ERP Project Management Tools

Project Management Tools that Save you Time and Money

Managing an ERP Project requires the right project management tools. Using pre-defined tools saves a lot of time and effort and prevents you from “recreating the wheel.” Being able to run an ERP project effectively requires that you be on the top of your game, everyday. There are an infinite number of challenges that may arise to create problems for you. That is why you don’t want to spend time trying to build new forms, templates, presentations and the like from scratch. You have better things to do.

Having run many projects, we understand the time commitment and the challenges. As such, we are listing out some very useful and time saving tools. Some are references, some are downloadable templates. But together, they can assist you in running your project smoothly and with adequate controls.

Project Management Tools – Deliverables Templates

You’ve just been assigned a new project and you now need to put in place the weekly status report, the project charter, the project plan, the ERP Vendor criteria checklist, and so on. Unless you work for a consulting firm, you may not have these various documents on-hand. As such one of the best resources we have found is this collection of project management tools and templates. You should download the entire collection of project management tools and set it aside for the many various projects you might encounter in your career.

Another useful collection of templates are a set of Powerpoint slides that explain what ERP is and does, as well as Lean Manufacturing, and other business topics. These will save you a lot of time. Again, instead of starting from scratch, you can tweek and modify. You can find this collection here.
Project Management Templates

Project Management Tools – Collaboration

Working with a project team with hundreds of tasks assigned can be difficult to manage. Fortunately we have found the ideal solution in a web based software called Nozbe. Originally designed for people who want to use the GTD Methodology (Getting Things Done), it has grown into a project manager’s dream tool. Use it individually or in a team to accomplish a lot and get things done.

Project Management Tools – Project Management References

One of the best sites we have found that lays out the entire process of project management is the ePMBook. It is from the UK, but if you live in the US, it is just as applicable. If you are new to Project Management, or you are a seasoned veteran, this free online ebook will provide you with all the reference material you need to be successful.

Of course the ultimate resource is the Project Management Institute and their PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge). If you are serious about field of Project Management and want to get more training and access to other project management tools, then you need to become a member of PMI. If you wish, you can pursue the Project Management Certification that they offer.

Do you have project management tools you refer to all the time? Please comment and let us know about them.

Project Management Tools

Adding Value to your ERP Requirements

ERP Requirements Refinement

When you start a system selection, you first need to determine which business process are the “value add” processes. In other words, which processes in the business add to the value of the service or product you are providing to the market. The customer is only willing to pay for those activities that help you produce, ensure quality, or account for your product or service. All other activities are waste.
ERP Requirements

When defining your ERP requirements, you need to be cognizant of these “value add” activities. These are the activities that should be captured in your requirements. Non-value-add activities should not be included in your ERP requirements. These do not produce results that create additional value to the product/service and these are only distractions when it comes down to the actual implementation.

ERP Requirements and Lean

All of this comes from Lean Manufacturing or the Toyota Production method. Essentially, as stated above, you want to eliminate “Muda” or waste in the process. Many firms have successfully implemented this in their manufacturing processes, but a smaller group have implemented this Lean system in their business office processes.

Consider this example. When defining your ERP Requirements you determine that there is an accounting process that has people spending 2 man days per month reconciling the cost of keeping track of the tools used in manufacturing. Does this process add any value to the actual production of the product? Possibly, but it sounds like this process can be reworked and possibly using the new ERP system you can eliminate this process and drive the data down to the actual transactions on the shop floor. You don’t need accountants researching the transactions. What you might need is a system that tracks the tools and their usage as part of the production process and can give a report on what these transactions cost. These transaction costs can then be factored into the pricing of the product, without the overhead of 2 man days of reconciliation.

The time when you are defining your new ERP Requirements is the perfect time to start looking critically at your processes and keying in on what brings value to the process. Then you can design your new system (both process and software) around those items that bring value to not only the customer but also the bottom line.

Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, Revised and Updated

Mapping your ERP requirements

When you are cataloging all of your ERP Requirements, you should write down all of your requirements (perhaps on a spreadsheet) and then give them an identifying number (such as R1, R2, R3, etc.) You can then evaluate each of these requirements with the business team to determine if the requirement is one that you want to carry forward into your deliverable of requirements that will be provided to the ERP software vendors. There is an excellent article on how to do this mapping, by author Brett Beaubouef, that describes this process.

