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2016

Fotolia_67509965_XS.jpgMy clients across all manufacturing and distribution-related industries ranging from small, family-owned businesses to multi-billion dollar corporations have one item in common – growth.

More than 80% are experiencing relatively substantial growth while the remaining 20% are muddling along with slight growth figures. When companies grow, projects can become even more critical. Cash is needed to fund growth. Customer service must remain intact, even though it can be more challenging to succeed during periods of significant growth. Profitability needs to continue to grow to support the growth and to leverage assets. Keeping up with the people requirements can be a challenge. Thus, we need to be stronger in periods of growth to ensure success. I’ve found that the key to success is to get back to the core: 1) Start with people. 2) Develop a simple project timeline. 3) Follow-up is vital.

1.     Start with people - The project leader is number one to whether your project will deliver the expected results. Your team is a close number two. Unfortunately, I often see project leaders and teams come up in the last position. In these cases, people are an after-thought. Often, the issue is that everyone has full-time jobs to do already. And, in times of growth, most top quality potential project leaders are already maxed out.

 

As a former VP of Operations, I fully understand this dilemma. Instead of assigning those who are available to what could be a project that could have far-reaching impacts that add up much faster than you’d ever think ($500,000 - $1,000,000 isn’t uncommon) and directly impact key customers, take a step back and think about the best person to lead the project. There are countless ways to handle the talent shortage, so don’t let these challenges dictate your decision. For example, you could reallocate work, bring in outside help, or provide tools to support the team. Don’t let this be an excuse for not staffing your critical project properly.

The project leader doesn’t have to be a full-time resource – it all depends on the project. And, do not get caught up in thinking that your project leader has to be a guru in creating complex project timelines, as it has little to do with success. Instead, ensure that your project leader has the leadership skills and experience to effectively lead the project team, collaborate with all related parties, and is organized and focused on the project outcomes/results. In my experience with multiple $1 million+ successful projects, this is will make or break success.

2.     Develop a simple project timeline - There is no need for complex project timelines that require a complicated software program to develop and a Ph.D. to understand. Instead, develop an understandable timeline with major milestones and accountabilities. Keeping it simple works!

In working on countless projects over the years, I’ve found the critical aspects of the timeline to be the following: 1) clarifying the key dependent tasks; 2) the critical path milestones; 3) clear, agreed-upon ownership and accountabilities. It is amazing how many times I’ve seen the timeline fall apart either by focusing on non-critical path tasks to the detriment of the critical path tasks or due to a lack of clarity about the accountabilities. An easy yet effective rule of thumb is that a team cannot own a task. Instead, assign the task to one task owner. This owner can coordinate with as many participants as needed to get the task done; however, there should be one, ultimate owner who is accountable.

3.     Follow-up is vital - Undoubtedly, my number one secret weapon to achieving success on-time, on-budget, and on-results on wide-ranging projects consistently is follow-up. This seemingly simple yet often overlooked action achieves amazing results. Does your project leader follow-up?

What are the keys to success with follow-up? And when should you follow-up? Follow-up with your project team on critical path milestones. Start by making sure they are clear and accountabilities are established.  Then, follow-up on critical path tasks and milestones just prior to the start of the task. Do what makes sense.  If resources are required, follow-up so that you have enough time to work through potential issues so that they can start on-time.  Do not waste time on non-critical path tasks, as they will become a major distraction to the detriment of the critical path. Keep the team focused on the critical path. Remind critical path task owners when their deadlines are approaching. Ask if they have questions, concerns, roadblocks, etc. Don’t wait until the project falls behind. Instead, proactively follow-up to ensure the critical path stays on schedule.

Aggressively tackle any roadblocks in the way of achieving the critical path. Encourage, appreciate and thank the project task owners. Remind them how their task fits into the big picture and how the project’s outcomes are of value to the organization. Follow-up on critical finances. Don’t get lost in a debate over a few dollars. However, be extremely vigilant on the critical expenditures and those related to the critical path.

Every executive wants to continue to grow.  Thus, they need projects to deliver results on-time and on-budget.  Instead of getting bogged down in the latest, complex project planning software and process, continually follow these three key steps, and you’ll achieve significant project results – and grow your business.

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

 

Is Your Supply Chain Ready for Growth?

 

10 Ways to Stay Focused on the Critical Path

        

Fotolia_88653870_XS.jpgAfter partnering with dozens of clients to help them select the “right” system that best fits their business requirements and partnering with many more to design the “right” processes in conjunction with their systems and people to achieve their objectives, it is clear that ERP success has little to do with systems! Counterintuitive but true!

