Success in Supply Chain Deployments


A question asked often by my clients is, “What can we do to make sure our supply chain software deployment is successful?” Many potential answers exist to this question including:

  • Ensure all SOP’s are clearly defined
  • Plan for ample testing time, and then give yourself an extra buffer
  • Plan simulated Go-Live’s

There is no single answer to this question. Modern supply chains for companies with an Omni-channel presence have so many moving parts that there is no single step one can take to ensure a successful implementation. You need representation and cooperation from financial systems, integration systems, database administrators, networking, infrastructure, warehouse operations, customer service, planning & procurement, merchandizing, and supply chain IT.

The key to a successful supply chain implementation is a total buy in from the supply chain organization as well as early involvement for all phases.

Early involvement in design from supply chain leadership

The first opportunity we see to set up a successfully supply chain deployment is early involvement in the design process from supply chain leadership. System design is always the beginning phase of a project. The business outlines requirements for each phase and the software design ensures meeting those requirements. These meetings take place over the course of a few weeks and are usually very intense sessions. Your supply chain leadership should take part in all of the design sessions, ensuring their respective requirements are satisfied or addressed.

It is important that your leadership is not only present in these sessions, but active. In the end, the design lays the foundation for how the software runs your supply chain. If during the design phase you miss key business requirements, this can cause frustrating and costly change requests as you get close to deployment. The earlier you define and account for requirements, the easier time you have making sure those requirements are satisfied in the correct manner.

Early involvement in testing with supply chain Subject Matter Experts(SME)

The second opportunity to set yourself up for a successful implementation is during the initial testing phases. I have seen great results in projects where the client brings in SME’s from each respective area of the supply chain to take part in the testing efforts. These SME should have hands on experience with the old system and should know the standard operating procedures (SOP) like the back of their hand. For testing a WMS, bring in your inbound, outbound and quality assurances supervisors and leads. For testing an order management system, bring in call center leaders and inventory planners.

The sooner you are able to bring in the SME in your specific supply chain, the quicker you will catch things that are different from the previous system or do not follow SOP. You also better understand the small things the users do on an everyday basis, such as the filters they use on UI screens, the menu structure they need in the RF and exception scenarios the leadership think occur rarely but actually happens every day.

Early involvement in systems integration to have solid end to end testing

Finally, the third opportunity to set yourself up for success is in systems integration testing. This may be the most difficult place to get full involvement because it requires time and cooperation from teams that are not directly involved in the system upgrade. The WMS and/or OMS needs to connect with reporting systems, labor management systems, warehouse control systems, integration and financial systems. If one of these teams does not participate in systems integration testing then you run the risk of that system not being properly prepared when you implement the new system into your production environment.

Early involvement from all teams means a dedicated chain of systems should be set up and smoke tested before systems integration testing starts. The host system needs to be able to generate purchase orders and distribution orders and integration needs to be able to route those orders to the correct WMS system. The WMS system should be set up to send inventory and shipment information to the order management and finance systems and those systems should be ready to consume and confirm the data generates as expected.

A successful supply chain implementation takes the orchestration of many moving parts, especially in a large Omni channel environment. Having a trusted advisor on your side that has many years of experience navigating complicated supply chain implementations and orchestrating all of these moving parts can make the process easier for your organization. A partner, like Bricz, can step in and ensure these three opportunities to set your implementation up for success are being worked towards and achieved leading to a happy result from all parties.