Implementing Supply Chain Management Solutions

March 5, 2008
The impact of change and managing it for success

The reasons for failure of new application solution implementation include lack of management support, inadequate training and not enough thorough testing.

While these grounds appear legitimate, it seems that the biggest factor in the collapse of supply chain management (SCM) implementation is relegated to the back page. That factor is change -- the type of change inflicted on an organization with little regard for how greatly it will impact the people and processes that serve as the engine of the business.

The basis for most SCM solution implementations is to provide greater visibility to the supply chain and its integrated parts. The use of these types of systems brings a new way of doing business, and with that, monumental change in how people do their jobs. In order for staff to become true proponents of this change in everyday life, it is crucial to make them part of the process from its inception.


Every project manager believes he or she does a wonderful job of including everyone in the process. They interview the manufacturing, distribution, operations, sales, and accounting departments and document all of their "wish lists." They publish regular status reports back on the data gathering and include them in their meetings. While this is a very important part of the process and definitely must happen, it only scratches the surface.

Unless the impact of change is really communicated to each area, they will all continue to tell themselves that the status quo will be the norm. It is imperative that all of the folks impacted are in the loop from day one and see how the changes to be implemented will affect them and enhance the business going forward. If they do not see "what's in it for them," they can very easily scuttle a project and its intended improvements.

It's wise to understand that the folks who do the "heavy lifting" are generally the best source of input for changes in supply chain visibility. Also, realize that you are making a change to their regular routine and most folks bristle at this no matter what they tell you.

Train for Change

As the project moves forward, identify the changes that are going to be made in how people do their jobs up and down the supply chain. Develop training plans that will lessen the impact of changes and ensure that people are ready to take on this brave new world. The intent of training is to be able to turn people loose to fully embrace the SCM solution and its capabilities. Too often, organizations believe that the training is designed to give staff the basics in the application and rely upon the supervisory staff to pick up the pieces that fall along the way. The real intent of training is to ready your workforce for the new way of doing business and to encourage them to ask the "whys and what fors" during this time period. If you are getting these kinds of questions you are truly gaining buy-in to the process. If buy-in is gained, you mitigate the effect of negative change on the workforce as a whole.

Empower everyone during the process so they see the full impact they have as an individual on making the organization rise or fall during this major implementation of change.

Project Team Stress

Most organizations discount the effect that the stress of change has on their internal teams charged with implementing SCM solutions. We build teams with a mixture of operations, IT, accounting, procurement, and sales individuals and expect them to be the champions of the cause. They are expected to make it their highest priority while continuing to perform their regular job functions as well. It seems the general reasoning is they are only being half consumed on a daily basis, so there is plenty of time to devote to "special projects."

The major problem with this type of thinking is that deploying SCM solutions -- with the major change it brings to the organization -- is not a 20 hour a week job. It is a full-time job during the deployment and just as demanding after the fact to ensure that the change sticks. That latter fact is probably the most important job. And let's not forget that people actually do have other parts of their lives outside this deployment that will affect the timely delivery.

Every project starts out with a very aggressive timeline for deployment. Then the staffing plan is determined in order to meet the deadline using the formula for disaster outlined above. The dates begin to slide and the project loses momentum because other matters take precedence. The stress level ratchets up to get the project completed, and the changes to the organization and work processes seem to take a back seat. The risk factor to the organization is amplified by the stress on the internal project team as well.

In order to minimize your project risk and mitigate the inherent aversion to change within the workforce they must be an integral part of the process. The project and organization's success demand it.

Dennis Kelley, Project Manager for Tompkins Associates, has more than 20 years of experience implementing new distribution technology and automation within established networks as well as in Greenfield facilities, including WMS, TMS, LMS and SCEM systems.

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