Technology is the backbone of most companies’ strategic vision, but evaluating, selecting and deploying new supply chain software that touches all aspects of your operations is a daunting task. And while upgrades are increasingly important to your growth, successful deployment and internal adoption can also invite expensive failure.
Whether launching new software or migrating from one to another, having a precise evaluation and selection process drives operational effectiveness. It also reinforces transparency and fluidity throughout the organization. In fact, a thorough evaluation mapping process is one of the most powerful tools you have at your disposal.
Failed technology initiatives are tied to an enormous loss of time and money. Without an established evaluation and selection process, you run the risk of confusion, delays and conflicts within teams. Given current global conditions, this can cause significant pain. So, before rushing to deploy a new supply chain software system, consider these 5 important but often overlooked best practices.
Establish Required Features and Resources
The most important factor is to have a well-defined process plan that identifies supply chain software requirements. This will create a clearer picture of user stories, integration points and automation needs that may be lacking. Defining existing pain points within current processes is as significant as defining the new requirements and a process plan. Clearly outlining required features and identifying key resources helps determine and prevent any pitfalls that could stall a deployment.
When identifying key resources, it’s vital to keep lines of communication open with key stakeholders and assign responsibilities early on. You need to create a single-team mindset, establishing requirements based on the needs of departments, staff and executives. It’s also important to consider the intricacies of deployment, looking at on-premise vs. cloud, assessing how many locations and how many users as well as permission levels. This ensures the initiative will meet everyone’s expectations.
Points to consider: Do you have internal and vendor agreement with the timeline and project plan structure? What is your current system missing that you wish it could do? Would a new technology improve some aspect of your operation?
Understand Customer Needs
How will this supply chain software serve your customers? An audit of your existing system will reveal how customers are being served and uncover gaps.
Increasingly, organizations are relying on technologies that balance consistency and flexibility to further extract speed-to-market benefits. In an age of ever-more-demanding customers, forward-thinking companies are using a 360-degree approach to fully realize the true value of any technology investment. Viewing through the lens of the customer, primary speed-to-market goals will be incorporated that can be realized from day one.
Points to consider: Who is using it? Is it working well? Where are the service gaps? Does the staff have the right skills and knowledge to support it? How quickly or slowly can you implement this software? How well does it adapt to new market requirements? What are the expectations with future enhancements or upgrades from the applications provider?
Mind The Budget
In order to create budgetary parameters, you must closely examine the cost/benefit analysis and corporate ROI thresholds ahead of starting the project. Utilizing a modeling technique, you’ll be able to estimate project effort, development hours, staff size, risk propensity and hardware requirements.
Determine staff hours needed to maintain the projected timeline. Otherwise, sufficient resources will not be allocated, resulting in unmet deadlines and added expenses. Review any upfront or hidden costs as well as ongoing investments (maintenance, operating expenses, upgrades, features, support staff, etc.). You need to project these costs for 3-5 years in operational budget plans.
Points to consider: If replacing a legacy system, what are the associated costs? What are the cost implications to add or remove users, resources, functions or features? Is there flexibility to get a better rate for longer-term contracts? How will this deployment impact my budget today and over the course of the next 3-5 years?
Incorporate Security at Every Level
A new supply chain software deployment should not compromise any security best practice, instead seamlessly complying with existing standards. Robust security becomes even more critical during a deployment period.
Your vendor should assess the amount of security and compliance required. The implementation of vital security tools such as multifactor authentication can strengthen security against potential cyber threats. Hence, it is important to establish who can access data and have the ability to adjust and revoke permissions levels as needed.
Points to consider: Is the software provider aligned with your security strategy? Does it integrate well with your existing security standards? Does the software offer ongoing support and fixes? How frequently is data backed up? What does disaster recovery look like? What security assurances are provided by the software vendor and for how long?
Set the Integration Parameters
Lastly, you need to fully recognize the level of integration required by reviewing the current technology stack and identifying its associated benefits, challenges and costs. Depending on the level of integration, it might require additional hours to get all systems fully operable.
The true success of new or upgraded supply chain software is not achieved without understanding the overall operational benefits. Before go live, it’s imperative to load test and closely examine how the software behaves against your original requirements, typical daily scenarios and business processes. By closely scrutinizing the capabilities of the new system vs. requirements, you’ll be well-positioned to determine its current and future effectiveness.
Points to consider: Does this solution integrate into your existing system given the organizational and customer pain points? How easily will the software integrate with your corporate application architecture? Is there anything additional needed to integrate smoothly across the organization?
A supply chain software rollout is no small task. However, a carefully vetted evaluation plan ensures a smooth execution. These best practices will put you on the right track towards a successful deployment that will enable improved efficiencies, increased team productivity and optimized operations. Your entire organization is then equipped to better address current demands and anticipate future ones.
Tom Martucci is Chief Technology Officer of Consolidated Intermodal Technologies