Implementing an advanced planning system from most leading vendors (SAP, Blue Yonder, Oracle, etc.) is often a mission-critical capital project for today’s retail, CPG and manufacturing organizations. Today’s supply chain leaders may take multiple approaches to initiate these digital transformations; either leading with process documentation, technology adoption, or by piloting new technology in a limited business unit or process. The chief concerns among project sponsors haven’t fundamentally changed: Will my project be on time, on budget, and deliver the business benefit required? By utilizing a system integrator’s expertise, firms can effectively avoid many common pitfalls that cause projects to extend time, budget, or fall to adopt.
Four Congruent Workstreams
One of the chief failings in implementing new SCP technology lies in the buying process itself. Many firms solicit bids from the technology vendors, viewing demonstrations and scoring features and functionality against their view of the necessary requirements. If System Integrators (SI’s) are included in the implementation bidding process the primary focus is on delivering quickly, and at the lowest possible expense. According to a recent analyst survey, a whopping 63% of companies implementing new planning technology opted to use the software vendor as the implementation partner. However, the implementation of the tool is only one of four major work streams necessary to successfully adopt new practices and tools in planning. A lack of focus on one or more of the necessary considerations may seriously impact a project’s success:
- Technology- The most obvious and primary focus of most supply chain leaders. After scoring vendors and agreeing on a platform, features and functionality and tools are eagerly anticipated as the cure to inefficient processes and inaccurate calculations. Leveraging an SI who implements and maintains the solution in real-world environments lends a valuable perspective on what functionality is most effective for a particular client, and where to avoid complexity in design and configuration.
- Process Change- We often see two common errors related to the process in beginning an SCP implementation. Some companies have worked internally to define requirements and map processes, unaware of where new processes may bring efficiency or even worse, they automate bad processes. Many SI’s bring to a client a new perspective that includes exposure to dozens (or more) of leading supply chain organizations, and Plantensive consultants come armed with a toolkit of leading process maps, business and tech requirements, testing tools and training documentation.
- Data- Depending on the starting point for an organization, legacy data to support advanced planning tools may be housed in a similar structure and database to their intended new tool, contained in multiple legacy systems, or available from disparate stakeholder groups in many formats across business silos. Data cleanliness, availability, and readiness is the single largest cause of project overrun that we see. Some companies will opt to leave data readiness as the responsibility of the internal IT teams. By leveraging an experienced SI, a pre-implementation discovery can identify data gaps, and recommend a remediation plan to prepare for the integration and testing of a new tool before a team is on the ground and the clock is running. Even better, many qualified SI’s come equipped with tools to leverage AI solutions or pre-coded scripts to translate master data into the correct format for it’s intended target.
- Training and Change Management- Another afterthought or process often left out of implementations to avoid inflating budgets; change management is the constant underpinning of a successful implementation. Driving an implementation without a comprehensive strategy to drive end-user adoption most often results in the need for additional team augmentation or worse yet, a failed adoption. Qualified SI’s will propose to dedicate at least 10% of the project budget to change management, and will be able to bring stakeholder analysis, communication planning, and training methodologies as well as references.
Nearly every major software vendor has a list of established SI partners. Similarly, every SI should have a formal partnership with the software vendor they work with. The software vendor should play a key role in the project planning and implementation, but may not be the best resource to lead the implementation. Since an SI’s primary focus is the long-term stabilization of the client’s new process and tool, they’re directly invested and aligned with supply chain leadership. SI’s prove to be invaluable in assessing whether a software vendor’s claimed functionality is suitable for a client, where areas may fall short, and in which areas the tools may be augmented or pushed further to maximize the benefit to the customer.
- Spend time with both the software vendor and SI prior to project kickoff. Doing so allows the implementation partner time to understand client expectations, what’s been proposed or sold by the vendor and how to align a plan to maximize resources for a successful project.
- Create a steering committee consisting of internal, SI and software stakeholders. Assuring all parties maintain “skin in the game” ensures alignment to project goals and enables quick responsiveness to inevitable project roadblocks and changes.
- Align organizational roles and responsibilities to project resource needs and staff roles from the best-suited organization. A RACI chart as a part of the project charter ensures that expectations and responsibilities are clearly understood well before the project is underway.
- Leverage SI Toolkits, training, and documentation for smooth post-implementation success. A good SI will have developed process maps, functional and technical documentation, training guides and communication plans for after the project is closed. Many SI’s provide optional managed services for ongoing support and maintenance to augment the software vendor’s offering.
Ultimately, data from hundreds of SCP implementations prove that comprehensive planning and partnership with a qualified SI leads to better project outcomes. As SCP platforms become more comprehensive and complex, projects and vendor relationships are less and less transactional. Today, leading supply chain organizations develop in house expertise to drive competitive advantage, but also realize the value of having a trusted partner able to advise, enable, and grow alongside their clients.
Plantensive is one of the leading System Integrators in the supply chain industry. To learn more about our services and how we can help your organization, contact us today for a free supply chain consultation.