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Best Practices …. Like a Red Rag to a Bull?

Having personally just experienced the “Holiday Hell” that was the result of just five inches of snow at the UK’s and Europe’s busiest airport last week I was inspired to blog on the theme of best practices.

How you ask are these two things linked? Well, let’s think about the disappointment and frustration experienced by many holiday travelers (myself included) this winter who had the misfortune of being routed through Heathrow airport. Unfulfilled travel plans, missed reunions with families, forced floor sleeping arrangements; they had a right in many cases to be angry. How is it that airports like Sweden’s Stockholm-Arlanda can carry on functioning after 2-3 feet of snow fall yet London’s Heathrow collapses after just the same amount in inches?

BritishAirways_PhotoByTheTelegraph_UK

Photo by The Telegraph (UK)

I think it’s all about best practices. Because, let’s face it, London is more likely to be cold but sunny over the holidays than snowy and wet, and even though there has been snow at this time of year more than once in recent times, it’s hardly the dawn of another ice age in Britain. By contrast, the Swedes face the same dilemma every year and are simply more prepared because of… you guessed it, best practices.

At Epicor, we believe the same is true when it comes to ERP implementations and getting the maximum return on investment (ROI) from an ERP system during its lifetime. We believe that the provision and adoption of best practices can and does deliver these benefits. Now I know that the moment anyone starts banging on about best practices the “if I hear anyone mention best practices again I will scream” brigade comes out in force, and no doubt I will be roundly pilloried by the blogosphere and IT "twitterati" for this piece but there you are.

By my definition, a best practice is generally a method or an approach that has been proven to deliver the best results for a particular project or desired outcome. There are many common practices in business today that essentially deliver the same end result but a best practice is the most efficient way to deliver that end result. For Epicor, a best practice means repeatable business processes that combine an industry's best practice with our customers’ specific objectives and requirements to deliver the best implementation with the lowest TCO and the most effective use our software in their business with the highest ROI.

In many cases today, companies looking to improve or re-engineer their business processes engage a third party consulting firm who begin by reviewing processes “as is.” The will likely engage in a business process re-engineering (BPR) or value stream mapping (VSM) exercise and use modeling tools that output universal modeling language (UML) or even Visio. They will then create the specific “processes to be” and build them out in the software from the ground up. Any changes thereafter to the model mean customization. This is fraught with risk and the potential of “run away” costs. Epicor understands this “old school” business modeling but feels that starting with a blank sheet of paper results in a longer and more costly process that ultimately creates a “straight jacket” as opposed to a “dynamic” model. For example, tools like Visio are great but they are not dynamic. Instead, Epicor has pre-built best practice models by industry, which are based on how best to implement and use our software processes already, without compromising what makes your business unique. We use highly interactive dynamic modeling, which already understands the dependencies in and between processes, and our models are all backed by extensive best practice documentation right down to end user procedures. Best practices allow us to implement a customer’s solution faster, because we can provide more structured guidance and direction, meaning we need less time from the customer’s project team.

Best practices increase the value to customers through lowered project risk, time and financial savings, and what’s more, they are applicable to companies (just as airports) of all sizes.

Posted by James Norwood, Senior Vice President, Worldwide Product Marketing, Epicor

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