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Applying LEAN to ERP System Implementations
By Manny Sequeira

LEAN methods have been applied to software development. LEAN methods, or Agile methods use development iterations during software development. These methods minimize risk by developing software in short pieces over short periods. These short development project pieces, or iterations allow for logical pieces of functionality to be developed; the bugs to be ironed out; and for project priorities to be re-evaluated.

How do we apply LEAN to ERP system implementations? Traditionally, a ‘waterfall’ approach is used on ERP projects. This means that you would design the solution first; and then configure the ERP software; and then test it. Using this traditional approach, project teams would have spent a lot of money and time before finding issues that may have required going back to changing the solution design, or system configuration.

But LEAN can be used to make ERP system implementations more effective. This is how:

  • Spend time up front in getting requirements correct to avoid waste due to developing functionality that is not needed or defects.
  • Break down Design concepts by critical business subprocesses or functional areas that can be tested and validated against business requirements.
  • Plan iterative Design / Build / Test activities around these functional sub-system designs.
  • Creating Learning Cycles around the Build and Test activities. This will reduce training effort and better utilize people’s time.
  • Align business processes around ERP system functionality – maximize asset usage; avoid having to customize the system more than you need.
  • Avoid complex project plans. Use a milestone plan to drive achievement of project objectives. Use of Work Packages to breakdown work activities, if more detail is needed at that level. These Work Packages should be build around the iteration cycles that will lead to rapid deployment of the system.
  • Rapid deployment – design, build, test and review pieces of the solution. This requires user involvement during design, testing and review – knowledge transfer reduces training effort of traditional methodologies.
  • Document of design and review decisions – capture knowledge

LEAN in system implementation has two basic components:

  1. a quick, interactive process to achieve flow in the development process, and
  2. a knowledge capture process to improve quality, reuse, and repeatability of information developed in the interactive cycles

Manny Sequeira is a project manager with Clarkston Consulting with significant international experience in project management and ERP systems implementation, primarily in consumer products, process manufacturing & retail industries. Clarkston Consulting has offices across North America and Europe and focus on Consumer Products and Life Sciences verticals. Manny runs Improve Your Business containing, a blog containing a selection of articles, ideas and scribblings of interest to people who want to improve their businesses with talented people, world class processes and appropriate technologies – no matter what size the business.

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