In a series of blogs I will give some insights of how-to implement business software. In this blog I describe the start of a software implementation project, the choices to make and the reason to write a software blueprint.
Before you start the implementation project, define:
- A Time Schedule
Defining goals is important! It should be part of your strategy, based on your companies mission:
- What do we want to achieve?
- What do we want to change?
- How can Business Software support in that matter?
The best way to define goals is to take a step back to the drawing table and review the companies mission. Define a future plan.
Before you start you might not know for sure how much it’s going to cost you. No worries there. Start with defining your goals on the short term and longer term. Where do you want the company to be in 5 years from now? Have you grown in revenue, doubled maybe? Have you grown in employees? If so… what is the expected return on investment you want?
With that in mind, you’ll have some figures of budget you can spend to optimize the business processes and business software.
Keep it simple though:
- If automating your Purchase Invoice Process (instead of typing in 5.000 invoices per year) saves you two fulltime employees, which can be used for something else. You just saved two years of wages, which you can invest in software. Earned back in only one year!
- If automating your warehouse with barcode scanning optimizes the process and prevents errors in the picking process, and therefore lowers faults in delivery. And therefore improve the customer satisfaction. You have a reason to invest here.
Improving Business Processes and implementing software takes serious time! Next to your current job. Be aware of the time it takes to implement software and business process changes, take your employees by hand. Learn new ways of operating processes and overcome resistance. It will take up at least two days a week for the involved people if you want to take serious progress. And 3-6 months of lead time until final delivery, depending on the size of the company.
- For startups time can be faster
- For bigger companies lead time of 1 year or more can be necessary
As starting point for the software blueprint, a lot of businesses start with figuring out the current method of work and the current business processes. From their they make a view into a possible future of organizing their processes and software. In my opinion that way contains various hazards.
It can easily take up valuable time in looking into the past.
- Why did we make this or that decision?
- Why are we working like the way we do now?
- What could we have done different in the past to prevent this or that?
While thinking about the future from the past as point of view, it can influence your sight and focus on implementing new software but work the way you always did.
No process change after al. But remember. If you keep working like you always did, you will get what you always got. If you notice this during the implementation process, stop immediately! And rethink. You only should be doing this optimization process if you want to achieve the goal.
If you keep working like you always did, you will get what you always got.
Think about the future
Based on the examples above you could state: if I don’t investigate the past, how do I find those kind of optimization examples? That’s why we talk about the next step, a good step in the right direction for a sustainable business and software blueprint.
What should you do to change, to grow, to be better? You know the answers already. Or your employees do. Those are just lying there. So yes this point will be discussed, but during discussing the future. Ask your employees: what frustrations in the software and process do you experience?
- What would you do differently?
- Where do you see room for optimization?
Basically: start thinking about the future and the goals you’ve set. What needs to be done to reach those goals? Which changes are to be made?
The Software Blueprint
An analysis (or blueprint phase) is in fact a preliminary investigation prior to the actual project. The reason for an analysis is to get clear:
- Where the customer wants to go in the future
- Where are current painful area’s which deserves to be addressed
- What are considered to be weak points or issues
- How IT and software connect to business processes
Some topics which can be discussed:
- Is customer information to be connected with CRM and Outlook? How should that work in the future?
- How is purchase management been done. Is it done based on Sales Forecast? Is there Purchase Planning and reorder parameters?
- Are Customer Documents still being printed or automatically emailed?
- Is there a need for integrations with a Product Configurator or Web shop for example
- What is the need for reporting? What can be done with smart tools like Microsoft Power BI?
The deliverable of this process is a report (blueprint) that is presented to the customer. A blueprint forms the starting point for the implementation, as well as the designs to be realized for the client. In addition, a blueprint document can be used as a basis for customer-specific work instructions. This document therefore describes the primary scope for implementation.
A blueprint is usually written by a Business Consultant who has profound knowledge with the specific work of the customer’s company and understands the internal policy and industry in which the company operates.
Writing a blueprint contains at least the following subjects:
- Conducting interviews with (key) users who represent the entire organization
- Gaining knowledge of the company
- Developing the blueprint, describing how Business Central can serve the best within the organization
- Fit / Gap analysis
- Recommendations for the future
- A list of proposed changes (process and software related)
While thinking of proposed changes, keep in mind:
- Your business is unique – otherwise there would not be a reason to exist – this makes your business special. Business Software companies should treat you as such.
- On the other hand – all business work according certain business processes which show huge similarities. Whether it is Trade, Manufacturing, Projects, Service. During the years standards have evolved based on logic and science. Those process standards will help you operate more efficient. That means it’s worth taking a look what standard software has to offer.
Business Dynamics is the best balance between software and business processes. You have to make a choice here:
- Adjust the business process towards standard software, or
- Adjust the software towards the business process
Both have their benefits and consequences. It’s up for a good discussion too.
The size of the research and blueprint document depends on the size of the customer and the scope of the research. A blueprint phase includes a required period of 6-15 days on average. For bigger companies it may take up to 20+ days.
Then there is the choice for software. As for me, I strongly believe in the cooperative power of the fully integrated stack of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Solutions. Where Dynamics 365 for Business Central is the Backbone of the organization and integrates with Microsoft Office 365, Power BI, CRM and due the Common Data Model also connects with almost anything else.
The great power of Business Central is that it grows with your organization. Whether you’re a startup, SME or Multinational. Whether you are in Trade, Manufacturing or Service Management.
Elaboration of a blueprint analysis forms the basis for a new, more detailed project proposal. The Sales Team can get to work based on this information, to discuss next steps with the customer. In almost all cases, a blueprint phase provides new information, it makes the customer think about their business operations and progressive insight arises.
The next step will be finetuning the Sales Process and Budgets. Another blogpost will cover that subject.