Planning Details…

The Basis for Planning

The planning will drill down to the specifics of how something will be done; based on what you determined must be done (developed during the pre-sales process).  You will use the documents developed during the pre-sales (pre-decision) process to guide the planning phase of your business management system implementation.  Expand on these documents and convert them into the working papers for the implementation.  Use actual customer orders, purchase orders, cash receipts, production orders and other documents from your regular, daily business.  Don’t make up transactions.  That won’t provide a good basis for planning or for testing.  And, don’t use the software’s demo data.  Your employees will not relate to the vendors, customers, items, costs and prices from demo data.  People do not pay attention to demo data.  They have no investment in it.  It didn’t cost them anything.   Since it has no value to them personally, the results in testing will not be evaluated with the same critical eye as if it were their own data.  Use your own data.

Parking Lot

The Parking Lot is the place you put good ideas that are not in the scope of this project.  As you do your planning, you will uncover many ideas which will fall into one of four categories.

  • Great idea, but not in scope;
  • Great idea and in scope;
  • Good idea but other competing ideas are equally as good;
  • Other ideas, not so good.

There is one other category that is easily identified, and almost always out of scope.  It begins this way, “Wouldn’t it be nice if…”.  That is always your clue to put on your filter and route it to the parking lot.

If an idea (good or bad) is not in scope, write it down in a “parking lot” list (a list of ideas to be considered after the project is completed).  This will preserve your time and energy.  You won’t have to make a decision about each idea.  If the idea is exceptional, you may want to add it to the project as a change of scope.  (Don’t change the scope without formal approval.)  Changing the scope of the project will affect your timeline, budget and resources.

Testing Ideas

Some ideas need simple exposure to the light to eradicate them from consideration.  They may be unworkable, too resource intensive or too light in results.  Other ideas and plans will have significant value and will be competitors for a part of the final solution.  Your planning group and Subject Matter Experts (see the “Define Roles” section) will be invaluable in this exercise.  As you plan, test your assumptions.  Some of this testing will be intellectual.  Some will require more involved testing, including testing transactions and resulting procedures.  Testing will occur during all stages of your project.  The point is that your planning is more than an intellectual exercise.  This is about using all of your business experience, education and training.

Data Conversion

Perhaps the most difficult decision now is the type and amount of data you will convert.  We recommend making this a separate part of the project so that you can easily eliminate it, if you decide to do so.  Many clients want to keep all their history.  After all, they have paid a great deal of money for their staff to enter it into the computer.  Sometimes it is appropriate to convert all the data; more frequently, it does not pay for itself and actually hinders functionality in the new system.  Data conversion can be very expensive.  Converting transactional data can be very challenging and may require input from your current software vendor who may not be forthcoming because you are switching to new software.  Software versions change data structures and values.  Just because your VAR has done one conversion from the software you are on doesn’t mean they necessarily know how to do yours.

We implemented a new MRP system for a manufacturing company who decided to convert all 20 years of their data from their mainframe system into their new PC system.  We were able to do so.  However, it took four tries to make the data meaningful.  Each time we converted the data in a new way, the client found more data that wasn’t consistent because of previous software conversions.  They had upgraded their software several times.  And, they had changed their item numbering scheme and later their bill of materials methodology.  Unfortunately, no one remembered all that until they looked at the converted data and saw the problems.  They found that even though the data was finally consistent and accurate, it was of little value because they were able to do things so much more efficiently with the new system.

You may decide to convert just master files for customers, vendors, inventory, bills of material, routes, machines and so forth.  On the other hand, you may decide to convert open balance items for accounts receivable, accounts payable, inventory and work in process balances.  Many clients find it is a great training exercise to enter these items.  Others either don’t have the time or don’t want to do so.  There isn’t a pat answer to this question.  You may just use your old system for lookups or develop reporting views that allow the user to see data in the old system while in the new system.

Frankly, you will not have a broad enough base of understanding of the new product to be able to answer this question before you get some basic knowledge of the new system.  Once you begin to understand the new system, you can decide, in consultation with your VAR, what you should convert.  Most VARs recommend that you do not convert transactional history.  You must decide if you can keep the old software running long enough so that you can look up data in it until you have built enough history in your new system.

Now, get the agreements signed and begin the process of realizing your new business management system benefits.

Stay tuned for part four in this series: Identifying Project Staff .

In the meantime, you may be interested in reading a story that highlights the importance of selecting the right software, and going through a thorough planning process prior to implementation. If so, download a complimentary copy here.

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