The most important Phase in Supply Chain Planning Implementations
I believe that the most important phase in supply chain planning implementations is actually post implementation support. Many customers after having spent a lot of money on implementing planning systems are not able to leverage the systems to the fullest extent and the usage of the planning system dwindles down. This can be avoided with much needed management focus on post implementation support.
Unlike ERP system which becomes an integral and critical part of the daily activity of a user, Planning systems are not critical in short term and planner always has ability to use manually generated plans or previously generated plans in case the system is down. ERP systems constitute the lifeline of an enterprise and, in case of issues get high visibility & attention. While planning systems issues are not so visible but in the long run can have equally significant impact. Planning systems can produce excellent results during testing and go live but they can be completely inaccurate post implementation, if the business environment changes. Hence it is very important to track key metrics and fine tune the planning models based on business changes. Planning users need to have a certain degree of systems knowledge and there is a need to continuously coach users, after implementation, to use the solution and exploit additional features. Additional requirements need to be captured and modifications done to system to better aid the planning processes.
There is a need for the Planning support team to have deep planning process and planning best practice knowledge combined with in depth Planning systems skills. Typical IT teams look at support from a perspective of resolving & closing tickets and maintaining the system uptime related SLAs. While this is important, in case of planning systems, this does not ensure long term success of planning implementations. At one of my customers, I noticed that the planning systems were being neglected by users. There were discussions of shutting down the application as the plans were not adding value to the business community and it running them was an overhead. On further probing, I realized that the support team constituted of technical team members without a lot of experience in Supply Chain Planning implementations. The team members had not seen any other best practice processes. Also there was no concept of Super Users who could align the Technical support team with business users. Coaching the users, auditing the plans, enhancing the applications was not part of support team's activities and hence planning solution was not updated with changing business environment. This was pointed out to the customer and subsequent changes were suggested to the support model. Hence the post implementation support Phase is the most important phase to ensure the success & growing use of planning systems and adequate focus is needed to create the correct support model.
I would welcome your thoughts on this and your approach to planning systems support.