Scoping IT out: 5 essential steps to success

Published on the 24/03/2015 | Written by Microsoft

UXC Eclipse scoping

Embarking on a technology-led change in your business can be both hairy and audacious…

Even though today’s technology and IT systems are becoming more intuitive, the purchase and implementation of an integrated software solution remains a complex project. To achieve success, careful management of the scoping exercise is the starting point for any implementation. Scoping is the process of identifying and outlining the deliverables and work that will be required.

My five key steps to managing scope effectively are:

  1. Engaging leadership – the importance of management buy-in.
  2. Understanding the business requirements and developing a business case.
  3. Choosing the right technology.
  4. Future-proofing the decision.
  5. Looking for a strategic partner.

STEP 1: Engaging leadership – the importance of management buy-in
For any project to be a success leadership and strong vision must come from the top. Large-scale IT implementations aim to make an organisation work more efficiently and be more successful. Such projects are often considered high risk because they are business-critical. It’s therefore vital to have management buy-in from the start.

When the senior leadership team is engaged with and fully supportive of a project, it is more likely that the appropriate time and resources will be allocated, letting the project team focus completely on a successful implementation. For example, some companies will invest in additional staff to manage the day-to-day operations so that the internal project management team and key stakeholders can focus exclusively on the implementation, thus avoiding the risk of conflicting priorities.

STEP 2: Understanding the business requirements and developing a business case
The high-level scope of the project should be defined and documented in a business case, with input from all relevant stakeholders, prior to the project kick-off. Once a project starts it may be difficult to change direction without additional cost or delays. Therefore, a company needs to start by understanding what is working and what isn’t – so it doesn’t replicate inefficient processes.

Four essential elements of an IT project business case include:

  • Return on investment (ROI). An IT implementation project needs to deliver a strong ROI to justify the implementation and operational costs.
  • Highlight the breadth of benefits. A strong business case needs to explain all of the potential benefits and how they can contribute to the bottom line.
  • Change management. Without effective change management, including business process documentation and process-driven training, organisations risk poor uptake and the anticipated business benefits will not be fully realised.
  • Execution plan. It is vital to remember the end users of the solution. The desired business value will only be achieved with successful execution of the ERP project.

“When the senior leadership team is engaged with and fully supportive of a project, it is more likely that the appropriate time and resources will be allocated”
Alistair Mead, Senior Executive – Microsoft Dynamics AX, UXC Eclipse

STEP 3: Choosing the right technology
There is a wide range of IT systems and software available to solve business challenges. Choosing a solution that works for the business isn’t just about price. It’s equally important to look at a variety of parameters, including:

  • Depth vs breadth of functionality
  • Industry-specific features
  • Ease of support
  • Future development path
  • Flexibility to adapt to a changing business model
  • Integration with existing/future systems
  • Cloud versus on-premise hosting
  • Analysis tools available
  • Scalability.

All these factors must be considered if a company is to choose the right technology for its needs.

STEP 4: Future-proof the decision
It is important to select a solution that maps as closely as possible to the current and future requirements of the business. This is only possible when the future requirements have been visualised and shared with the implementation team. Key stakeholders need to be interviewed and all business-critical requirements discussed upfront. The team can then recommend a technology solution that provides the flexibility and scalability needed to expand with the business.

Adequate support is vital to ensure the ongoing value of the ERP implementation. This should include consultants working with the business team to find new ways to extract value from the system.

Businesses should look for an ERP solution that can integrate proven, industry best-practice workflows with ease, as well as offer the flexibility and scalability they need to cope with future growth and market changes.

STEP 5: Look for a strategic partner
An IT project is not about simply installing new software. There are many stakeholders and complex, mission-critical business processes involved. This means a high quality of work is required, with the scope for customisation and the need for appropriate (technical) support. Look for an implementation partner that has a history in your industry, can provide references from its existing customer base, and can offer qualified, certified professionals to work on your project.

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