He advocates that “Starting with the desired business results ensures that we drive to only those requirements that directly support true business value. First, it is an exercise that really puts into perspective the purpose of a business model (results). This exercise is not only useful to the project team but also the business stakeholders. Second, it is an approach that can help you justify why certain existing business activities are not being carried forward in the new business solution. Third, taking a business results oriented approach enables your project team to be more successful at focusing on the right business requirements and not wasting time on capturing requirements for non-value-add activities.

Another useful article that you may want to examine is the article 7 Ways to Fail in an ERP Selection

Keep in mind that some ERP Requirements that you identify may not seem valuable at first, but you need to review these requirements with the functional user team to ensure that key processes are not eliminated by mistake. There may be requirements that are a requirement because of a legal concern or perhaps a health and safety issue.

In the end, if you have successfully mapped out your business processes and defined these in your ERP Requirement list, then you will be a lot closer to selecting a system that actually functions in a way that brings value to everyone.

We hope that this will aid you in better defining your ERP Requirements.

ERP and Lean

Chris Shaul

Today, many ERP vendors are offering Lean Manufacturing modules in their solutions. These modules propose to assist companies in their lean effort. The real question is to what degree will these modules be used. Can a traditional manufacturer going to a lean model utilize a lean software tool immediately? When implementing an ERP system, process redesign is a must. The change that must occur in order to support an ERP system can be tremendous. But can a company bite off and digest all of the changes? Which should be done first, lean or ERP? These are all some of the questions that a typical manufacturing manager who is about to embark on an ERP implementation might ask.

First, lets define a few things. Lean is the removal of waste within a process and the concept of pulling items to a demand. It is also known as the Toyota Production system as it was developed and refined by Toyota in Japan. ERP is a business process enabled by software tools. It is not a software project! ERP streamlines your information flow such that it parallels your process flow. ERP works to build product to a forecast and then execute a production plan and inventory purchases synchronized to meet the predicted and actual demand. Lean, on the other hand, uses a pull system to meet an actual customer requirement. Lean uses the philosophy of smaller batches and reduction in non-value-added activities to create a much shorter lead time, thus delivering faster to a customer. ERP does not by its’ nature drive efficiencies in the production process. It only provides planners with information on what is going on and allows them to plan faster. If the process is broken, then automating it with the use of ERP will only highlight the problems.

What is the answer? The answer for many is to implement lean as part of an ERP intiative. Some would say that it should be a predecessor to an ERP initiative. Lean purists will argue that you do not need MRP and MPS to drive the production. ERP folks will argue that MRP and MPS are essential to having parts in-house and suppliers coordinated with the production. The answer for most companies is a hybrid solution, where lean is driving waste from the production and supply chain process (although also in the above-the-shop-floor activities too), while ERP is being implemented, such that you are automating value added processes and not trying to replicated waste processes in your new system. MRP can be used to plan longer lead time items, or items with higher value, whereas a Kanban can be setup for the faster turning and less expensive items.

Working from the perspective of a hybrid model, lean principles and practices can be implemented just prior to the ERP initiative. Then during the ERP implementation, the lean concepts must be considered and utilized in the setup of the new system. Tools such as Value Stream Mapping can define areas for quick improvements. Then once those improvements are made, a process flow based on the future state model can be applied to the ERP system. For example, a production cell might be setup for a particular product line with kanban inventory control. This would change how you would define your production process in the ERP system. Better ERP systems can run in this hybrid mode of traditional MRP and modern Lean concepts. Some product lines might be more suited to the MRP/MPS method because of supply chain issues or because of the long lead times that are associated with the products. Other product lines might be easy to immediately switch to flow manufacturing. Because of this, you want a system that can handle both methods.

Using a hybrid model, you select and position the ERP system to work alongside your lean initiatives. By leaning out processes (above and below the shop floor), you are avoiding “automating the mess.” Doing so will shorten lead times, reduce inventory, reduce production costs, improve employee moral and streamline your ERP implementation. Be sure to choose an implementation partner that is familiar with lean and is able to work in a hybrid manner. What order should these two tranforming intiatives occur? It might be best to have the lean initiative lead the ERP intiative by a few months. Then begin to implement the system. But do not stop the lean transformation. That should now be an ongoing philosophy of continual improvement. Use it to your advantage during the ERP implementation. Doing so will only help you on go-live day.


Chris Shaul is a Sr. IT Consultant and specializes about ERP selections and implementations.