Supply Chain Management Implementation Risk Minimization

As both an enterprise software expert and a supply chain technology expert, it’s a safe bet that the recent article in i2’s Supply Chain Leader on Minimizing Risk During SCM Implementations would get my attention. The reality is that a poorly executed supply chain management implementation across an enterprise can destroy your business. The 2.25 Billion Inventory write-down that Cisco had to take in 2001, due to a breakdown in its supply chain forecasting and visibility systems, might have been bad, but Foxmeyer, who in 1996 was the 2nd largest wholesale drug distributor in the US with annual sales over 5 Billion went out of business thanks to an ambitious IT revamp, that included a massive enterprise wide ERP upgrade to manage and automate its supply chain and distribution. It sold in a bankruptcy fire sale to a larger rival for a mere 80 Million.

As the article notes, while innovative SCM processes and technology tools have the strength and capability to revolutionize an organization, they can also disrupt business as usual, at least in the short term. And if not handled properly, SCM implementations can disrupt processes and technology in the long term as well … and even affect the viability of your business! They have to be intelligently managed, and risks have to be identified, mitigated, and monitored from the start.

As the article notes, the project team can’t just focus solely on achieving the deliverables when they are planning a new SCM implementation. They have to consider the risks that may arise during post-implementation, when the solution will be subjected to multiple process and technology changes that it will need to support, and possibly risk business viability. As the article points out, broader issues such as long-term performance and scalability, operating environment and hardware, and reporting and connectivity must be considered up-front to mitigate future risks.

So what advice does it gives? It provides the following three tips:

  • Identify Every Risk

    Collect information from multiple stakeholders and perspectives, identify any potential risks, asses them, and manage those that are likely or would have a severe impact if they occurred.
  • Track Critical Risks Over Time

    Information on the relative priority, likelihood, and status of of any risk should be available, and up-to-date, at all times.
  • Ensure Ownership of Solutions and Associated Risks

    Make sure that everything you implement is identified, documented, tracked, and maintained. No under-the-radar implementations without proper documentation and knowledge transfer. Otherwise, the next system update will be a total disaster when multiple systems that people depended on to their job, that no one in IT or upper management knew about, just disappear.

Not bad advice, but it only scratches the surface, doesn’t give you anything you can really use to start (or track your efforts), and, most importantly, doesn’t give you the best advice of all:

  • Bring in an Independent Expert
    Don’t trust yourself, or your vendor, to do it right. Let’s be honest … you’re not an expert in enterprise software, implementation, and integration and your vendor is not an expert in your business. You might use the same vocabulary, but, fundamentally, you don’t speak the same language (or at least not fluently). Bring in an independent third party who is an expert in both supply chain software and IT project management and in supply chain processes, and supply chain process reengineering, to manage the planning phase to insure you don’t miss any key risks, that you select the right systems, and that the implementation doesn’t disable functions or miss modules that you really do need for a subset of your staff to do their jobs. The right plan will go further to mitigating risk than any mitigation effort ever will. I guess what I’m saying is, if you don’t know where to start, don’t be afraid to call the doctor, because, nothing beats preventative medicine.

Just remember, Consultants are Cheap and it’s easy to get Maximum Value from Your Consultants.