Having worked with the systems integrator community serving the manufacturing industry over the past couple of decades, a common question I hear is, “How can I best work with an implementation partner?” or “Should I work with an implementation partner for global MES roll outs?” So, for this post, I thought I would offer insights to help with this important decision.
Some of the potential advantages of working with firms specializing in enterprise software implementations are speed of deployment for a faster ROI, industry knowledge to get close attention and support from the business, and solution expertise to leverage the enterprise IT strategy and deliver a high-quality solution, as well as bringing a third-party perspective to the business challenge being addressed. In theory, a good implementation partner should guide you through the process more expeditiously, thereby offering cost, resource and time savings.
So, before you consider what the right affiliation strategy might be, first consider who might be the best potential fit. If you don’t think they can reasonably accomplish these potential advantages, then maybe you need to consider a different association… or perform the implementation yourself.
Let’s assume you decide that using an implementation partner makes sense. If your business challenge is best solved with a new global or enterprise Manufacturing Execution System (MES), the next questions are “What solution should I pick, and what strategy is best to implement?” These are two very important decisions. The bottom line is how to best avoid having this project turn into a disaster, but instead, to be a glowing success that makes you and your team look brilliant for making the right decision that solves your business need.
Depending on what solution you pick, your implementation strategy will follow. Let me explain. If your software solution must be implemented on a site-by-site basis, essentially as a new deployment every time, that must then be customized to meet each of the individual requirements for every location, then you really can’t achieve any economies of scale. In other words, every site implementation is like starting over as a brand new deployment. This means that you really need to have all your “heavy guns” available and on the payroll for every site installation. This might include representatives from the software vendor, other industry associates and your own internal resources … an expensive proposition.
Alternatively, if you pick an agile solution that can share processes easily across locations, then your strategy should be totally different (a solution with embedded BPM can accomplish these objectives). As each successive implementation builds upon what has already been learned, your best course of action is to deploy the “big guns” just up front. This means getting a senior project architect and other senior staff heavily involved for site #1. The same should be true of your own company resources, including executive, management and operations involvement to get a good starting point for your business processes at that first site.
Once the “heavy lifting” has been completed and applied to site #1, site #2 can draw from the lessons learned, helping to dramatically accelerate the deployment time for successive sites. Implementation partners can then carry on the site-by-site deployment plan while learning more about what best practices are possible; prior “live” locations can then be updated by your own staff as often as needed. This strategy allows you to devote your own internal staff to actually doing their own jobs while letting your industry colleagues leverage their knowledge and experience to handle the bulk of the implementation across the rest of your enterprise.
Think about how much less stress is involved when you don’t have to worry about losing resources during a global roll out of a new enterprise software solution. And, you don’t have to worry about getting every site perfect before going live – if you need to make an adjustment, simply make it. I personally know of a manufacturer that achieved a 50 percent reduction at their second site and third sites, due in part to adhering to this strategy. Future sites have experienced similar results, contributing to further cost reductions. One European automotive supplier had 11 sites go live on the same day based on this concept.
To conclude, if getting a site live is a big deal, then you probably will need to deploy a full set of resources including senior industry associates, project managers and internal resources for every deployment. When future sites can be implemented in a routine manner, it really can be your choice as to what resources to use. If you would prefer to leverage internal resources for continuous process improvement, then an implementation partner probably makes the most sense. If you have extra internal staff, than maybe it would be best to have them continue with the roll out.