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Defining the requirements of an ERP System
Defining the requirements of an ERP System

Defining the requirements of an ERP System

Defining requirements for an ERP system is essential. The process is part of pre-planning for an ERP implementation. It consists, in essence, of looking at what is unsatisfactory in your present system in some detail and mapping out how to fix it with ERP.

Requirements mapping starts with taking a hard, close look at your business and how it performs. In addition to seeing what's right with your business, it consists of identifying what you're not satisfied with. These range from pain points to working, but less-than-ideal, areas that need improvement.

Basically requirements mapping consists of identifying the areas you want to improve, mapping out the processes as they now exist and looking at how you can change them with ERP to make them function more efficiently.
Starting with what is happening now, the mapping effort involves laying out the processes as they now exist and looking at how ERP can improve them.

At this preliminary stage you're not so much concerned with finding exact solutions as you are understanding where you are and where you want to be. Don't worry about what is “practical” at this stage. As you get more into the ERP process you'll find you've got a lot more potential for change than you imagine. Exactly how you're going to get from where you are now to your ideal state can be worked out later. For now it is more important simply to identify the areas you want to work on and what you ultimately want to achieve.

Once you've identified the areas you want to work on, the next step is to document their processes as they currently exist. This means laying out the workflow in a flow chart or something similar with all the steps involved and all the possible outcomes.
Do this from the process on the ground, not what it says in the procedures manual (if you have one). You will undoubtedly find that many of the processes don't work the way you think they do.

Also don't be surprised if a lot of processes have loose ends. These are situations that don't have a formal resolution. In practice these are usually handled by humans on an ad-hoc basis. They are particularly troublesome because there is no standard method of handling them. One of your goals is to document and standardize resolutions to these hanging ends.

It may help to prioritize your areas of concern and pursue them from most to least problematic. The idea is to get the biggest boost from your early efforts by concentrating on the big issues.

Later in the implementation you can use the process outlines that this technique produces to help when it comes to mapping out all the processes in the business. For now, however, you're simply trying to understand how these problem processes are causing you headaches.

At the end of the mapping you should have a much better idea of what isn't working effectively in your business and at least a starting notion of how to fix it. Remember, you're not trying to spell out a cure at this stage of the operation, but rather get the lay of  the land and see how your pain points operate – or don't operate.

Requirements mapping is an early stage of the ERP implementation and it can be as detailed or as loose as you chose to make it. Obviously the more detailed the mapping of these processes, the easier it will be to integrate the results into the overall process maps of your company's workflow. On the other hand, you may find that the amount of work in precisely mapping the process isn't worth it at this stage of the game.

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