5 steps to consider when deploying a new supply chain management tool or technology

Melina Saliba

New technologies are changing the way global supply chains are managed and optimized in companies every day. They offer enormous savings and optimization potential, but also present companies with the challenge of finding their way through the seemingly innumerable possible solutions and selecting the right solution for their problem in a manageable timeframe. It is critical to understand which steps to take and what to consider in order to successfully select and deploy a new technology, system, or tool within your supply chain. Based on our many years of experience from hundreds of customer projects, we have created a guide that goes over the 5 most important steps to take to drastically increase the probability of success.

Understand and outline the problem you want to solve

Begin with identifying the problem you see and would like to solve, how the process currently looks like, and the tool (if any) that is currently used to support the process. While this may sound simple at first, the reality is often much more complex. Especially in global supply chains, you must take into account how many hands make up the process you want to improve. Although there might be a global process standard definition in place, you might discover during your analysis phase that the process is different in various regions or countries of the organization and different tools are in use. In addition, there are various external partners involved, especially in global supply chains, who have their own process in place and use their own tools and systems. Furthermore, cultural differences and language barriers need to be considered.

It is of utmost importance that you give yourself enough time to do this first step. Speak to as many people within the organization who are involved in the process and who know what is going well and what is challenging. Create a clear picture what the solution should solve and the expectations you and your organization have.  

While this may sound overwhelming, don’t allow yourself to feel discouraged. Most organizations don’t have the capacity to execute this step alone. They need support and guidance from industry experts who have undergone this process firsthand. They know which areas to investigate to quickly pinpoint your challenges and pain points and have tried-and-tested solutions at hand. While in this stage, it’s important to remember that it is often the case that companies tend to underestimate the amount of time they should invest in this stage. This could stem from the fear that implementing a new tool might not fulfil their day-to-day requirements, leaving this dissatisfied with their ROI. If you and your team do not have the capacity to do this critical step, engage industry experts and ensure no challenges go unaddressed.

How to find the right technology for you

Now, you have a clear understanding what your organization is challenged with, you know in detail what the solution should look like and all the requirements the tool should have. Finding the right vendors or partners to ensure success and hitting the expected ROI can be another daunting task.

Over the past few decades, thousands of new companies within the supply chain and logistics world have been founded and that offer innovative solutions, higher customizations at in many cases lower price tag. With them are also the established players in the market who offer solutions, tools, and systems to make a supply chain and logistics operations more efficient. No one has the time to look at all the webpages to ensure that you covered all possible solutions. Supposedly neutral websites such as G2, Crunchbase or Gartner list vendors and providers out for you, which can be quite helpful for those who might not know where to start. The downside is that also these websites only list a few top companies that reached a certain size and created enough brand visibility over the past years and do not give a wide enough overview of the market. It’s wise to spend a bit of time to do a bit of research by yourself so that you feel comfortable to have a solid overview of the solutions that are out in the market. Don’t confine yourself to a narrow view of what the market has to offer, rather keep your options open; as what an established supply chain brand can do for one organization might not work for yours. Your main priority should lie in finding the perfect fit for your problem and organization, not the biggest name.

How to find the right vendor for your desired technology

You have most likely created a long catalogue of requirements the perfect vendor should fulfill, have a budget by your companies’ leaders approved and listed up further important points the perfect vendors should bring with. Whether you are running an RFQ or have created a list of vendors that you are starting to talk to, in our experience, there are two very important things that you should consider to make the best choice.

First: It is important to consider that the problem you are currently trying to solve is not the only problem you and your company have to better and more efficiently manage and continuously optimize your supply chain. A vendor that provides a holistic solution equipped to solve more than the problem you are currently look at might be a better choice in the mid-and long-run. By choosing a vendor that can solve multiple challenges in your supply chain avoids creating new data siloes, adding additional tools that are disconnected and adding even more complexity to your IT landscape. So, if you choose a vendor that largely meets your requirements while also offering additional functionalities and services, you and your organization will save time, money and effort in the long run and can expect a higher ROI. In our experience, companies that select vendors that combine tools with services can save around 15% in supply chain costs.

Second: While the technology that you bring into your organization is very important, it will not work without people. Even the best solution will fail if you do not train, change, and adopt your organization. So, when selecting the vendor, ensure that they have a clear deployment, training and change management plan in place instead of just giving you the technology and leave you and your organization alone.  

Deploy the new technology in your organization successfully

To ensure your organization adapts to the new technology so that the expected ROI is achieved, you must have a solid project and change management plan in place. You must create a clear path to ensure you’re staying on track, that you foresee issues early on and implement risk mitigation to ensure you get what the vendor promised. Before approving the plan your selected vendor has put together, ensure that there is enough focus on training, change management and testing. It will take time to train all users in your organization, to manage change and implement the new way of working. Having enough time and effort considered for these activities will tremendously increase the chances for a successful rollout. In addition, before you roll-out the new technology in your global organization, verify and test it with a few key people to capture their feedback, understand what changes must be made and what needs to be improved. This will keep you on track to achieving a successful and smooth rollout.

Using the technology: Continuous adjustments and optimization to meet changes

Your work doesn’t stop once the new technology has been successfully rolled out. Your goal should be simple: continued optimization. Just because your system runs smoothly today and your current organization is happy with it, is doesn’t mean you and the users won’t face challenges in the future. As is with most facets of supply chain, you must always adapt. Continuously improving, adapting, and optimizing your supply chain efforts is vital, and working with a tech partner that keeps you in the know is the best way to do it. In the end, finding a partner who makes it their priority to guide you is key. Make the wise choice early on and you will never second guess the health and efficiency of your supply chain.

Conclusion

Deploying a new technology in any supply chain can seem overwhelming. When there are so many moving parts to take into consideration it’s easy to find yourself unsure where to start and of the next step to take. By breaking down the process and following these five critical steps, you will ensure that no issue goes unaddressed, the deployment will be smooth and every person in your supply chain is on board with the new technology.

Working as a trusted partner with years of industry experience, we have undergone this process through hundreds of customer projects. The solutions we have crafted at Orkestra combine the latest technology and professional services to delivery fast and sustainable results. Book a discovery call with one of our experts to learn more about our solutions and see our technology it in action.

If you work with global supply chains, here are ways we can help you gain full control and visibility over your shipments.
If you’re operating with spreadsheets and disparate sources of data, learn more about how a digital platform can provide you with supply chain visibility in this free guide.
If you’d like to learn more about how to leverage your ERP with a supply chain platform, check out our free guide.
For more supply chain best practices, visit our resources page.  
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