Implement like a pro

By: Matthew Hillier

Implementing an Advanced Planning and Scheduling (APS) solution (or any large IT solution) is not a daily occurrence for most companies. Some fail, some struggle and some succeed with great results. Why not learn from the best of your peers and the best practices of companies who implement APS solutions daily?  In other words, what does it take to implement like a pro?

Project managing solution implementations is a complex task, some might even say that it’s more art than science. But there are a handful of core things you can do to help ensure that your APS implementation will be a success and that you will reap the expected business benefits. Below is a handful of recommendations that will help you implement like a pro:

1. Know why you are doing it and what the goal is
You would be surprised how often companies and project team members are not clear on why they are implementing a new solution. Of course, they have a broad, overall understand about why they or their company has chosen to spend significant time and resources on implementing an APS solution, but in many cases the end goal is not very well formulated. They may ask themselves questions like: “Are we implementing a new logistics solution to minimize the empty mileage, maximize the on-time delivery or to avoid certain areas during rush-hour?” or “Are we introducing a new production planning solution to maximize delivery performance or to minimize change-over/set-up time between production batches?”  If the goal is clearly communicated and is shared by the project team, finding the right solution and effectively driving the project to completion becomes much easier.

2. Senior management should be involved – not just informed
One or more senior members of the management team should be directly involved in the project from a steering committee point of view. As implementing an APS solution typically involves changing business processes and impacting employees outside the project team, it is vital that questions can be answered, problems solved and hurdles removed in a timely fashion.

3. Realistic project plan
Set a realistic project plan. Don’t plan for best case scenario, but don’t plan for worst case either. Remember that a lot of the work will probably be done by your vendor, but that a significant amount of work will also have to be done by your own team and organization – of which the majority probably still have a day job to do as well. Factor in that you need time to change internal business processes and factor in vacation and holidays. In the planning phase of the project, a risk assessment helps you balance potential challenges with the desired timeline.

4. Data
To end up with the right solution and to enable effective testing, it is vital to define and collect a representative test data set for the the project team to work with. It is not enough to ask the vendor to build the solution “to specification”. The specification is typically a by-product of an analysis and design phases, and very seldom will the project team be able to ensure that all relevant scenarios are considered and covered during these “brainstorm” and definition sessions. Good test data set will help identify scenarios that might have been missed and to find these early during the modeling/building phase.

5. Test, test, test
If you ask a project team after go-live what they would have changed during the project if they could, most will say: “We wish we had done more testing”. This requires test plans, test scenarios and test scripts. And as mentioned above, it requires a good set of representative test data. Also don’t forget performance testing and also integration testing as APS solutions are almost always integrated with several other IT solutions.

Many factors will impact the success of an APS implementation, and in a future blog post I will reveal another five factors. But if I had to start an APS implementation tomorrow and focus on five points, I would start with this handful. Are you ready to implement like a pro?'

Steen Andersen'

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