 

As with almost everything, success boils down to people! That is a large part of the success of selection to cut through the “red tape” associated with ERP demos to look solely at critical success factors in conjunction with the ERP partner. If the supplier doesn’t understand the critical success factors, there is no point in collaborating. That means the people involved didn’t dig into enough detail to understand their potential partner.

 

In ERP success, suppliers are not good enough. It is hard enough to gain success with ERP as it is a major change initiative; whereas, there is no hope if you view your ERP partner as a “supplier” vs. a “partner”. The same is true if your ERP “supplier” views themselves as a “supplier” vs. a “partner”.

 

Next, choose your ERP team carefully. It will be time consuming and so dedicate the resources upfront. Figure out how to back up your resources.  Assure them of their career path. The ONLY way to ensure success is to have a high-functioning, dedicated team. It will involve the big picture, details and everything in-between. Make sure to have diversity. Leverage strengths. Get the “right people on the bus” (as one of my mentors used to say), and it will all fall in line.

 

If you want to learn more about my new proprietary process ACESM — how to select the best system for your particular needs and/or how to design the “right” processes for your business in conjunction with your system, people/ culture and strategy — please refer to our webpage or contact us.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit Through People:

 

How to Increase Teamwork to Ensure Project Success

 

Why Upgrade Your ERP System?

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI was the Chair of the Manufacturers Council of the Inland Empire (MCIE)'s Innovation awards committee for this year's Manufacturers' Summit. It was inspiring to hear the stories of manufacturing innovation at today's awards ceremony! These companies innovated in many different ways ranging from workforce development to marketing to resource efficiency, and each had tangible and significant results. 

 

As I said when giving out the award, there is a significant difference between problem solving and innovation. Problem solving "gets you back to some sort of standard performance" — important yet extremely different from innovation. Innovation, on the other hand, raises the bar to an entirely new level of performance! As Angel Sanchez said from Phenix Technology (in the center below next to me), after being in business for 40 years, coming up with an innovation that more than doubled sales was a game changer! 

 

angel sanchez.jpg

 

One tip to implement this week:

 

The key to innovation is to support experimentation. If you are a leader, give your people time this week to try new ideas. Encourage them to test new theories and try out new approaches. Make sure they know you will support them, no matter the results. Innovation requires experimentation and failure. Edison didn't invent the light bulb on the first try. It took COUNTLESS tries!

 

If you are not in a leadership position, go to your leader and tell him/her about a new idea. Ask for the opportunity to test out a new process or new idea. If you can find a way to test it out within a reasonable set of guidelines so that the negative impact wouldn't be too significant, it is likely you'll be able to convince your manager to give it a try. Talk up the potential benefits! It is amazing what can be done if you set aside a few minutes to innovate — and ASK!

 

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

5P.pngOur most successful clients are constantly thinking about where they are headed. They think about why they are going there — how does it fit with their vision? How does it have meaning for their customers? Employees? Supply chain partners? 

They also think about emerging trends — what is most likely to impact their business? What do they have control over? What opportunities can they leverage? Can they turn lemons into lemonade? How?

Our role is to stay ahead of the curve so that I can help my clients achieve dramatic results. Thus, we've incorporated the following best practices and thinking into the development of our proprietary processes:

  • Best practices across industries (ranging from aerospace to building products to food & beverage to distribution) and company-sizes (from small, family-owned businesses to facilities and divisions of multi-billion dollar, global enterprises)
  • Expert advice from our collaborations and alliances of clients and colleagues inclusive of top-notch trusted advisors, communities of executives and business owners, and trade association experts and professionals.
  • And, most importantly, we've bounced these against "what works" and is immediately pragmatic. 

 

5P Accelerator(SM) is our proprietary process that fast-tracks growth and profits.

 

Our 5P Accelerator(SM) focuses on the core factors of success:

 

  • Processes - the foundation of success; similar to a house, if you don't have a solid foundation, fancy curtains will not be sufficient to withstand a storm.
  • Plan - too many executives jump to action and skip the planning step. A plan is not only a part of your foundation (imagine a football team without a playbook) but it also provides an important collaboration vehicle.
  • Priorities - if I only had a dollar for every executive who wasted time on non-essential priorities, I'd be rich! What seems like a priority because your boss or customer happens to be yelling over the phone or a respected boss, peer or Board member is asking about isn't necessarily so.....
  • Profit drivers - considering what is essential to your strategy, key customers and potential customers, profitability, cash flow or other critical factors should be of utmost importance.

