Ask an Agile Expert Q&A – Can Agile Help Improve ERP Systems Implementations?

December 12, 2019 Eric Robertson

CollabNet VersionOne recently hosted an Agile Q&A webinar where I was thrilled to participate as the moderator. During the webinar, there was a lively discussion between Danny Presten, Chief Methodologist at CollabNet VersionOne, and attendees who got to ask their most pressing questions about an Agile transformation. The breadth and depth of the questions that were asked, confirmed that Agile is still evolving and challenging for many organizations. Danny talked about a variety of topics from the Scrum Master role, scalability, leadership and more. In this series of blog posts, we will cover some of the top questions asked during the webinar.

Below is Danny’s response to a particularly interesting question about ERP systems.

Attendee Question: Can Implementing an ERP Be Done Through Agile?

Danny’s Answer:  People traditionally think, “ERPs are outside the realm of Agile because we know what we have to do. We must replace an existing system and the ERP process will give us a standardized approach to our end goal. So why would we do that in an Agile way?” With a standardized approach, it makes sense to examine the system requirements upfront, to have a long development cycle, to do some testing, and then ultimately scale up. But by using Agile, an ERP implementation can be broken down into incremental solutions, giving companies insights into the outcomes and challenges that often haunt an ERP adoption. I’ve done ERP using waterfall practices back in 2005 but after that, I jumped in and did ERP using agile. 

The key to implementing ERP through Agile is to define the work, demo it, test it, and see how it performs. With that, you can determine if you’re on the right track or not. I’ve seen better results when you include the business leaders and other members within an organization who envision an ERP system and will be using it in the future. By being involved in demos, leaders and members can determine if the system is a good fit or not from the beginning. Once an ERP is chosen, teams can begin to deliver small increments of value throughout the integration process. For example, Agile teams within a large organization can pick one project or product to test and ensure you’re getting the desired outcome. Rather than completing an ERP adoption through linear advancement, an Agile approach allows teams to test projects in intervals and adjust accordingly. 

One of the biggest challenges I’ve seen while implementing ERPs is that many companies tend to throw money at one particular program for years before seeing results. An ERP system is not designed to show incremental results to end-users and without seeing tangible results, people lose sight of value before the project is built and integrated. This is where Agile processes come in. If you can deliver solutions along the way, you can keep everyone on board. With the adoption of Agile practices, teams are empowered to break down the ERP implementation into smaller features and deliver solutions in parts, giving business leaders and members visible value throughout the entire process. The real art to ERP using Agile is figuring out what incremental values you can provide along the way, but once you do that, you can keep the momentum going. 

Implementing an ERP using Agile is not a one-step process, but by taking some of the core Agile principles, you can create a system based on incremental success and continuous improvement. It takes a clear understanding of the process from the leaders within the company to determine the goal and set the tone of the project, but it is possible. It’s not necessarily easy, but you will get better results if you can imagine the agile paradigm and put it into action. 

There were many more amazing insights, valuable best practices and experiences shared during this webinar. Stay tuned as we continue to break down some of the most popular questions and responses. In the meantime, you can always watch the full webinar and get all the answers he shared.

About the Author

Eric Robertson

Eric Robertson is responsible for product management and marketing at CollabNet VersionOne. Prior to CollabNet, Eric served as Director of services and portfolio management for enterprise solutions at Unisys. Eric joined Cisco through a company acquisition, where he led product management for Cisco's cloud automation and SAP ALM extension offerings. Eric has successfully held product development, services and management roles with enterprises and start-ups and has provided consulting services to Fortune 500 companies. Eric holds a patent in the area of virtualization and a Master's Degree in Electrical and Software Engineering from University of Texas in Austin and continues to further his research in domain- specific languages, and intelligent automation.

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