I’ve seen hundreds of presentations on how companies have implemented a supply chain software solution. I’ve also talked to hundreds of individuals who have been involved in implementing solutions. Successful projects include people, process, and technology considerations. Today, I want to summarize the main people-related considerations experienced implementers talk about.
First of all, a variety groups are typically involved in the process of approving, implementing, and ensuring supply chain solutions are effectively utilized.
- The Business Case Approval Group: These folks decide whether to fund a supply chain solution implementation or upgrade. It is a good idea to document the financial buckets that will give a solution its payback, and then turn those buckets into operational metrics or key performance indicators. For example, if you want to upgrade a replenishment solution, one payback bucket would be reducing inventory carrying costs. It may be that you are only actively managing only 70 percent of the stock keeping units in your current system. Increasing that percentage to 90 percent might be one of the goals for the upgrade, and that increase is associated with a savings number. In other words, “If we can get to 90 percent of inventory being actively managed, we will save this much money.”
- The Steering Team: It is their job to provide resources, guidance, and oversight for the entire implementation process. This cross functional team typically includes someone from IT, as well as representatives from the operations directly or indirectly affected by the implementation. At least one high-level executive is included because one key task of the steering team is to remove barriers to a successful implementation. These barriers sometimes involve people who put up roadblocks because they don’t like change or they believe the new processes embedded in the application will infringe on their freedom or power. Another common barrier is demanding that the application be customized to reflect the company’s unique way of doing things. The more implementations a company goes through, the less likely it will seek to add customizations.
- The Implementation Team: This is typically a cross functional team led by IT folks with project management training or experience. Having an experienced IT project manager is a key success factor.
- The Super Users: These are the first line of support for the application. Before the software vendor is contacted, the super users are asked “How do you do this?” These folks are also important for testing the application prior to general release to the rest of the company, and they commonly participate in training. “Train the trainer” is often a less expensive and more effective methodology for getting all users up to speed. If there is one thing most companies regret following an implementation, it is not having done enough training. “Take your budget for training and then double or triple it and you still have probably under budgeted” is a common piece of advice.
- Coaches: These folks, usually frontline managers of a process, are available to users who are not using the application effectively. It is a good idea for coaching to be proactive. In other words, don’t wait for users to come to the coach, but have a process for identifying users who are not using the application effectively, usually based on the operational metrics identified in the business case approval stage. If the goal is to get to 90 percent of inventory being actively managed, there should also be goals for each planner related to that higher-level metric.
- Internal IT Support: These folks provide second line support. When the problem is not how to do something but an actual system bug, users commonly go to the IT team. It is a good practice for this team to have quarterly or monthly calls with the software vendor to review issues surrounding bugs or usability. In large companies, where many users are using the same application, IT support personnel may specialize by application and/or by software vendor.
Finally, it is a best practice to have an IT/Finance Review Group actually review, post implementation, what sort of ROI was achieved or is being achieved – at one month, six months, one year, and two years after go live. This group is tasked with understanding why, or why not, a particular implementation was above or below expectations. This is not an exercise designed to cast blame, but rather to allow for continuous improvement in selecting and implementing IT projects. Unfortunately, this is the most widely ignored step of all.