It’s sad but true.
This past week, a friend of mine called to say one of her favorite companies was having severe order fulfillment problems. We called the company and the director of operations said, “It’s a disaster. Go live was weeks ago on a major ERP system and it hasn’t worked right since day 1.”
We were told hundreds of pallets of merchandise were coming in daily but the company was running out of space because order processing was such a mess. The call center and web customers couldn’t see orders, meaning CSRs couldn’t tell customers where theirs was in the process. There were dozens of stores waiting for shipments but they, too, were caught in the quagmire.
Unfortunately, flawed system go live executions happen all too often. You might wonder how this is possible, after dozens of people have worked for months on an implementation. I think it’s because many companies have not built a readiness assessment for go live into their project plans.
It’s one thing to be running behind on programming modifications, testing and implementing your systems project. It’s another to unknowingly commit the company to go live without management review, risk assessment and agreement and signoff that everything is ready. This isn’t a daylong meeting before go live, but a built-in process that everyone works towards and knows in advance in terms of plans and criteria for readiness.
The following 10 points should be part of your readiness assessment before management gives its blessing to convert and go live:
Modification process: All testing of modifications need to be done first by IT and then by department management.
Testing: Complete end-to-end testing and conference room pilot testing from origination of orders, returns, receipts and shipping through to systems processes. This includes inbound product flow processes and outbound shipping functions. Be sure to process live data through to accounting and management reporting systems.
File conversion: Have the necessary files been successfully converted on a test basis and visually spot checked to the files on the current system. Then on a test basis convert 10% of the file and calculate how long the actual conversion of all files will take. With SQL systems in large multichannel environments this may take days to convert customer files. How does this affect your plans?
More testing: Do volume testing with website and call center phone orders to get a feel for how the system will respond when processing actual transaction volumes.
Check the interfaces: Have you tested all the interfaces with vendors, ASN and EDI services, marketing services, credit processors, etc.?
Training: Have all the employees in various departments been trained? Are new standard operating procedures in place?
IT readiness: Is IT ready to support the company with knowledge of the daily processes, and is all equipment installed in IT and user departments?
Who does what: Have agreement on the conversion process and everyone’s go live responsibilities.
OK from the top: Senior management and department management should sign off only after they’ve reviewed their respective processes and testing results and agree that all critical processes are ready.
Allow critical feedback from the rank and file: Most importantly, create an open communication environment where your employees are empowered and have the courage to say, “No, we’re not ready.”
For sure, there is intense pressure when you miss a go live date, as this means incurring additional project costs and taxing limited resources. But the situation becomes much worse when the switch is flipped before you’re ready, in the process risking the company’s profitability, reputation and customer relationships.
Curt Barry is president of F. Curtis Barry & Company