It’s not what you bought but what you do with IT
Applying IT is like the application of any tool - if you don’t know what to do with it, you’ll break something. But this time it could be your business.
Despite a plethora of pretty respectable advice, company executives still stride confidently into the quagmire of acronyms and oh-so-clever people. You know those brimming with confidence in an IT world they haven’t a clue about. Some teach you to drive a milk-float but sell you a Lamborghini ( which isn’t a tractor anymore). Then they walk away.
Is IT a world of myths and fairy tales? No, it’s the heart of a business strategy’s effective execution. IT helps deliver your customer promise, gives visibility into how you perform and the profit you make. But if you compare climbing the IT ladder to stages of open heart surgery, it’s vital to pick the appropriate medical team.
First you purchase IT. This can be the “over-promised land”. When engaging an IT supplier, think Estate Agent. How often do you buy a house? They sell houses daily. Pick your “agent”- it’s about shared understanding, demonstrated relevant knowledge and interest in your needs. Not big talk and a quick sale. It’s too easy to say “yes” than to deliver it. So where it matters, seek proof, preferably their customer site. Feel affinity for your supplier - after all they will be your partner for years.
And then you’ve got it. So, now what?
I’ve used, implemented and helped sell IT into manufacturing supply chains. Laced with serious mistakes and thankfully successes. Here are some guiding thoughts:
- Consider your company’s Business Maturity - Do your processes reflect effective processes and to what extent are your people ready for discipline? Not a beating but sticking to the rules. Where you start from doesn’t matter, how you start does. Be honest.
- Appropriately match maturity to your business requirements - While still thinking ahead, be careful appetite doesn’t overwhelm ability to digest new technology.
- Paddling won’t teach you to swim but jumping off the pier is risky - Your first step may be to enable/automate good processes or are you ready to optimize or both? Normally you seek control to gain accuracy and visibility - but understand the flexibility to bend the rules will diminish.
- If you want something done ask the busy people - They know what needs to be known. But plan time and support for them to contribute effectively.
- Change is part of the deal - Train/educate people in new practices and screen working. User acceptance testing of these new ways is non-negotiable.
- Understand where you are going - Get help to map/document processes representing where you need to be, which may not be the same as where you want to be. Seek help to target this.
- Big Bang or phased - This is second nature for supply-chain professionals. Think cross-functional benefit to enhance service not just optimize one function. Roadmap a sensibly challenging journey aligned with your future strategy, and it may be best to phase IT.
- Data is hugely important - your current data is not “clean” enough to move forward. Time/resources are needed here - more than you know. Do not start with dirty data.
- Hardware and network infrastructure - Get professional help - not the guy that buys your PCs.
- Implementation methodology - Milestone planning, project management overseen by a Steering Committee with executive teeth who own the end result.
- Stress testing - Before you go-live, your reincarnation, check that hardware, technical and software set ups deliver the speed you need and include volume/stress testing. Or you will crash.
It’s hard to simplify your success but you must as this will help your IT cardiovascular system move into a vigorous life hereafter. Good luck.