Many mature ERP programs are at phases in their lifecycles where the project resources must strike a balance of supporting O&M work while continuing to deliver value to the business in order to keep their ERP programs relevant. One common theme on Federal IT programs, including many large ERP engagements, is the drive to meet these demands using less resources, often with consolidated delivery timelines and shrinking budgets. This does not bode well for ERP projects, which are plagued with the perception that they take too long, are too complex, and are too expensive. Furthermore, ERP project managers know that larger O&M projects, such as data center migrations or upgrades, almost always inevitably pull key resources away from supporting business activities and into supporting these major endeavors. This often leaves the business side of the house, the real users of the ERP system, scratching their heads and wondering why it takes so long for their requirements to actually be delivered into usable production software.

The incremental delivery of value to the business in shorter timeframes is, of course, a staple of Agile implementation methodologies. Echo that for focusing on increased transparency with stakeholders, reducing implementation cycles, and minimizing unnecessary documentation, and focusing on automated testing. And there is obviously a huge push towards Agile across the Federal government right now, and government driven initiatives such as the Digital Playbook are reinforcing and adding momentum to this trend.

All that said, adopting a pure Agile implementation approach on ERP projects is not easy. The concept of building teams around “specialist generalists” is difficult on ERP projects, where the skillsets required to deliver a piece of functionality in a release vary greatly. For example, on an SAP project, having resources cross-over between an SAP developer and SAP Functional Analyst is unlikely to be an option. Furthermore, most ERP projects have multiple systems in play – the ERP system itself, Portal, EAI Tools, Data Warehouse – which all have different resources supporting them and have interconnected and dependent components. This presents challenges to decouple these dependencies when delivering “shippable” software in short iterations.

Despite these challenges, many ERP projects are adapting to Agile. And even if a transition to Agile is not feasible, you may still be able to incorporate many of the practices used in Agile delivery in order to make your ERP project more efficient, lower your overall TCO, and potentially deliver value to your customers quicker. In this blog series, we will explore how to transition ERP projects to Agile, as well as how to incorporate Agile concepts into an ERP project if a full transition is not an option. Check back soon for more updates.

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