Unfortunately, getting the 5Ps "right" can be challenging enough; however, it might not be sufficient for success. Add in focus, speed and relationships to tip the scales in your favor to fast-track growth and profits.

 

Please refer to our webpage to learn more and contact us if you are interested in leveraging 5P Accelerator(SM) at your organization.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to Profit Through People:

 

The Systems View

 

Empower Your People to GROW

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgAs many of you know, I adore my car. I have had it since 2002 (after buying the exact same car as my year 2000 totaled car) with 255,000 miles! Unfortunately a few days after picking it up from my mechanic after we both were concerned that it might be toast (but decided it was OK), it had steam coming out from under the hood. Not encouraging. I thought it might have a leak and since the temperature said it was OK, my mechanic and I thought if I got more water on the way, I could drive it direct to him from my client (which could be 2 hours in traffic). I told my client I had to find a service station close by before getting on my way, and he went over and beyond instead.

 

He called the mechanics at the company and asked them to add water and take a look (as they were equipped to do that). The mechanic went way over and beyond in trying to figure out the issue as he had prior experience with cars. He determined that it was overheating even though the temperature wasn't showing it. NOT GOOD! Thus, I had it towed (see below). Good thing I buy long mileage AAA. It has come in handy with my car and with my aunt's car (as a deer hit it on the way home from an animal park with the family).

Now we'll see what happens from here. But, I really appreciated my client's customer service. Guess if I'd also go over and beyond to help him be successful?!

 

One tip to implement this week:

 

Customer service can go much further than anyone realizes. A friendly smile at the right time. A suggestion at the right time. Providing a referral. There are countless ways to go over and beyond. I seem to be fortunate with a plethora of examples. Take a look around you. How can you go beyond what you might typically do? Think about how you would like to be treated. Can you do something to help your customers? Think of customers that are external AND internal. My client is my customer. I am not his customer yet he treated me like a preferred customer.

 

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”


IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgIf you want to be successful, a LOT! I saw Elton John at the Colosseum in Las Vegas last weekend, and he puts on an incredible show. He mentioned that he has been writing with the same lyricist for 40 years — quite impressive. How hard do you think it would be to remain interesting to large crowds for 40 years? — and several generations? Not easy. Just think about one bad tweet....

 

elton john.jpg

 

This picture was at the end when the front row seats joined Elton by his piano. As you see, he is bigger than life. And the crowd loved it. Perhaps there is no need for you to present ideas in a timeless fashion that will last for 40 years; however, to make sure your Board of Directors, CEO, boss and/or peers listen, you should pay attention. How do you gain the attention of the crowd? Be high-quality. Be interesting. Pay attention to what your audience wants!

 

One tip to implement this week:

 

In thinking about what we could do this week to make progress in presenting ideas, it turns out there is quite a lot. Start with understanding what your audience wants. Who will be listening? What will appeal to them? Put it in their best interest. Forget about what you want. One lesson I learned along the way is to NOT assume that everyone is interested in what you are interested in. It is easy to get caught in this trap, even when you know better. Instead, find out. It is pointless to explain how an idea benefits them if they don't care about the benefit you describe!  

 

If you don't know, ASK. It can be as simple as that.

 

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

ace with lma logo.jpgOur most successful clients are constantly thinking about where they are headed. They think about why they are going there — how does it fit with their vision? How does it have meaning for their customers? Employees? Supply chain partners?

They also think about emerging trends — what is most likely to impact their business? What do they have control over? What opportunities can they leverage? Can they turn lemons into lemonade? How?

Our role is to stay ahead of the curve so that I can help my clients achieve dramatic results. Thus, we've incorporated the following best practices and thinking into the development of our proprietary processes:

  • Best practices across industries (ranging from aerospace to building products to food & beverage to distribution) and company-sizes (from small, family owned businesses to facilities and divisions of multi-billion dollar, global enterprises)
  • Expert advice from our collaborations and alliances of clients and colleagues inclusive of top-notch trusted advisors, communities of executives and business owners, and trade association experts and professionals.
  • And, most importantly, we've bounced these against "what works" and is immediately pragmatic.

 

ACESM is our proprietary process that serves up an ace and "hits the spot" with ERP selection and design.

 

Since I played tennis in high school, I particularly enjoy this proprietary process. Serving an ace can be as hard in tennis as it is in business. You have to hit the ball with the "right" strategy vs. your opponent, in the "right" spot, at the "right" speed, at the "right" angle and at the "right" time. 

