"How do you prepare tea?"
"Well, we boil some water, put some sugar, add some milk, add some tea, put this powder and boil it all till it becomes tea".
"What is that powder?"
"We don't know."
"Then why are you adding it?"
"Because our mom used to add it?"
"Why did your mom add it?"
"We don't know."
In the world of requirement gathering, this is a scene one comes up so often. Here is an example.
"How do you you create a purchased order?",
"Well first we note down the details of the requirement, take a printout, get it approved and then enter the PO in the legacy system",
"Why do you get the PO approved and then enter in the system?"
"I think it is because....... well I don't know, I have always done it this way"
"What are you expecting from the system?"
"We have many warehouses in the city. We need warehouse wise trial balance"
"Why do you need warehouse wise trial balance? do you track assets at each warehouse"
"No, but we are currently doing it this way and we want the system to provide that"
Requirement gathering can be one of the most frustrating part of an ERP Consultant's life. Especially if you are sitting with users who 'add the powder while making tea' without knowing why he / she is doing that way. They follow a process because they have been doing it that way since they started working. Can the system meet their requirements?
Unfortunately many consultants also end up providing whatever the user asks for without probing further without knowing the real reason for these requirements. Many a times it is due to the lack of business knowledge on the part of the consultants. Most of the ERP functional consultants join the IT industry immediately after graduation without having a feel of how the business funtions. Through practice they become very comfortable with the application and end up providing whatever the client asks for in a bid to please the customer. For instance, in the 'Trial Balance for warehouse' scenario mentioned above, one of the consultants came out with the idea of creating each warehouse as a 'company' segment value in Oracle. On deeper probing it was found that what the user wanted was 'warehouse wise profitability' which he had confused with 'trial balance'
He was making tea without knowing why he was adding the 'special powder'
PS: On deeper probing it was found that their mom used to add the special powder because they were living in a cold weather and the special powder had a way of invigorating the body.