Taking a 'big bang' approach

Many organizations may be tempted to ease into an enterprise resource planning

solution by launching one ERP module at a time. Strategic Petroleum Reserve

officials took the "big bang" approach by going live enterprisewide.

Running the remaining legacy systems in parallel while transitioning

individual functions to ERP would have been more expensive and time-consuming

because the agency would have had to build interfaces to the older systems,

said John O'Brien, manager of information systems and technical support

at SPR.

"We eliminated a whole class of problems by going big bang — just dealing

with those interfaces would have been really horrible," he said.

The agency says this "big bang" approach can be riskier than a piecemeal

one, but not transitioning all the systems at once defeats the purpose of

ERP, said Brian Seagrave, former director of enterprise systems at SPR.

"You're not doing ERP, you're doing RP — resource planning," he said. "We

learned that costs twice as much because you have to interface them all,

and you don't get that much more functionality. Those organizations [that

launch individual modules] feel they cannot get their departments to cooperate.

You end up rebuilding your silo systems because you're not cooperating with

each other."

SPR was merging 12 departments into one integrated system. If it had

launched its financial system first — which overlaps all other departments — they would be separating that department's functionality instead of integrating

across the departments for more efficiency, Seagrave said.

"How radically can you re-engineer if you're not involving your departments

in the discussion?" he asked. "You have to get them to sit around the table

and identify overlaps and inefficiencies and eliminate those. If you're

keeping everyone in their groups, you're not tearing down the silos."

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