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Reduce the Pain of Moving to a New Supply Chain System

Good planning ensures a successful implementation.

When your company is spending millions on new S&OP or ERP systems, failure is not an option--yet it's a fact that implementations do fail or fall short of meeting expectations. In a recent report on ERP implementation problems, 38 percent of respondents said that a lack of employee buy-in is their biggest problem, while 19 percent felt a shortage of project resources was a major issue and 10 percent struggled with an inadequate budget.

Effective change management is a process of uniting people in making a transition, training, adapting business processes and getting people to work together. Here are a few considerations that can improve your chances of success:

Tools are good, but don't forget the people

There are a number of management tools with supply chain systems from vendors like Prosci, IBM and SAP. Part of your vendor selection should be based on the strength of its training services and applications. Even so, there's a danger of focusing too much on templates, frameworks and one-size-fits-all classes.

People need to know why the new system is better, what it can help them do and what they will need to do differently. You need to communicate early and often, but listening is equally important--it will help identify problems and get feedback so issues can be addressed immediately.

Eliminate silos and build skills

Today's supply chain systems reveal the interdependence of all parts of the business, from sales and marketing to procurement, manufacturing, inventory, logistics and accounting and finance. Creating unity from functional silos can be culture shock for employees. Don't underestimate the amount of training that will be required for everyone to understand the new system--and your company--better.

Draw on your HR professionals for planning, sourcing and delivering the necessary knowledge and skills. In addition, as the flow of information between departments changes, so will some job content, so job descriptions, pay grades and additional training plans need to keep pace.

Budget realistically

In addition to hardware and software, you need to budget for employee training, systems integration and customization. Customization, for example, is what makes an out-of-the-box system fit your company's way of working, and it can cost as much as or more than the system alone. Many of your current systems will remain in operation, which means you need resources to integrate your new software seamlessly from day one. From the start of the bidding process to the day you go live, understand your vendor's contractual obligations and be sure that it is meeting them.

Move forward together with collaboration technology

New real-time collaboration tools like GoToMeeting and Microsoft SharePoint can help you keep employees up to date on changes. They can also enable them to communicate and work out problems among themselves or across the miles with suppliers and customers. They can also help leaders stay plugged in, so they can pick up any signs of confusion or trouble and clarify and refocus the process.

Implementing a new supply chain system has far-reaching effects. Preparing yourself and people across the organization will help you get the most out of your investment.


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