Update your processes to take advantage of capabilities that new tools offer.
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of giving speeches to local chapters of the NAPM, as well as at industry conferences for both eProcurement and EDI. One of my key topics was that implementing a best-in-class solution doesn’t guarantee best-in-class results. You need to first establish “stretch goals” for the business process you’re addressing with the new solution, and then look at how to make your business process extract maximum value from the new capabilities the solution presents.
Simply, although you may not have to change the way you do business to fit a new technology solution, you should take the opportunity to examine the way you’re doing business and consider the options so you can exploit all the capabilities and benefits the solution provides.
To illustrate this point, I used to tell the story of a naïve young woodsman from way back in the hills who saw an ad extolling the benefits of this new saw. The ad claimed that you’d be able to cut four times as much wood easily with this new tool. The woodsman made the long trip down to the nearest hardware store, bought the tool and left.
Two weeks later he came back to the store and threw the saw on the counter, demanding his money back, claiming that rather than making it easier he found that he was cutting half as much. The person behind the counter put some gas in the saw, primed it and pulled the cord, revving up the engine to check the chain’s performance.
The woodsman looked completely surprised and yelled out, “WHAT’S THAT NOISE?” Clearly, having the tool wasn’t the solution. It was the proper application of it that made the difference.
Process review before implementation.
During my EDI days I did an audit of a company that was experiencing two problems. They were a re-distributor, meaning that they purchased certain finished goods and repackaged them to meet a specific niche. The first problem was simply too much of the wrong inventory. The second one was that the CEO was constantly being asked to approve more people in administrative functions. They chose to implement our EDI solution to solve the inventory issue and, potentially, to reduce the number of FTE’s involved in the procurement process.
As I was doing my implementation I discovered a number of “oddities” in their business process. I suggested to the CEO that, before they implement this new tool, we first do a full study of the process. I’m certified in the A-Delta-T (Actual vs. Theoretical Best) process modeling methodology where you break the current process down to its smallest measurable task, assign times to each one, then look at each task to see if it still applies if you implement the new solution, i.e. what’s the “theoretical best” using this new solution.
The modeling showed a current process that required constant back-and-forth with the supplier, incomplete product and pricing information, multiple reviews and approvals regardless of the dollar value, and other “suspect” steps. As they went thru the “theoretical best” exercise, the process became a very sleek, efficient model that truly exploited the benefits of the EDI solution.
The CEO who commissioned this study asked for my recommendations, and also wanted an answer to the question of adding more people. My answer and subsequent recommendation was straightforward; if they keep the process as it currently exists, they’d have no choice but to add people if they wanted to expand their business. If, on the other hand, they moved to the new model, they would have the opportunity to redeploy people to more value-added jobs.
I further recommended that they should not implement the EDI solution until they resolved the process issues. Simply put, implementing the solution would result in purchasing more of the wrong stuff faster! Again, the answer isn’t implementing the solution; it’s how you use it that provides the benefits.
Implementing Enterworks best-in-class solutions will not require you to change the way you do business; however, implementing the solution coupled with targeted and measured changes to your business process to take full advantages of what the solution provides will guarantee maximum value for your investment. Setting clear goals and objectives, defining “key performance indicators,” and establishing your “theoretical best” vision need to be part of your upfront implementation planning.