Things will change, guaranteed, like it or not. How well you manage these changes will dictate how well you fare in the long run. This applies to almost anything in life, but this blog focuses on supply chain management (SCM) system transformations. I have worked on numerous such projects. Some were successful, and some were not. I’ll discuss how senior leadership engagement, business process analysis, and the proper communication will ensure that your project is a successful one.
To successfully navigate the change, it is critical to recognize that this is not just an IT project. It will affect the way workers do their jobs and communicate with others within the organization. That aspect is just as important as getting the software working. Giving attention to the process and the people, not just the technology, and deliberately managing the changes will all but guarantee a swift and successful transformation.
What Makes a SCM System Transformation Successful?
What is required for a successful SCM system transformation is no different than any other big transformation project. Solid project management is a given, of course. This blog discusses the following three equally important, yet often neglected, aspects of change:
- Senior leadership engagement
- Business process analysis
Senior Leadership Engagement
As you embark on your transformation, you will need backers and supporters throughout the organization but especially among senior management. Arguably, the #1 contributor to project success is active, strong, and visible sponsorship throughout the project. Even if you do everything else right with your SCM system implementation, you will need upper management support to run interference and get you over the finish line, because they can control people, technology, and funds. Plus, they give you legitimacy. Good leaders make sure they are present, approachable, and encouraging of dialog.
Business Process Analysis
Choosing a new supply chain software provider is a risky prospect, but the thought of retiring those complex and error-prone Excel files is enough to excite you about the new technology. What so many companies fail to realize is that new supply chain planning software is not always enough. So often, the inventory shortages, order expeditions, and capacity shortfalls are a function of broken and disconnected business processes and unaligned performance metrics. If you embark on an SCM system overhaul without scrutinizing your business processes and performance metrics, you’ll still get the wrong answer; you’ll just get the wrong answer faster. And that’s if you even make it to go-live.
To avoid that fate, don’t just go for the latest and greatest software technology and think that will solve all your problems. Start with an As-Is/To-Be workshop, where you map out exactly where you are today and where you want this new software to take you. Examine the impact of the new technology on not only your team’s decision-making processes, but those around you. What are the changes to the decisions being made and the ownership of decisions? Be sure that the decisions are oriented around common goals and don’t ignore the conflicts of interest between decision makers. Adjust performance measures so that the SCM system is aligned with corporate and other metrics. Use senior management to coordinate with upstream and downstream operations.
When new systems are introduced, jobs change and good change managers address it. It’s not about just training them on the software. Workers need to be assured that they will not lose their jobs, and managers need to address the impact on individual responsibility, autonomy, and workload. There will be a learning curve; both workers and managers need to be aware of that. It’s not the reality that needs to be managed as much as the perception, and each individual has a unique perceived impact.
Once you have honed in on a vision, straightaway the communication starts. People will be full of excuses to not engage in change, and they must be made to see why the extra work will pay off for them in the end. Choice of words matter; shape your ideas into a case for the value and direction of change, not just for the company but for the individuals too.
Be careful not to surround yourself just with those who agree with you, or you will find that while you think everything is going smoothly, you will be blind-sided by resistance. Resisters are not always very vocal. One of the best ways to sabotage a change effort is to do nothing – just quietly continue with the status quo. Pay attention and engage your users so you know where they stand and what you must do to be sure everyone is on board. Listen to the challengers.
Ensuring Success Start to Finish
Once you’ve gotten your senior managers on board, done your business process redesign, and established your lines of communication, the job of Change Master is in full swing. The project is underway, and now the real work begins.
- Effective project execution
- Nurturing the working team
- Persisting and persevering
- Celebrating accomplishment
Companies spend a lot of money on SCM software. They can maximize their return on that investment if they take the time to set the stage for the transformation. It requires much change, and managing that change is so much more important than many people realize.
We know from experience that the top obstacles to successful change are inadequate senior management sponsorship, broken and disconnected business processes, and employee resistance at all levels: front-line, middle managers, and senior managers. When asked what they would do differently next time, most teams would dedicate resources to change management.