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Enterprise systems are complex and must be tailored to the organization they are being implemented in. Common challenges in building enterprise systems include specifications and requirements determination, translation of specifications and requirements into business rules that can be followed by the enterprise system and training and compliance issues. The most important aspect of an enterprise system is the business rules on which it is based. In order to determine these business rules, the system developer must take the specifications and requirements provided by the users and management and transform them into machine practices.
However, gathering the specifications and requirements can be a challenging process. Enterprise systems are supposed to model the practices of the human resources of the enterprise – for example, if a job offer is made to an applicant and accepted, the HR subsystem will need to perform certain tasks, like employment confirmation, informing the supervisor of the start date, initiating benefits allocation and whatever other tasks have been set out for it.
Often organizations attempt to model a previous process completely within the enterprise system, using work instructions, manuals and guidelines to determine the correct procedure for a given task. However, if the organization has a high investment in tacit knowledge (knowledge which is not written down, but is passed from person to person in an “apprentice” fashion), these documents may be insufficient to reflect the full process flow.
In order to avoid losing tacit knowledge during the implementation of explicit business processes, it is important to utilize personal interviews and observation as well as examination of formal documents when determining specifications and requirements. After specifications and requirements have been determined, a secondary challenge is translating the specifications and requirements into business rules for processing by the enterprise system. These translations are not always completely obvious, and inaccurate or imprecise specifications can often cause the system to behave in unexpected ways.
For example, if a business rule that monitors industry statistics in order to predict market conditions misses a determining factor, it may predict inaccurately. These results may not be obvious until it is too late, particularly if there is no human oversight of the system. In order to prevent inaccurate or incomplete translation of specifications and requirements to business rules, human oversight of the operation of the system should be provided.
One final difficulty in developing and implementing enterprise systems is not with the system itself, but with its users. Enterprise systems are a paradigm shift in operations management for most organizations, and considerable resistance can be demonstrated by some employees, who may feel the system is too complex, inaccurate or simply unusable. The developer of an enterprise system must manage the change for the users as well as implement the system. Expectations management and training should be used to manage this change.
User’s expectations should be managed so that they are reasonable – a system should never be sold as “solving all the problems”, because the complexity of implementation means that things will probably get more complicated for a time, rather than less. Thorough training in the use of the system should also be offered; in order for the enterprise system to be fully effective, users must understand how, when and why to utilize the system for best results, and how to perform their tasks within the system effectively.