Reality IT: BPR Revisited

When choosing processes and software, it pays to get IT's two cents.

November 4, 2005

3 Min Read
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Our CIO, Steve Fox, had bought us a narrow window of time to introduce alternative solutions tactfully--before manufacturing operations chose the wrong path.

Team Building

Our lead IT project manager, Judy Gant, and I agreed IT had two advantages: our experience with ERP technology and our understanding of BPR's limitations. Rather than challenging Hugh's plan directly, we decided Judy should spend time with Linda in less formal one-on-one meetings. Judy was an experienced and well-respected IT manager, and I hoped she and Linda would develop a rapport. Then Linda could share our ideas with Hugh.

Judy explained to Linda what we've learned the hard way: BPR is about process change analysis, not painstakingly documenting old procedures. Hugh's plan would mean buying a new ERP system, then dramatically customizing it to fit current processes. This didn't make sense--most of the group's processes could be adapted to the industry best practices already incorporated in competing ERP applications.

Linda was receptive to Judy's input. She decided to take advantage of out-of-the-box ERP software capabilities for most processes and narrow the BPR project's focus to those processes unique to ACME. The BPR team would have three options: change manufacturing operations practices, add third-party applications or customize the ERP system. The third-party solution was worth investigating; there are lots of aftermarket products that can add functionality to a base ERP package.More Partners

But we still had another problem to solve: Hugh and his team had already decided which ERP package they were going to buy. We needed to convince manufacturing operations to consider other options, to ensure that they weren't blindly jumping into the wrong solution.

I set up a meeting between Hugh and Xavier Beane, our CFO. Xavier had been involved when we chose a replacement for our aging FIS (financial information system) about a year ago. He'd seen the benefits of following a solid business process to select a new solution, and I hoped he'd share those benefits with Hugh.

Xavier told Hugh how IT had assisted his department in the FIS project. He recalled that IT had collected the finance group's requirements and coupled that data with a BPR effort to come up with several vendor options. We narrowed the field with an RFI and then sent out an RFP. We received half-day presentations and demonstrations from our four top prospects, then brought in the two finalists to perform a "shoot-out" of their products using our live data. This process took some extra time, but ultimately, finance has been very happy with its choice.

Hugh was swayed by Xavier's experience, and he agreed to a more thorough evaluation for the new ERP. After the selection process was completed, the manufacturing operations group agreed with our product recommendation, and we started the implementation a few months ago.Happy Widgets

Here in the ACME IT department, we don't care much about turf. We've allowed other departments to make their own IT choices in the past, and if we had believed that manufacturing operations' initial plan was viable, we would have agreed to it. But in this case, we felt there was some danger involved in the group's BPR and ERP product-selection process, so we stepped in--diplomatically--to help out. And in the end, it worked out, because both groups have the same goal: to keep our widgets rolling off the manufacturing lines.

Hunter Metatek is an enterprise IT director with 15 years' experience in network engineering and management. The events chronicled in this column are based in fact--only the names are fiction. Write to the author at [email protected].

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