When the Blue Harbors team is asked to connect a customer’s SAP system to carriers such as FedEx and UPS, the project often kicks off without much drama. We start working with the carriers to get the accounts established; we customize SAP and load the necessary mapping rules to support web services; and so on. So far, so good.
But when it comes time to reviewing business processes, such as existing hardware (scales, scanners, printers, PC’s, etc.) used to pack and ship products, latent issues surface. Discussions about hardware options get people to thinking, and operations folks latch on to this project as an opportunity to revisit existing business processes and use this opportunity to improve these business processes.
What started as a straight forward IT implementation focused on connecting computer systems to support shipping evolves into a much more ambitious project seeking to improve the overall packing, loading and shipping business processes. In no time at all you lose control of the reins, and a two month project becomes a six month project.
So what can be done to control this process? Logistics is an important aspect of most business – often consuming a large percentage of operating costs -, so ideally the express shipping project will support this reengineering process rather than stifle it. Here are a few ideas for re-visioning business process changes and incorporating them into your project in a way that allows the project to proceed smoothly. We follow the following rules when we implement express shipping.
- Follow ASAP methodology. SAP has already developed a fantastic implementation mythology for customizing their software to best support your business’s requirements. It includes steps for ensuring the business users are properly included in the project at the right times.
- Change Leadership & Project Management. If your project goals are relatively modest, it is tempting to assemble a small team – maybe just a business analyst and developer – and let them run with the project. However, it is important to include change leadership and a project manager, too. They will have the skills to record and communicate process changes and escalate issues within the business when these issues arise. And believe me, the issues will arise – different facilities and business units within the organization will want to use different types of equipment, and there will be arguments about which business units should pay for this equipment.
- Hardware. Procuring hardware is tricky. I once had a project that was delayed for a month just because the scale was stuck on a ship coming from China. I had another project where we ordered a scale and it shipped up broken and another one needed to be order. I even had a project where the wrong scales were ordered – the customer needed 150 lbs scales and they ordered 50 lbs scales. Once, bar code scanners were ordered – but the interface cables weren’t – so the barcode scanners couldn’t be attached to the PC. Ensure you get early agreement on the hardware that will be used and procure it early.