Chapter 5: Constructing an agile implementation plan

Identifying the Project Champion

At a long, drawn-out meeting that takes place at the Spindl office, Saf is leading the discussion about assigning a Project Champion for the ERP implementation project. There are two ways to go about it: either they hire an external PC, or pick someone from their own team. While Saf is in favor of the former, Mel seems to be leaning toward the latter.

Saf points out that implementing an ERP is not an area of expertise for people in the company, and there may be oversights that they cannot—in a metaphorical and literal sense—afford to have.

Mel is quick to counter; picking someone who knows the company itself is more important than knowing an ERP, as they’ll be the person who has a good hand over the operations of the business.

Neither are bad approaches, Dex (from manufacturing) points out. There are pros and cons to both; however, in both cases, the PC absolutely must be someone enthusiastic about the task at hand, and it must be an explicitly defined role. There are many risks of an implementation failing if there’s any ambiguity of who the Project Champion is, or if they lack the drive to see the implementation to completion. Building on Dex’s comments, Saf points out that the teams at Spindl will consistently communicate with the Project Champion, whether internally or not. It is best to hire someone who knows the ins and outs of something unknown to them and then communicate their needs to the PC. It seems like this person is the single most important factor in the success of their ERP implementation.

Mel concedes. Aware of the importance of a Project Champion, Spindl decides to hire Lyn, an ERP Expert, and Project Manager, to help them undertake this Herculean task. They communicate their requirements and goals to Lyn and trust them to spearhead their ERP implementation. Lyn, who brings years of experience to the table, is confident about the project and stresses the importance of getting things up and running. Saf seems a bit unsure about the approach. There are aspects of modules that might require customization, and Saf believes it should be made a priority. While that seems sensible on the surface level, Lyn explains the benefits of an iterative, early adoption and introduces Spindl to the earlier-discussed Agile implementation method.

Why you need a Project Champion

One of the biggest reasons for failed implementations is user resistance toward new software. It forces users out of their comfort zones when they must unlearn what they’ve been doing for a while. And to top it off, they also need to learn something new. Understandably, it’s something people find themselves averse to, especially with the lack of any apparent incentive and visible value.

But it’s exactly why a good Project Champion is necessary—they’re the ones who’ll be encouraging and pushing users to overcome this. Nurturing acceptance also produces valuable feedback from people who will, after all is said and done, use the software.

The Project Champion acts as the single point of contact (‘SPOC’) between your business and the software provider/implementor. This helps to maintain a clear line of communication and ensures nothing falls through the cracks.

Identifying the Team

Lyn begins assembling a team of people from the various departments of Spindl to represent the various modules being implemented. Ren from accounting, Lia from QA, Dex from manufacturing, and Max from procurements and inventory all sign on to the team to make sure the modules being implemented do everything their departments need them to.

If the Project Champion is the Superman of the implementation, these folks are the Justice League. For every module being implemented, there’s a corresponding department. Each department should identify a team member to represent their respective ERP module. This person becomes the DRI (‘directly responsible individual’) in ensuring that all master data is supplied, UAT (‘user acceptance testing’) is conducted, and signs off on the live version of the module.

Forming an Escalation Matrix

Accountability makes things work. Having a defined escalation matrix helps in raising matters related to implementation if things are not headed in the right direction. Typically, if an employee responsible for any actionable (e.g., providing master data) is failing to do so, the DRI for the module can step in and help move things along.

Not only does this save time, but it also creates a clear channel of communication between the people involved in the implementation process.

Revisiting your goals and setting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

"Everything depends upon execution; having just a vision is no solution."

-Stephen Sondheim (Composer, Lyricist)

Mel, Saf, and their team have already set their goals for their ERP implementation. Let’s quickly revisit them:

  1. Organize and manage their purchases
  2. Categorize and track their inventory and stock
  3. Create a quality assurance management pipeline
  4. Streamline their production for quicker deliveries
  5. Focus on increasing their revenue and profit

Lyn explains that while these goals are attainable, there is no current way they can calculate whether or not these goals have been met. That’s why they require Key Performance Indicators (or KPIs). KPIs, Lyn goes on to explain, are measurements they can use to gauge whether or not they are fulfilling their goals. This will not only ensure that they’re going in the right direction but also help them make smarter business decisions. Simply put, KPIs exist to evaluate the success (or failure) of any given project.

While goals are arbitrary, KPIs bring metrics into the picture. They are necessary to make sure you get the best out of your ERP implementation. The Return on Investment (or ROI) is not the only thing to consider. It is necessary to delve into more nuanced metrics to truly gauge what’s changed over time.

Business Goals

A target is any prediction or expected outcome from a given process. It helps to look at your ERP implementation according to the different functions and departments of your enterprise. However, while setting targets is necessary, it is also important to prioritize which KPIs are more important indicators of the success of your implementation.

Lyn proposes the following KPIs to Spindl:

  1. Cycle Time: This is the most important metric for Spindl. It’s representative of how fast the business responds to orders and demands. It measures the time it takes for them to produce a batch of clothing, and deliver it to their distributors/customers. Faster cycle time is indicative of more effective processes, which will address all their goals.
  2. Demand Forecast Accuracy: Once an ERP has been implemented, it should allow Spindl to use its existing data to accurately forecast demand for its products (while taking into account safety stock, sales projections, product lifecycles, and other variables).
  3. Schedule Adherence: Maintaining a production schedule is another effective way of studying how well can Spindl manage its resources using an ERP.
  4. Customer Satisfaction: Their newer process must lead to greater customer satisfaction. Quality assurance, better service, and on-time deliveries are indicative of this KPI.
  5. Labor Benefits: The ERP Spindl implements will, at the end of the day, be used by its employees. So an important KPI is whether or not it is positively impacting the workforce. Are they satisfied with the new process? Are they taking less time than they used to accomplish tasks? Are things being done more effectively? These are all useful metrics in gauging success as well.