In preparing and operating the laboratory it is vital to ensure that the data used is fully representative of all possible scenarios.
The goal is NOT to have large volumes of data, on the contrary there should be as little data as necessary to ensure full representation.
Select a few transactions of each type and variant, complex transactions and simple transactions, straightforward transactions and transactions with changes and variations, every type of transaction, including those that occur only under extreme circumstances, certain times of the year, certain volumes of activity, etc.
Data must be selected so that in each case the full range of activities can be traced through the system.
The full range of customers, cash and account, prompt payments and delayed payments with numerous delays and excuses.
The full range of suppliers.
The full range of products.
Etc, etc – not a lot of any particular item, just enough to make sure that the system works under any and all operating conditions and that transactions can be traced all the way through the flow including ensuring that all General Ledger transactions are generated and audited.
The total data of the entire enterprise can be metaphorically thought of as a huge lump of material into which a large number of fine "boreholes" are drilled from numerous different directions until eventually the entire ore body of information is effectively understood and simulated.
This is the approach used to establish the economic viability and mining geometry of an ore body before developing a mine.
It must be possible before go-live to bring in the client's auditors and establish beyond reasonable doubt that the system is working effectively and reliably and that operators know how to use the system correctly.
3. Carefully planned and executed
All aspects of the laboratory must be carefully thought through in order to ensure that all scenarios are catered for, planning sessions, brainstorming and other activities will be required in order to ensure that all aspects of business operations are effectively simulated.
A laboratory team with representatives from all major areas of the business should be set up in order to do this planning and oversee the execution of the plan.
The laboratory will NOT run smoothly the first time it is run.
Initially operation will be ad-hoc, specific elements of the business will be simulated and once there is some real data there the next element of the business will be simulated.
It is vital that backups are taken regularly so that when a particular status is achieved it can be backed up and reused so that staff are not constantly capturing base data again and again.
This also requires careful planning, management and coordination.
The configuration of the final systems, which is the configuration that is being progressively developed in the laboratory, will require iterations.
It is the nature of iterative work that well planned iterations tend to be completed on time and on budget and badly planned iterations go on indefinitely with severe budget and time overruns.
Careful planning and careful management every step of the way are essential to achieving a cost effective and results effective laboratory and simulation programme.
5. Hands-on configuration in parallel with documentation – show the business how it works in practice
Each step of the way, as the software is configured it should be configured in the laboratory.
It is a reality that very few human beings have the cognitive ability to engage with a document and translate it into actionable computer system operations.
This leads to the phenomenon of business people agreeing to specification documents and then seemingly totally changing the specification once the software is shown to them in actionable and usable form.
Accordingly, as each step of the business analysis component of the project is undertaken this should be translated into software configuration settings which should then be implemented in the software and tested in the laboratory.
Time spent setting up the configuration in the laboratory and running through it with users will generally be much more productive than lengthy documentation sessions.
Where documents are prepared they should focus on presenting the findings and design proposals in ways that business people can relate to, understand and apply.
Where screens have to be designed or laid out they should be prototyped in Excel or other easy to edit presentation tool and NOT prototyped in software that requires time consuming behind-the-scenes configuration.
Note that the word prototype is associated with the meticulous hand crafted assembly of the first generation of a complex machine or system before the design is finalized and converted into mass production specifications.
The prototype must be carefully thought through, designed and executed.
6. Runs throughout the project
The laboratory should be established at the very start of the project and should run through well after go-live until the system is bedded down and is in full operation.
In fact a case can be made to retain the laboratory as a training environment on a permanent basis.
7. Elements of the laboratory
A laboratory should address the following components:
Fully representative data set but small quantities of data
All aspects of configuration
Taxonomies piloted and refined
Simulate standards, policies, protocols, processes, etc -- refine, document and train
Develop and test reports
Embryo of inputs to data warehouse and business intelligence environment
Formal audit of all aspects of the configuration
Full simulation of business operations
Hands-on practical training with real data in simulation setting until all users are familiar with the software
Inputs to development of Computer Based Training material where applicable
Formal confirmation that all testing in the laboratory is complete and that all aspects of the configuration are operating effectively
8. Fully tested and fully trained before go-live – no surprises
All staff who will use the new system must be fully trained in the laboratory environment until they reach a point where the new system can go-live with a reasonable expectation that there will be no major surprises.
The laboratory ultimately delivers two major outcomes:
High level of certainty in the reliability of the configuration and that it will work in practice – the final laboratory configuration is duplicated in the live system.
High level of business user preparation, familiarization and training, when the system goes live it works as expected and they have seen it and worked on it before.
This provides an overview of the major components of a business systems laboratory which is an essential element of any business systems project.
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Business Systems NOT delivering?
Call the Business Systems Specialist
Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.
Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.
He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.
If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist
Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.
Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.
All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.
There HAS to be a better way!
This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control
We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website
We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues
By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT
This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.
In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.
Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:
James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.
You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor
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There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website
Please click here to visit the detailed listing of articles
About Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- The Business Systems Doctor -- and Other Topics
Catalogue of Major Business Information System Failures
About the Engineering Approach
James Robertson's Value Add
Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution
Recognizing Business System Failure
The Critical Human Foundation
Old Software IS Viable
From South Africa
Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng
About Professor Malcolm McDonald
Table of Contents
About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing
Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics
Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson
List of Articles
Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes
Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?
The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody
Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration
Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
IT Project Management
CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement
No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes
Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™
The Pulse Measurement Workflow
The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement
Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations
What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?
Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years
Sample Pulse Measurement Reports
Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems
Strategic Essence: Overview
Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined
Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation
Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different
Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure
Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence
Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?
Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment
Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual
A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting
Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works
Robust Business Systems Procurement
Part 1 -- Introduction
Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc
Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters
Guidance and Advisory Services
The Art of Project Leadership
Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital
The Business Simulation Laboratory
Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture
Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies
The JAR&A Cubic Business Model
Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal
The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration
Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask
Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration
092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013
088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa
026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf
018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf
011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng
Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems
Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering
Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations
Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment
The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual
Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples
Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software
Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References
Example General Ledger Manual
Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous
The RIGHT Approach
Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction
Standards for Custom Software Specification
What IS Software?
Critical Factors for I.T. Success
A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail
Case Studies examining Business Information System failures
The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle
The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict
Speaking and Training
Showcase of Conference Presentations
Most Viewed Presentations
Briefings and Seminars
Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results
The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success
Conferences and Public Presentations
Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present
Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009
Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005
Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996
Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994
On-Line Seminars (Webinars)
Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars
Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited