Blog: 7 Key Considerations for Supply Chain Planning Implementations

In her October 2017 Supply Chain Planning strategy document, Gartner analyst Amber Salley details 7 key considerations that help supply chain leaders overcome these challenges by narrowing the project focus, tackling data issues, building support and working with third parties. Figure 1 above, from the Gartner report, summarizes those 7 points. Using our 4 decades of SCP solution experience we thought we’d offer our insight as well. Often it dovetails perfectly into the Gartner report. On a couple of occasions it differs slightly because of our recommended approach.

1. Treat Implementation as a Business Change Project
The implementation of an SCP project can impact the people and processes of your business. However, there is a first step in the GAINS® implementation process that enables SCP to impact the results without changing the people and the process. This enables you to reap the rewards of SCP without the risk/disruption of implementing broad behavioral and procedural changes to all of the stakeholders mentioned in the report.

2. Build a Business Case
Nothing builds a business case like actual results. GAINSystems has been creating actual results for customers BEFORE they commit to a project and wide scope implementation by running an IIPSE (Inventory Investment, Profit and Service Evaluation). You can capture the obvious value that is guiding the overall project need (i.e. inventory and service levels, profit, expansion) while defining the full business case. This allows you to start your migration toward Better, without delaying the start, while trying to define perfection (never achievable anyway).

3. Staff Adequately
Nothing gets done without sufficient resources and executive sponsorship. With the incremental approach we’ve referenced in 1 & 2 above, you can limit the amount of staff and sponsorship required in the early stages while you get actual results. Later, as the paths to further results become obvious, you can expand the scope of the resources and executive sponsorship required. It is much easier to state to an executive that you’ve already improved your key business need without disruption, and that you’d like to see if you can help them with their own key business need(s).

4. Minimize Configuration
There are two portions of any project that take the most time and can cause the most disruption and delay. Configuration/Customization of the processes is number two. Gartner recommends: “Take the time to re-engineer the business processes to fit out of the box system capability, often delivered by best-practice templates, and use a custom configuration only in limited cases. These include instances where out of the box functionality is not the right answer or business processes can’t be changed.” We agree. Ideally the role of the SCP alongside the rest of your existing processes is complimentary.
If the process of the SCP ultimately replaces an existing process, adopting the “standard” process of the SCP solution will reduce project effort and time. However, there are instances where you should modify the process to accommodate your business. Those changes should be undertaken with extreme caution if only to avoid the time delay.

One way to minimize configuration is to put SCP product training as part of the project kick-off. Starting a project kick-off with a clean sheet of paper and allowing the project team to narrate what they’d like it to be will result in an overly complicated process flow that elongates the time and increases the risk for the project.

People are naturally resistant to change. To understand how to manage that tendency we recommend reading the book Switch by the Heath brothers. It is a practical guide that allows you to identify why people resist change and how to get them to embrace change.

5. Focus on Data
The most challenging aspect of any project is the data. Amber writes, “Data integrity should be resolved before an SCP technology project is implemented so that users don’t lose faith. Resources should be applied in the beginning to verify data and cleanse the data.” This is all good advice because the old adage, garbage in – garbage out, applies unequivocally to an SCP solution.

However, there is a slightly different approach that we advocate to our customers. The reason your data is suspect is because the ERP or other existing systems allow it to be suspect. That isn’t going to change. So instead of fighting the inevitable ”dirty data,” GAINS implements filters that identify the dirty data and excludes it from the system. This creates the opportunity to quickly adopt and use data that is “clean.” It builds the list of data that requires resolution against which GAINS can actually help.

As an example, let’s say that there are 1,000 historic order details available for a widget. Of those 1,000 records, 20% of the data is incomplete. GAINS will tag the dirty data and utilize the 800 records that are clean. From the 800 records, and using Machine Learning, we can discover how to clean the dirty data. In the meantime, the 800 records serve as the data basis upon which SCP can process with a 20% uplift in critical areas such as quantity, etc.
In other words, don’t let dirty data slow down your project. It will always be there. Build a robust process to identify it, and account for its missing impact on the rest of the clean data. Machine Learning will quickly create the appropriate filters that clean dirty data captured by the first set of filters.

6. Build Realistic Timeline
Managing expectations is a critical aspect of a project. Timelines are one of the most obvious. However, instead of building a timeline with a single “go-live” date somewhere out in the future, build a project plan that has multiple go-live dates on smaller scales of impact.

In points 1 and 2 above we introduced the opportunity to have a low/zero impact implementation of GAINS. This can be done in a quick timeframe with very little to no disruption to your people or processes. Subsequent expansions of the SCP can then be incrementally deployed to increase the value achieved.
In fact, we believe this incremental deployment is aligned with the maturity that Gartner references in SCP. It is unwise to eat an entire elephant in one sitting. Even pretending that you can define and scope the ‘to-be’ process and project is naïve. Instead, recognize that your supply chain and its needs are constantly changing. Internal and external market factors contribute to a constantly moving target. Build your project approach to be on-going with proven results delivered early and often throughout the life of your supply chain.

7. Manage Third Party Support
This is certainly important if you choose to bring in an outside resource beyond your employees and those of your SCP solution. It is challenging enough to coordinate your own employees and the SCP vendor’s resources. Adding in a third party integrator amplifies the project risk, overrun and cost factors by a significant factor. It typically more successful when the third party integrator acts at the higher level as project management to ensure both the customer and vendor are keeping commitments, rather than an active part in the customer project.

Source: “Implement Your Supply Chain Planning Technology on Time and on Budget With These 7 Actions,” 4 October 2017, Amber Salley