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BUSINESS

ERP + BPR = BR

The onus of the successful implementation lies with the Organisation.

By K. S. Ramaprasad - Consultant, MAARS Software International

Strategic Enterprise? Extended Enterprise ? BR or BPR ? ERP ? Where do all these fit in & how do they mesh together ? These are frequently echoed in the Indian Corporate circles nowadays.

At the threshold of the new millennium, there is a marked shift in the business paradigm. The new school of thought proposes a shift from efficient to effective, passive to active, tactical to strategic and automation to optimization. The ingredients for strategic enterprise management do not end here. Competency management, which hinges around knowledge, skill & most importantly, attitude, is also a key area. A radical rethinking on the way the business is run would bring the best out of the Organization.

For the service providers and more importantly the users, it is now imperative that in any re-engineering exercise or implementation the emphasis moves from the functionality and speed, to achieving significant business benefits that are recognized by organizations. The need of the hour seems to be the fundamental re-structuring & transformation of enterprise, which in turn cascades across enterprises to create the extended enterprise and recasting of the relationships between suppliers, customers, affinity groups and competitors.

Business re-engineering improves all three areas essential to business effectiveness - Business plans, Business Process & Business Information. By setting focus on business re-engineering, and on development of Information systems that directly support strategic business plans, managers can take control & turn today's chaotic environment to their competitive advantage.

As Dr. Michael Hammer, the champion of BPR puts it, business process re-engineering is the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as cost, quality, service & speed. And Thomas Davenport calls it a process innovation.

A popular perception about BPR is that it is a means of streamlining the business processes. There exists a fundamental difference between streamlining a business process and re-inventing it. Streamlining is an exercise, which result in making incremental changes to the current process to increase performance parameters like quality, etc. In the case of re-inventing a process, the existing one is scrapped and a new one is created from scratch with a fresh look. Concepts & ideas from within and outside the industry should be welcomed. Benchmarking is not a dirty word.

Ideally, Organizations should look at a continuum from streamlining to re-inventing.

Projects are often identified at points along the change continuum - Streamlining to Re-inventing. Many re-engineering efforts, especially those that are combined with the implementation of ERP packages are grouped somewhere in the middle of the continuum. As such the effort may be a combination of solving old problems and creative redesign of selected processes. According to the traditional approach, BR & ERP were isolated activities. But, they are actually parallel activities and the organization should adopt the benefits of ERP solutions right through the BR exercise.

First of all, one should ask questions like "What" & "How" about the organization's vision for the future. The result would be a strategy to fulfill the vision. This in turn is translated to the basic business processes that would ultimately help in fulfilling the vision. Existing processes must be related back to the business plans. Only those processes that support the vision should be considered for re-engineering.

An organization's vision might be unique to it and also the strategies to achieve that vision. But at the macro level, the basic business activities strike a similar chord across the various organizations & business segments. A good ERP vendor identifies the best practices of these across the world and sews together to develop a seamless integrated package. It forces you to obtain clarity & integration of business processes to the bottom most level.

When it comes to ERP Implementation, the word "customizing" is a misnomer. Don't customize the package in the literal sense to suit the organization but, re-invent & re-organize the organization to the package. Might sound unconvincing ! But having selected a package that talks about the best business practices, you need to adapt that rather than to adapt the package to the way the organization is working presently. Unless the virginity of the solutions proposed be honoured the whole purpose of the exercise would be defeated.

The BPR exercise throws open an opportunity to give a fresh, radical and global outlook on the entire business process. The organization should try to cash in on this opportunity and come out with a new power packed engine that could propel it into the new millennium.

Remember ! An ERP implementation is NOT an IT Project, it is a business rejuvenation project. The most dangerous scenario is where the people, including some among the top management, look at the whole issue as just another IT exercise. It is not just the IT Manager who owns the Project, but the whole Organization. The Project Manager (the IT Manager, in most cases) is the midwife and the baby belongs to the whole Organization. The key point is that whole organization should parent the baby and it is through its' eyes you would look at business from tomorrow. On the other hand, we do need somebody to play devil's advocate to bring out all the possible pitfalls along the path. This needs to be translated into constructive suggestions.

The period of recession may be looked at as one for SWOT analysis rather as recession in its literal sense. Yes! This may appear to be a bitter pill to swallow, but let's look at it from the opportunity angle.

An ERP implementation should not be looked as a stand-alone activity. It lies along the change continuum of the BR exercise. An implementation can be called successful once the re-invented processes are religiously followed by the Organization. In effect, the whole exercise is an on-going process.

A point that needs to be accentuated is that the onus of a successful implementation lies on the organization rather than the service provider. The service provider plays the role of a facilitator and catalyst. This does not mean that the service provider wants to play on a safe ground. But because of the fact that you are the best judge of your processes and you have evolved a vision for the organization. This would ensure all to say about you & the re-invented processes that "And they lived happily ever after".

The author may be reached at :ramsap@yahoo.com

 

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