Architecture methodologies & ERP implementation approaches

I remember reading a book review in an in-flight magazine. It was on Indian architecture. A paragraph read “Unlike the Western Architect who approached the subject from a total conception and moved down to the details, the Indian Temple designer moved from both ends simultaneously. The details play a major role and affect the final outcome in a startling way creating monuments of great uniqueness.”

I liked it because it somehow related to the trade I am. I was traveling to meet a prospective ERP implementation client. I used the review in the discussions I had that day.

The way I understand the above passage is that the architect first conceives the basic design principles of the structure. This would define the look and feeling and the mood the building would create. The details in the building would need to be in line with this framework.

A pillar would have the freedom of being circular or octagonal. That’s where the freedom of shape would end. It would have to have a smooth surface; vines creeping all over would be a strict no if these conflicted with the overall conception.

There is a parallel in the ERP implementation space. Normally you need to start with the mission/vision of the organization. You go on to the organizational objectives (or you can actually start there itself). The organizational objectives can be decomposed into business unit / division objectives. There would be critical factors that have to be successful for to realize the business unit objectives. From there on you go on to define how you would measure such success. You would need to identify the information need to be able to compute these measures and describe processes to generate such information. The last two chunks are the ERP implementers’ job.

This chain is a top-down approach that most ERP implementation methodologies subscribe to. Most of these methodologies have been born in the “developed” western economic environments. The philosophy is any activity that one does in an ERP application should clearly and unequivocally relate to some business objective.

This top down approach is most often turned on its head when it comes to implementations in Indian or other “oriental” businesses. Here operational imperatives have a major impact on the organization objectives. Might be that is true in every economy but in India we are not able to manage the show properly. We start from both ends simultaneously and get caught in a bog land of scope creeps, delayed sign offs, and disinterested end users. It often results in a situation of that popular cartoon of misaligned railroad tracks.

I have inserted a picture here in this write-up but you may also have a look at the one by John Pritchett at www.pritchettcartoons.com/wrong_rail.htm.

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