Over the years I have seen hundreds of forecasting, demand planning and S&OP technology projects completed. Each project is unique and succeeds or fails because of its own circumstances, but common to all projects are essential features that help ensure success. If you focus on these key elements, your chances of a successful technology project increase dramatically.
Here are the 10 key elements that I believe drive a successful S&OP technology project:
See detailed walkthrough under infographic.
10 Elements that drive a Successful S&OP Project
- Executive Commitment. Top-level management must, at the very least, buy-in to the project so that its importance is recognized throughout the company. At best, an executive sponsor can help drive organizational change around the implementation and rally resources when needed.. A supportive executive team member can make or break a project.
- Clearly Defined Goals. If you stay focused on the business problem you are trying to solve, then the decisions regarding the nuances of a technology implementation become much clearer. You must have an overarching goal you want to achieve and a timeline for completion. Without those, the project loses focus and energy, and no one really knows if what is delivered at the end meets your needs.
- A Baseline. Establish an agreed upon baseline from which you will measure success. Do an audit of key performance indicators before you start, and measure performance in those areas. This helps determine an accurate ROI. Examples are inventory levels (working capital), customer service levels, forecast accuracy, expedited orders, etc.
- Cleary Defined Scope, Time and Resources. Scope creep is a dangerous, project killing disease. There are three critical levers that effect the “success” of a technology project. These are: Scope, Time and Resources. If one is constrained or not it affects the other two, and it all depends on determining your priority. For example, if Scope – getting the right solution in the end – is the primary driver, then that means Time may be elongated and Resources (people, equipment and money) stretched to meet the Scope priority. Conversely, if getting a minimal solution by a certain date is critical, then Scope is naturally narrowed. Once these levers are calibrated, you cannot change one and not expect it to effect the other. Most people try to increase scope but expect no changes in time or resources. This misalignment often leads to dissatisfaction in the project.
- Project Leads. Project leads on both ends must be established. You should have a representative from the technology partner along with someone from your company who is responsible for the project. A technology project is not owned by your technology partner. You own it. The partner supports you, heavily at the beginning, but becomes less and less involved as you take over the closer the project comes to completion. Therefore you must insist on this.
- Communication Plan. Create a calendar of regularly scheduled updates. Key project members must attend these meetings and make it a priority. The earlier issues and concerns are identified and resolved the better. Be proactive.
- Identified Risks and Contingencies. Every projects has risks that could derail it. Most revolve around resources and data. Resources may be unknowingly committed to other projects and not available at the needed time, or holiday schedules and vacations not taken into account. Most of these conflicts can be mitigated with proper planning, but real alternatives should be identified ahead of time. At John Galt, the number one risk we experience is the unavailability of required data. For an S&OP technology project, certain data is required to create the desired output from the system. Many times the resources needed to acquire this data are not available, or the process for acquiring the data has not been thoroughly examined. Therefore the project gets delayed until the data can be obtained.
- Detailed Project Plan. Of course a project plan is needed with the necessary detail to identify tasks, owners, contingencies and milestones. The plan must be kept current throughout the project. Resource requirements must be planned out ahead of time. And there must be enough wiggle room in the plan to allow for those expected, but unforeseen delays.
- Approvals at key project stages. It is very important to get formal sign-offs at the various project stages, such as conceptual design, detailed design, etc. before advancing to the next one. This insures agreement by all parties as to what was completed and delivered. If stages are not closed the project will continue to consume resources unnecessarily and/or rework will have to be done if there were misunderstandings from prior steps.
- Evaluation. You must continue to monitor performance even after the project is officially complete. You have defined your KPIs for success (#3), and you should routinely calculate those metrics to ensure you are maintaining or improving your performance.
Your entire S&OP technology project should not only possess these 10 key components for success, it should also retain these two crucial characteristics: Transparency and Iteration.
First, everyone on both teams has to be honest (transparent) with each other about what is happening and what can be done. Too often promises are made that cannot be kept. Be realistic and you may even surpass your own expectations.
Second, technology is a key component of the project along with the process and the people, and technology is always evolving. You may need to change course along the way - iterate. That’s ok. Just reassess the impact on your budget, scope and timeline and make informed decisions.
At John Galt Solutions, the configurability of our software makes these projects go faster and smoother relative to most in the industry. However, we always keep these elements and characteristics of a successful project in mind when we lead an S&OP technology project implementation using our Atlas Planning Suite. We commit to successfully solving your business problems up front. Too often, large IT projects get lost in the details of delivering the technology instead of solving the problem at hand. Stay focused on solving the problem and the rest comes easy.