Future-proofing your IT investment

Future-proof your IT investment Over the past year, at least a dozen large companies in Australia that we frequently talk with have tendered for replacement planning systems – workforce, production, logistics and multi-resource – for a variety of reasons.  The most common two reasons were:

A) Their planning systems could not evolve to cover additional needed capability with the business

B) The company was trying to simplify, rationalize, or downsize their information system proliferation

What is quite surprising – and alarming – is that the systems being replaced are all less than 10 years old. While the demand for more speed, more capability, more capacity, more flexibility, and better performance is a given for enterprise, mission-critical systems, the fact that these and many more companies are forced to replace obsolete planning systems is obviously a cause of concern and great cost for businesses.

Given the expense in replacing a mission-critical decision support system – not only in dollars but in time, stress and the good will of staff and customers – are you adequately using future-proofing as a core part of your vendor assessment and decision criteria when selecting any software, new or replacement? What future-proofing criteria should you consider when either buying or replacing a decision support system?

I recently wrote an article examining why you should choose an integrated supply chain planning and decision support system instead of buying multiple point solutions, which should be a factor in your consideration and is complimentary to this topic. In this post, let’s look at a few critical criteria for future-proofing your IT investment:

Multiple time horizons

Too many businesses end up buying multiple systems to cover decisions made in different time horizons. For example, you might purchase a suite of systems to assist you in making strategic, long-term decisions that result in significant CAPEX funding. These can be anything from equipment upgrades to building or expanding production facilities, to acquiring businesses. Another system might be used for annual planning, another from scheduling, and another for operational decisions. A platform that provides visibility of the impact of decisions across all these time horizons will offer more effective decisions at every time frame.

Investing in upgrading and expanding its capabilities

Your business changes, grows, adapts to market and customer shifts… So should your planning system. Can a software vendor demonstrate true configurability to empower your business to adapt quickly to needed changes in your business? This is not about adding new features or just being flexible, which can be useful. This is about being able to model the changes in your business quickly and cost-effectively so you don’t have to replace your decision support system when major changes occur. For example, cities are constantly expanding their rail networks with new stations and new lines; being able first to model the potential benefits before committing the funds for such upgrades would be invaluable. Then quickly integrating these changes into your scheduling system would be critical.

Maintaining the power

We’ve all experienced the massive increase in data availability and the potential this data opens up for improving our decisions across our organizations. While faster processors and increased storage capacity has opened up new and expanded computing potential, it also puts a great strain on software to manage these large data sets. Does the software you’re considering have the ability to process these larger and larger data sets quickly? Does the software run in-memory? If your decisions require massive data crunching, is the software you’re considering able to run on multiple processors to reduce the overall processing time? If your business requires real-time feedback for quick decision making, can your software support real-time, continuous operational decision making?

Decision quality

Perhaps the most important criteria to consider is the “decision quality” of the system. Value can be created, multiplied, or lost with every decision. When people make decisions either without understanding the upstream and downstream impacts, or with poor visibility of these impacts, for any time horizon, value is simply not maximized. People will adhere to plans and schedules and instructions when they have confidence in and trust their credibility, when they know the result of their contribution confirms this trust.

This post was previously published on LinkedIn.

Lee Hochberg

Senior Advisor - Supply Chain Planning & Optimization, DELMIA Quintiq, Dassault Systèmes