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Your business software system should be a well-oiled machine: efficient, effective and agile. However, more often than not, it is probably more than a little sluggish and in need of a bit of an overhaul. So, why not do something about it?
Contrary to what you might believe, taking the first steps towards sorting out your business systems doesn’t need to be daunting. With some expert advice your business could be energised and ready for the year ahead.
Knowing when change is required
There are many misconceptions around what is involved in a successful IT project. The perceived cost is viewed as inhibiting, the amount of change required seems immense, the upheaval for employees and the organisation as a whole is off-putting, not to mention the huge amount of time involved. What’s more, knowing how and where to start can be overwhelming.
Simplifying and accelerating the process using our best practice approach
For those of you who are looking to update your systems but are not quite sure of the type of solution you need, the different business processes that could benefit from being improved on, or the level of overall change you require, we offer a unique Business Information Review (or BIR) to help navigate this path.
Developed using our best practice approach, a BIR, is a short, sharp exercise, conducted in partnership with all key stakeholders within a business. It considers where your business is now, where you want to be in the future and how your IT system can be an enabler to this end goal. The outcome is a high-level summary of the project, scope, benefits, risks, and outline costs, which can be presented at board level. The whole process can be carried out in as little as 5-15 days and is a hugely valuable exercise.
Conducting a BIR helps to build a business case for the investment required. Often the people within an organisation who are championing IT change are not the ones who will make the final decision and approve the budget required.
Such projects usually involve a certain amount of investment (something all corners of a business are fighting for) and are perceived to be difficult and laborious. This is further compounded by the fact that there is often not the necessary level of understanding and experience in-house to develop the business case and project plan. Too often, projects are given the go-ahead based on who shouts the loudest, or which one has the perceived lowest cost and risk. More often, what is decided may not actually be to the benefit of the business, or even what the business really needs! The end result is that many much needed projects never see the light of day.
What does a BIR cover?
A BIR is conducted in full partnership with you, the customer, and is focused on linking your business goals with your IT requirements in order to develop an IT and systems strategy. It focuses on creating a systems roadmap and plan which addresses:
- the internal systems currently used,
- the external and internal interfaces including data sharing and interaction with third parties,
- disaster recovery, succession planning and controlled change management.
It also considers gaps in your current system and addresses the overall scope of a new solution:
- time is taken to understand the individual systems and processes,
- a review is conducted of the market, need and approach in order to build a system selection strategy, for example, should you opt for a cloud, on-premise or hosted solution?
- we also consider the needs and wants of your clients as well as what your competitors currently offer.
The output of all this is a ‘Vision and Scope’ document which outlines the recommended vision for your organisation’s core business system and the scope of any implementation. This document is entirely bespoke to you and will identify key business objectives, measurable success factors, recommended system features, implementation schedule and outline costs. It is organised into four main sections:
- Business Requirements: describes your business areas and opportunities.
- Vision of the Solution: the approach the project team will take to meet your needs.
- Scope: the boundary of the solution defined through the range of data requirements, what is out of scope, a strategy for project approach, how the project needs to interact and align with the overall rollout project, and the criteria by which the solution will be accepted by users and operations.
- Business Context: includes the profiles of the project’s stakeholders, users and outlines priorities within the project.
The document will provide you with the foundation you need to develop your business systems landscape in line with your business needs. It offers a long-term vision of the business system, the ideal ‘end result’ if you like. However, this will then be broken down into a number of key stages and tasks with short term objectives and results. If the project goes ahead, as stages are implemented, the BIR can always be re-visited as it might be the case that the vision changes slightly, or additional elements are added to the project. As we all know, very few organisations stay the same for long, therefore it is vital that a BIR has the flexibility to adapt to your business and your evolving strategy and objectives. A BIR is really a ‘living document’ which should be revisited over the long term.
A BIR in practice
Star Refrigeration is one of our long-standing IFS customers who conducted a BIR before they took the decision to carry out an IFS upgrade. They had been talking about upgrading for a year or two but kept putting it off. They knew they were not fully using 7.5 therefore there was a key opportunity to better utilise what they already had, however, they also wanted to take advantage of the enhanced functionality available in Applications 9, particularly around CRM and mobile work orders. Upgrading from IFS Applications 7.5 to IFS Applications 9 would allow them to do this without causing too much disruption to the business. However, before they went ahead, they wanted to be sure they were making the right decision for the business.
To better understand Star’s current use of IFS Applications 7.5, we conducted a BIR which sought to evaluate and map their current processes (the “As Is”) and then provide recommendations for a potential “To Be” environment. Following this, we would be in a stronger position to properly identify issues and recommend improvement areas to their existing process.
Conducting the BIR uncovered a number of key findings relating to how Star was currently using IFS. In summary, they were only using a limited number of modules within IFS to carry out their day to day business activities. Based on this, we believed that they had a real opportunity to become more efficient and cost-effective in many areas of the business. This could be achieved by reducing the duplication of data entry, removing manual errors and centralising existing processes and procedures. The introduction of IFS Applications 9 would provide the business with new functionality such as improved CRM and a complete mobile workforce platform for their onsite engineers.
Following the findings and recommendations of the BIR, we then went on to provide a series of workshops covering finance, payroll, HR, maintenance, operations, quality & health and safety, sales and CRM. The workshops outlined the changes between IFS Applications 7.5 and Applications 9 and provided Star with advice on IFS functionality which was not currently in use but, if switched on during an upgrade, would bring great benefits. These included, IFS Lobby, embedded CRM and comprehensive mobile access. What’s more, adding modules like payroll into IFS, would remove a lot of the manual data entry Star were currently undertaking.
Star went on to complete an upgrade from IFS Applications 7.5 to IFS Applications 9. Commenting on the success of the upgrade, David Bolster, ERP Project Manager at Star Refrigeration said, “Our users like the new look and feel of Applications 9, it is more modern and the new functionality has definitely improved our processes. The upgrade saw no disruption to the operational side of the business as we were able to work with our small project team to carry out thorough testing at each stage to catch any issues before go-live. All in all, the entire process went as smoothly as we could have asked for, with no major issues. Upgrading from Applications 7.5 to Applications 9 has meant that we are using parts of the system differently from how we have in the past, which now means we have some redundant historical data we have to clear away, but that is to be expected after 15 years on the same system.”
How much will this exercise cost?
The BIR is a standalone, no obligation exercise. While there are associated consulting costs involved, there is no requirement to go ahead with the recommendations made within the ‘Vision and Scope’ document. Simply making the first steps towards determining what needs to be done and how this can be achieved is a huge step forward for some businesses and can be the start point for further discussions. If the project does go ahead then often the fee for the BIR can be deducted from the overall project costs.
If you know your business systems are no longer fit for purpose and could do with an overhaul before they start to hinder your organisation, dont hesitate to call!