 

Our ACESM process hits the bull's eye by matching the critical success factors of the business in combination with best practice business processes, unique system differentiators and supplier partnerships to achieve endgame results with ERP selection and design. Endgame results include:

 

  • Improved profitability
  • Accelerated cash flow
  • Superior customer service
  • Increased productivity and automation
  • With dramatically reduced risk!

 

Please refer to our webpage to learn more and contact us if you are interested in leveraging ACESM at your organization.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to become a Systems Pragmatist:

 

5 ERP Selection Pitfalls

 

The Value of CRM

 

Fotolia_53397524_XS.jpgI frequently help clients select the “right” system to help them achieve their business strategy. One of the keys is to evaluate with an eye towards your supply chain. In today’s marketplace, the supply chain is often a core consideration. If we want customers to be happy, make sure your supply chain performs expertly.

 

In today’s Amazon-impact world, customers expect extreme service levels.  We need to anticipate their needs. Deliver rapidly. Be accessible. And the list goes on… Thus, to achieve these lofty objectives while not breaking the bank, we must create nimble and efficient supply chains – from your suppliers’ suppliers to your customers’ customers. What system functionality should be considered?

 

Throw best practices out the window! Many systems tout that their system has “best practice processes” and so everyone should conform to it. Not if you want to stand out from the crowd. Instead, identify your critical success factors and align with the right system to achieve endgame results. I’ve recently introduced my proprietary process ACE for just this objective. Contact me if you are interested in learning more about ACE.

 

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your organization:

 

The Amazon Effect: Create a Customer Service Edge

 

4 Critical Success Factors Key to ERP Success

 

 

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI have been interviewing some VERY impressive candidates for internship positions from Pomona college (which was ranked #1 by Forbes for America's top colleges in 2015). I enjoyed the interviews and learned a lot from them. This is one of the advantages of my profession — continuous learning is a part of the package!

 

One of the interns saw the supply chain and consulting in an interesting light. He said, "It is the practical application of liberal arts" as it requires a broad knowledge and experience base. I think he might have hit the nail on the head. I just got back from speaking to a group of supply chain professionals in Ventura, and as we discussed supply chain topics, it became clear that it is a vast topic. When you think of the supply chain as ranging from your customers' customers to your suppliers' suppliers with manufacturing systems in between, connected by technology, transportation and distribution systems, the subject matter is broad by any stretch of the imagination.

 

One tip to implement this week:

 

Since supply chain has broad appeal, we should be touting the critical importance of the supply chain in our daily conversations. We must pay attention to emerging supply chain trends — if you are interested in hearing more about these, APICS Inland Empire Chapter has an amazing executive panel lined up to talk at our executive panel and networking symposium on April 30th on just this topic. You don't have to be a member to register.

 

It can be as simple as describing your company's supply chain within your company. Just to accomplish this task, you might have to find out more about your suppliers, customers, transportation partners, etc. Wouldn't it create engaging conversations if people felt connected in the critical link of the broader supply chain?

 

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

 

tst.jpgOur most successful clients are constantly thinking about where they are headed. They think about why they are going there — how does it fit with their vision? How does it have meaning for their customers? Employees? Supply chain partners?

They also think about emerging trends — what is most likely to impact their business? What do they have control over? What opportunities can they leverage? Can they turn lemons into lemonade? How?

Our role is to stay ahead of the curve so that I can help my clients achieve dramatic results. Thus, we've incorporated the following best practices and thinking into the development of my proprietary processes:

  • Best practices across industries (ranging from aerospace to building products to food & beverage to distribution) and company-sizes (from small, family-owned businesses to facilities and divisions of multi-billion-dollar, global enterprises).
  • Expert advice from our collaborations and alliances of clients and colleagues inclusive of top-notch trusted advisors, communities of executives and business owners, and trade association experts and professionals.
  • And, most importantly, we've bounced these against "what works" and is immediately pragmatic. 

 

TST(SM) is our proprietary process that combines torque, speed and traction to drive supply chain performance. 

My consulting mentor helped me come up with TST(SM) a few years ago after listening to my strengths and results in supply chain management; however, I didn't fully realize its brilliance until I purchased my new car in 2015 — an Audi A5 convertible. Suddenly, the "right" combination of torque, speed and traction made a lot of sense for not only driving on the road but for my clients' success as well.

