time the company can be engaged in new businesses, new regulations can be enforced or new people get hired who will bring new practices and new ways of improving operations. All these factors will unavoidably change the scope and size of the project. 

Is it possible to make reasonably accurate project plan in the environment with so many variables? Since over 90% of project takes substantially longer to implement, statistics show that the answer to this question is NO. Why should we do something that is impossible? There has to be another way.  

Lean vs. Agile Principles

Lean means “eliminating waste”. Agile and Lean are very closely related but there is a slight difference: agile focuses on shortening work cycles and focusing on the activities that provide most value; lean focuses on eliminating “waste” from activities and by doing so shortening work cycles.  We have applied lean principals to the “waterfall” methodology and combined it with agile development methodology and as a result we are offering “Agile Implementation Methodology” that consists of:

Agile System Selection focuses on finding optimal base system for the company by combining a high-end ERP system with a proper vertical and horizontal solutions. It starts with very short 1 or 2 days operations review. During the system selection process we will present a solution for your company that will fit your operations with minimal or no modifications. Proposed system has to provide QUANTIFIABLE VALUE with minimal or no modifications. We have selected Microsoft Dynamics NAV system because of the wealth of standard features and availability of proven vertical solutions for almost any industry. Over 50000 companies are using the system over the world and this is the fastest growing ERP solution in Microsoft Dynamics family. Dynamics NAV is flexible and easily customizable ERP system perfectly suitable for Agile Methodology.

Agile Base System Implementation focuses on implementing base system in shortest possible time. We commit to delivering system releases multiple times a week with continued evaluation of company operations. We are combining detailed needs analysis within development iterations and throughout pilot projects with user training. At this point only requirements that are identified as “absolute necessity” will be included into the project. All other requirements will be documented and placed into “Improvement Wish List” for future releases. 

Agile Continued Improvement focuses on providing incremental system releases with maximum value to the company. We will continue to analyze your business and propose improvements. “Improvements Wish List” will be prioritized after each iteration and new set of modifications will be scheduled. This process gradually transforms into a general support operations but the culture of continued improvement will help you optimize your day-to-day operations.

 

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