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How quick will your next logistics systems implementation be? Look in the mirror

By Chris Jones | 11/16/2015 | 5:57 AM

I recently had a conversation with the North American head of implementations at a logistics technology company about a customer who had a very complex home-delivery system implementation go live in a matter of 10 weeks. His comment was “don’t expect this to be the norm—these guys were decisive and prepared to move fast.” While there is a difference in the market in terms of logistics-solutions implementation complexity and time frames, the biggest driver in implementations is always the customer. Here are some points to consider if you want to move fast, or at least faster, in getting your next logistics solution live.

Be decisive. To move quickly through the implementation process, your organization needs to make decisions as issues or options occur. Company culture is a leading indicator of how decisive your organization will be. If your company culture is one of inclusiveness and debate, then you can forget a fast (or cheap) implementation. To know whether your organization is decisive, consider how your organization would deal with the following example: If you were implementing a mobile solution and needed to determine the reason codes for a missed stop, can you do it in less than an hour with the people in the room doing the solution design, or do you need to bring it back to a group of 30 “stake holders” who need 5 meetings and 3 weeks to hash out the options?

Kill scope creep and enhancements. Most kids growing up learn the difference between “needs” and “wants.” But that lesson doesn’t seem to apply when it to comes to logistics systems implementations. I have seen more projects go “sideways” from a time perspective—and way over budget—when the scope is constantly evolving. It’s one thing to get buy-in from the end-users and another to let them drive the requirements. Every business has some unique aspect to their operation. The fact that “we’ve always done it this way” is also not an argument for more changes to adapt the solution to the past. The same goes for perfection. For a fast implementation, your organization’s mentality has to be to use what is in the product and only ask for changes for mission-critical issues.

Integration has to be a core competency. There is no doubt that IT competency integrating applications will speed up, slow down or, even worse, cripple your logistics systems implementation. It all comes down to skill set and resource availability, and the IT organization needs to be honest in its integration capability self-assessment. Don’t be afraid to call it out as a risk factor in fast-moving projects and recommend outside help and integration tools to get it done. Equally, don’t let IT “gild the lily” with some next-generation message-bus technology when all you needed was a flat file from your existing solutions to the new one. 

Know what key capabilities drive business results. Every logistics technology project should be about achieving some set of business results. However, moving fast will mean making compromises. Understand what really matters to the business and when those times arrive—and they will—know what capabilities you are willing to trade off to deliver the business value. You may not have to give up something completely, but it may be the depth of functionality provided that gets cut short.

Speed is important when implementing logistics and supply chain technology today, as the underlying business models are changing so quickly. There is an old saying, “I found the enemy and it is us,” that is so applicable when it comes to quickly implementing logistics systems. You can predict if your organization is going to be able to realistically get the job done fast or needs to change to do it. How is your company rapidly deploying logistics technology? Let me know.

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