 

audi a5 convertible.jpg

 

When applying it to our clients, we've found that the optimal combination of these factors will make the difference between success and failure:

  • Torque - getting out of the blocks quickly. Quick wins create momentum!
  • Speed - the need for speed permeates all successful clients. Just think of leaving your competition in the dust...
  • Traction - certainly, maintaining "control" over your strategic advantage, critical success factors and profit drivers is essential to steering your organization towards sustainable success.

 

If you are not focused on that sweet spot, you are left with sub-optimal performance:

  • If you have torque and speed but not traction, you are spinning your wheels. How many of us feel this way?!?
  • If you have speed and traction but not torque, you will have a slow start. There is no excitement in that!
  • If you have torque and traction but not speed, you will lag behind.

 

Thus, the only winning combination is to be in the sweet spot of torque, speed and traction to lead the pack.

 

Please refer to our webpage to learn more and contact us if you are interested in leveraging TST(SM) at your organization.

 

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to be the Strongest Link in your organization:

 

Is Your Supply Chain Ready for Growth?

 

Is Your Inventory System Working?

 

ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems are the backbone of every manufacturer and distributor. Just take a look at what happens if the system is down for a few hours. People pack up and go home. That is a bit discouraging as we should know how to run manual processes; however, that’s a topic for another day. The bottom line is that we use ERP systems to place customer orders, purchase materials, plan production, ship product and invoice customers. They are cornerstone to success.

ace-logo-web.png

 

Not only do we use ERP systems for these core functions but there are also opportunities to leverage advanced functionality to drive business results:

 

  • Scalable growth
  • Supports new customer types such as ecommerce
  • Improved customer service levels
  • Higher margins
  • Accelerated cash flow
  • Increased productivity and levels of automation

 

My most successful clients see their ERP system and the use of their ERP system as a strategic business topic. My new proprietary process, ACE aligns critical success factors for endgame results with ERP selection and design.  Please contact me for more information about how to use this process to elevate your business performance.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

 

What Is Important for ERP Success?

 

4 Critical Success Factors Key to ERP Success

IveBeenThinkingBlog-1024x459.jpgI am certainly a believer that much can be accomplished remotely. Actually I am doing more and more to help my clients remotely, and we are achieving substantial results — and significant returns on investment. However, that doesn't replace in-person communication 100%. There is a time when communication is most effective in person. For starters, it is quite the challenge to develop a relationship upfront if you haven't met your colleague. This is probably the most critical in-person communication. After you've met him/her and developed a relationship, a lot can be accomplished through various communication channels.

 

For example, I went to a networking event last night to watch the UNC game. That is certainly not something that can be accomplished via Skype! Although a depressing end result for a UNC alumnus, it was an enjoyable evening. I talked with old friends, work colleagues and met some new and interesting people. Sure, I might have called a few of these folks to talk eventually; however, it wouldn't be the same. You cannot replace this type of in-person communication. Do you value in-person communications when it makes sense? 

 

One tip to implement this week:

 

The great news is that there is a really easy yet effective tip for this week's topic. The next time you think about typing an email response or sending a text message to someone in the next office and you haven't talked with them in the last week, get up and go talk with him or her instead. Give in-person communication a try. I bet your effort will not go unnoticed. If you work in a different office, pick up the phone. It is amazing what a difference a call can make.

 

Looking for more ideas to keep your supply chain connected? Access more tips and resources on my blog. And keep connected by subscribing to my newsletter and email feed of “I’ve Been Thinking…”

4 Excel.jpgOur most successful clients are constantly thinking about where they are headed. They think about why they are going there — how does it fit with their vision? How does it have meaning for their customers? Employees? Supply chain partners?

They also think about emerging trends — what is most likely to impact their business? What do they have control over? What opportunities can they leverage? Can they turn lemons into lemonade? How?

Our role is to stay ahead of the curve so that I can help my clients achieve dramatic results. Thus, we've incorporated the following best practices and thinking into the development of our proprietary processes:

  • Best practices across industries (ranging from aerospace to building products to food & beverage to distribution) and company-sizes (from small, family-owned businesses to facilities and divisions of multi-billion dollar, global enterprises).
  • Expert advice from our collaborations and alliances of clients and colleagues inclusive of top-notch trusted advisors, communities of executives and business owners, and trade association experts and professionals.
  • And, most importantly, we've bounced these against "what works" and is immediately pragmatic.

 

4 EXCEL(SM) is our proprietary process that leverages SIOP (sales, inventory and operations planning) expertise to drive exponential results. 

 

We've found 4 EXCEL to achieve two vital outcomes:

 

  • Bottom line results - growth, profitability, cash flow, productivity, customer loyalty
  • Engagement and collaboration across the organization — and often-times across your supply chain.

