Aug 8, 2010

ERP Implementation? Is it a functional or a technical process?

This week's Poll relates to debates that I have had with a number of my fellow consultants. I am looking forward to a lively debate and participation in this poll.

The question is "Is ERP Implementation a Technical or a Functional Process?"

Is this an irrelevant question? An ERP implementation consists of both technical and functional activities. Many of the good consultants whom I have worked with are good at both functional and technical knowledge. Of course you can implement an ERP Project without any technical knowledge if you have a good business knowledge. In the same way, you can do a very good implementation with only technical knowledge if you have a good business user to support you.

Considering that an ERP implementation consists of both functional and technical activities, the question is very relevant in my opinion. In the initial phases of the project, the consultant is involved in collecting the requirements from the customer and in this phase of requirements collection, a knowledge of customer's business is very crucial and critical. While a knowledge of business is very important in this process, it is more important to have a very good common sense and ability to ask good questions and get correct clarification during this process. May be what is needed is to have good product knowledge and good common sense. May be you don't need to know the business at all.

So may be functional knowledge is highly overrated. It may not be that relevant.

On the other hand, a good functional knowledge can improve the quality of the implementation significantly. Functional knowledge helps the consultant thoroughly understand the explicit requirements of the customer and helps him to provide multiple businesss options to the customer for each of the requirements.

On the other hand, an ERP implementation involves a number of technical activities. For example, installation of the application, configuring the database, data extraction, data migration, data validation all these are technical activities. In addition, during the process of implementation, the team might come across many issues for which a good deal of technical knowledge is required. The most important activity in a project vis. extraction, migration and validation of data is a purely technical activity. In most of the ERP implementations, the errors made by a functional consultant are most of the time reversible, but the errors committed by a technical consultant are many a times only reversible at a great cost to the project in terms of money and time.

Then there is a group of consultants who call themselves 'Technofunctional consultants'. This is a term specific to consultants from India, who are predominantly technical consultants but who has gained a certain level of functional expertise working in multiple projects. These consultants want to move from technical stream to the functional stream and learn a little bit of functional knowledge. These consultants are 'Jack of All Trades but master of none' and though they call themselves 'Techno functional' most of the time their communication is heavily tilted in favour of technical vocabulary rather than functional vocab.

In general, I have observed that in the early stages of the project, functional knowledge is very important but at later stages in the project, it is the technical knowledge that plays a crucial role. The transition happens sometimes after CRP 2 when the configuration is completed and the processes are frozen...

So what do you think? Is ERP implementation mostly a functional process or mostly a technical activity? Or, is it, as the last option mentions 'Immaterial, since about 60% of ERP implementations fail anyway' (mind you, I don't belive that, personally)
The poll closed yesterday. As expected there was differences in opinion. Out of 5 Votes polled, 3 supported the option that ERP implementation is a 'mostly functional' activity while 2 supported that it is 'Mostly Technical' activities.
Thanks a lot for all the people who voted in this poll....


Ramaswamy VK said...

Where are all the comments that I have been expecting? I thought that this was a very controversial topic, what with many technical, functional and technofuntional consultants out there.
Please vote....

Sanchit said...

Functional, anyday!