12 steps to get supply chain execution projects up and running: two secrets to understanding the return-on-investment mindset it’s not just software, and you don’t just load it and watch it run

12 steps to get supply chain execution projects up and running: two secrets to understanding the return-on-investment mindset it’s not just software, and you don’t just load it and watch it run – Strategic Corner

Dennis Dearth

It’s not just software, and you don’t just load it and watch it run

Early in my career I was told, “Its just software–load it and it runs.” Indeed, over time, the opposite has more often proved to be true. Today, I urge our team members to never assume that “when loaded, it will run,” or that unforeseen issues will not delay or derail a development and implementation project.

To minimize surprises and risks in a project, try the following checklist, which outlines a dozen areas that should be carefully addressed in any project.

Clearly define requirements. Functional scope clarity cannot be overemphasized. Be specific. Ambiguity and vague generalities invariably create problems during the vendor-selection phase and, if not resolved, will increase costs and reduce the probability of success. Put everything in writing, and ensure sign off by all appropriate parties.

Avoid scope creep. Once defined and agreed upon, lock down functional requirements. For legitimate exceptions, establish a formal process for defining the additional work to be completed and estimating associated time and costs.

Develop a project roadmap. Timely, successful development and implementation of supply chain execution systems requires coordination of hundreds of tasks and multiple players from diverse disciplines. Build an integrated project roadmap that encompasses all project activities with clearly defined milestones and deliverables.

Clearly define roles. Solid project planning demands definition of each team member’s role, responsibilities and schedule targets. Share this information with everyone on the team. Delivery failures are often the result of the assumption that someone else is handling a given task, especially in closely aligned or overlapping functional areas.

Maintain regular, substantive communications. It doesn’t matter how well planned a project is if plans and expectations are not properly communicated from the outset. Further, regular on-point feedback to all team members and stakeholders is critical to sustaining morale and maintaining momentum.

Formalize technical design. Detailed definition of functional requirements is critical. Equally, if not more, important is the discipline followed in the creation of project-specific technical specifications. The significance of this project component increases exponentially as the size of the technical team grows. Specifications should be carefully crafted, checked and rechecked–not “cut and pasted” from a prior project.

Test, test, test. Make the commitment to deliver a superior product by establishing rigorous, independent testing, with detailed, standardized test scripts. Define and follow a streamlined issue reporting, tracking, prioritization and resolution process.

(Over)train system users. Change can be huge. Mitigate your risk by involving users early and often and by ensuring that they are well trained. Identify prospective project champions and enlist their support in tailoring training programs to your community. Make simple cheat sheets available, especially early in the implementation.

Provide multiple environments. Maintain separate development, testing, training and production environments. Follow a rigid code and configuration promotion process.

Trust functional leaders. Project managers generally don’t possess working knowledge of every project discipline. Build effective teams with strong domain knowledge leadership in key areas. Depend on and hold them accountable for the management of their deliverables.

Cultivate team cohesion. Avoid unnecessary management interference and micromanagement. Build project plans that ensure team members remain focused throughout the implementation. Praise honestly in public. Correct honestly in private.

Implement proven technologies. Unless you can establish a business case for doing otherwise, implement proven technologies for which you already have an effective support infrastructure or for which you can easily and inexpensively obtain one.

Dennis Dearth is technical services practice leader with ESYNC. You can reach him at 419/842-2212 or at dennis.dearth@esync.com.

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