One question which has come up in many of Project One’s customer conversations when considering their next major ERP transformation is “can we undertake the ERP transformation using agile?”. The question is driven by a concern that ERP implementations are too big and complex to be managed through stories, stand-ups and sprints. A legacy of rigid waterfall implementation also plays its part in the underlying reason for the questions.
The simple answer to the question is that Agile practices can be very effective in mitigating the risks and challenges associated with many phases of ERP implementations. However, Agile is not a magic pill, academic research does suggest that for complex implementations a hybrid approach is more suitable. For example, in Project One’s experience, large implementations with complex integrations with other toolsets benefit from a more traditional waterfall integration testing phase.
What are the benefits of an agile approach?
Where Agile does fit, then well executed Agile practice can replace long opaque project phases with short punchy sprints. The Agile approach can be hugely beneficial in engaging with business stakeholders. They get to live and breathe and ‘feel’ what the new world will look like quickly and give feedback which can be enacted on quickly and precisely – enabling better user engagement and adoption (waterfall techniques often have difficulty with such expediency).
Three steps to executing agile successfully
The key point here is “well executed Agile”, poorly executed projects whether waterfall or Agile are equally likely to run into difficulties, overrun or fail to deliver expected benefits. The real question to consider is “how do I select the right implementation partner who can help deliver a successful transformation utilising the appropriate practice for each phase and provide clear manageable outcomes?”. I would therefore propose three main action points:
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