Imagine a bunch of dogs (say Dalmatians, in case you need something vivid) all neatly lined up, fairly untrained and unprepared, waiting, anticipating, without too much advance information on what’s coming up. Now imagine a cookie deliverer, running in a tearing hurry, ﬂinging one cookie each for every expectant dog, and moving onto the next. He has a job to ﬁnish and a ﬁxed time allotted for the task; so he really cannot be bothered about niceties, like whether all dogs caught their cookies with their mouths, how many of them spilled their cookies and had to eat sandy ones, and how many of them totally lost the plot and ended up starving in the bargain.
In case you didn’t link it up already, I am talking of software roll-outs which follow after the ﬁrst ﬂush of implementation success. Companies start drooling and salivating (sorry, no more dog metaphors) at the mere mention of ‘global templates,’ the manna from heaven that would give the exact amount of food to each waiting recipient, never mind his or her personal needs. In the end, the organization would be one large happy family doing the exact same thing, in the same system, in the same way, or so the story goes. Well, not quite. There are still plenty of slips between the cup and the lip when it comes to rolling out applications across entities.
A few years back, I had written a white paper to tackle the roll-out planning madness for Warehouse Management Systems (WMS). The objective was to demolish the one-size-ﬁts-all myth and replace it with a few ﬂavors from which recipients can choose from. Would 3–5 options turn out to be a lot? Not at all. Is it better than a single global dogmatic template? You bet. For WMS roll-outs, I suggested that we map organizations on maturity levels across three axes: business process maturity (slightly more advanced options like assemble-to-order, kitting, cross docking, and merge-in-transit); IT maturity (in terms of current investments in core WMS applications and their integration points with say ERP, transportation, and demand planning); and ﬁnally, the level of capital investments (storage, handling, and distribution equipment, like material handling equipment, conveyor belts, trolleys, and handhelds). I had suggested a hybrid model of local WMS instances for large and complex warehouses, while the others share the single system from a remote site (hosted or within the ﬁrewall, cloud had not caught ﬁ re so much then).
When the third-party system integrator gets bestowed with a terribly tight timeline, cloyingly agreed upon in order to grab the business, what results would be repetitive mini failures in each entity to be rolled out further cascading to repetitive stress disorders.
The key is to understand and appreciate that change management is complex; it involves the seven stages from shock, denial, anger all the way to acceptance and integration. Organizations need to handhold their constituent entities (roll-out victims) to ensure life gets back to normal post the teething troubles caused by template roll-outs. The complexities are higher when standard ERP/SCM/CRM packages like SAP, Oracle, Peoplesoft, IBM Maximo, or Sterling Commerce are rolled out since the global template would now have to accommodate an extra box for the vendor as well, thus interlinking the boxes for product changes, custom changes; global, custom changes; local, and a change management board. Training is the other big ticket item that frequently gets compromised due to time constraints.
Avoid these if only you want to see pieces of your organization unraveling in roll-out hysteria and descending into user-level chaos.
Gopi Krishnan, PMP is the Practice Lead for Supply Chain Management Practice at Infosys with over 15 years of industry experience in practice management, consulting, project/program management and supply chain integration.