 

There are 4 E's for success:

 

  • Engage executive team in SIOP (sales, inventroy, and operations planning)
  • Energize cross-functional teams inclusive of customers and suppliers (to align demand with supply)
  • Execute integrated business plans
  • Elevate business performance (growth, profit, working capital, customer service).

 

Please refer to our webpage to learn more and contact us if you are interested in leveraging 4 EXCEL(SM) at your organization.

 

Did you like this article? Continue reading on how to strengthen your Eagle Eye:

 

SIOP/ Integrated Business Planning

 

Are You Working on the Right Priorities?

common sense.jpgThere is a buzz about agile project management being the “in” trend. There are workshops, seminars and lots of conversation about agile. However, what does agile mean? According to Webster’s dictionary, it is the ability to think quickly or a quick and well-coordinated movement. I see it as meaning flexible. In the project management world, there are countless discussions geared towards agile. But is it really just common sense?

At one of my clients, we have been working diligently to implement a new ERP system. The company is a young company in a start-up mode. However, it is not the traditional startup. When they ship, they will “go BIG”, largely from day one. Thus, there are nuances that require an ERP system long before the typical company would purchase one. Yet they still have the vast majority of start-up challenges. Certainly cash is tight, information is not known, processes are not well enough defined to know how to set up the system yet the system needs to be in place to support their first key customer. What can we do? Leverage agile!

In talking with the ERP supplier, agile was suggested as the best approach. Although I’ve had a significant share of success with selecting the right system for clients and helping them to navigate the implementation, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the nuances of agile. When the ERP supplier described them, it sounded like common sense – exactly what should be done in this scenario. In essence, design the system to be flexible and to account for the information as it becomes available. Thus, a few keys to success emerged: 1) Understand the philosophy 2) Deliver in chunks 3) The solution development team.

1. Understand the philosophy: As is typically required for success, it is vital that the leaders and the team understand the philosophy. In order to adjust on the fly and remain agile to solution development, it means that it is less likely you’ll end up with a final product that is as comprehensive a solution as can be delivered with traditional methods. Make sure expectations are aligned.

 

Since there are decisions that need to be made on the fly, and options to consider with evolving business requirements, it is vital that stakeholders are involved. Collaboration is the cornerstone. All stakeholders should understand this philosophy, their role, how they fit into the puzzle, and the significance of delivering their piece on time.

 

For example, this was obvious with my agile client. The project team had to be clear and in the loop – more than on a typical project implementation. The company stakeholders needed to provide vital information as it became available and best guess information while reviewing module functionality. The project manager needed to be empowered, skilled, and supported so that the right decisions can be made at the right time with the best information available.

 

2. Deliver in chunks: As opposed to traditional projects, a key to success with agile is to look for and find reasonable and achievable chunks for implementation. In essence, what group of tasks can be most successful early on with the information and resources available? Will that chunk of the project also support the next chunk? What is the next likely set of tasks that can be defined enough for the second chunk? And so on.

 

For example, in an agile situation, we were in the process of confirming several aspects of the manufacturing process yet we couldn’t wait to move forward in order to meet a critical customer deadline. Thus, we decided to put the foundational elements in place that we knew to a greater degree of certainty first – the accounting system and items. We could build upon these aspects as information became available for the other parts of the system. In the interim, we would provide education on the system and continue to make progress. By going live with accounting to start, we could test several processes with minimal risk – a win-win. Thus, the second chunk would go more smoothly.

 

3. The solution development team: The agile method is all about people! Thus, the solution development team must be solid and collaborative. It is not uncommon in implementations to have experts switch in and out of projects; however, this is more challenging with agile projects as they are more dependent on the people and their knowledge. A cross-functional team that works effectively together is the cornerstone to success. Because agile projects rely on strong informal communication, it is important that the team has the right composition, the right skills (including business knowledge) and is the right size for effectiveness.

 

For example, when working on an agile project, if one team member has a deep understanding of a particular module, they need to collaborate closely with the person who has a deep understanding of the day-to-day process so that the optimal setup is completed. Since knowledge of the business processes is vital, more emphasis should be focused on getting the right skills and people on the team to ensure success.

Agile can be the perfect solution in many circumstances; however, it is also common sense. If you have fully formed requirements and information available as to how the processes are performed and the likely complexities, is there a reason to build non-essential flexibility into the process? Perhaps that would be a waste. Put on your common sense hat, and good decisions will emerge.