Published in “Project Times” website, September 18, 2015
Companies are in growth. Every single client is growing – many quite dramatically while others a bit slower, yet growth just the same. Although rapid growth is exciting, it can also be one of the most challenging. Systems can provide the perfect tool to leverage for success – and project management is your ticket to ensure success.
Growth can be challenging for companies both large and small. Whether the client is still relatively small and concerned with cash flow or whether they are much larger and trying to purchase buildings and machines, growth will bring growing pains. Customers do not care what you have to do to service them, whether they are large or small. They expect you’ll have what they need where they need it and when they need it. For example, Amazon has next day, same day and Sunday deliveries as options. E-commerce capabilities and mobile-friendly apps are expectations for all types of companies. Thus, a solid systems infrastructure is not only valuable but a requirement for survival to support growth.
Similarly, larger companies also can benefit from systems. One of the best ways to gain new customers, develop and sell new items, and to expand your product line by cross-selling is to upgrade your capabilities. You’ll need to leverage systems to be successful and efficient with these endeavors. There are a few reasons why: 1) Volume. 2) Best practices. 3) Automation
Systems will provide access to volume. Certainly, one of the key advantages of growth is the ability to leverage additional volume over the same or minimally larger infrastructure. This brings profit to the bottom line. A system does not care whether you perform ten transactions (or calculations) or 10,000. A person does!
Systems also provide the ability to leverage best practice processes. These processes can be embedded in the system.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen clients (and people) who have the latest and greatest technology available to them yet they fail miserably. The reason this occurs is that they do not take the time to think through the optimal processes the system can utilize. One way to think about this is “garbage in, garbage out”. A system will only calculate errors faster if you don’t focus time and attention on your processes. How can you set up your daily, weekly and monthly routine to best support your business? Build these into your system, and your system will become invaluable to growth.
Systems provide the opportunity to automate. There are countless opportunities to automate in every business. I’ve yet to walk into a new client without significant potential to take steps out of processes by having the computer perform steps and calculations within a set of guidelines. For example, instead of manually calculating what you need to purchase in order to meet your customers’ needs, an ERP system will figure that out for you and provide you with a recommended plan for review. Then, our job becomes managing exceptions and adding value instead of performing routine tasks.
Solid Project Management Ensures Systems Success
As valuable as a system can be in supporting growth, it will be meaningless if not backed by solid project management. Certainly, I’ve seen more issues arise in implementing and leveraging systems than almost every other type of project. Thus, it is of utmost importance to focus on the critical project management techniques required to ensure systems success.
Reviewing those successful systems implementations, upgrades and projects to further leverage existing functionality, the vast majority have these tenets in place:
- A strong project leader – it must begin and end with leadership as my HR mentor used to say. Interestingly, the best projects with weak leaders fail whereas the weakest projects with strong leaders succeed.
- A well thought-out project plan with a clearly defined critical path and milestones – it is easy to get lost in system implementations; thus, simplifying the focus to the critical path is essential to success.
- Tracking mechanisms – it is too late to discover an issue once 50% of the project has elapsed. Instead, find ways to build checkpoints into the project plan. Make sure there are plenty of short tests so that you can rapidly discover issues and plans can be adjusted.
- Senior leadership support – similarly to project leadership, no matter how strong the team and plan, it will fail without executive support. Undoubtedly, a conflict will arise that will require support from senior leaders. Be prepared upfront for this need.
There are countless reasons to consider implementing a new system, upgrading your system or further leveraging your system to support growth. First and foremost, consider whether you want to grow by 5% per year using your current infrastructure and systems or whether you want to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. Many of my clients have opportunities to grow by 20%, 50%, and 100%.
Next, why not increase cash flow and maximize profit while growing the business? Since it is often a no-brainer to further leverage systems, make sure you are prepared for success. Beef up your project management and success will follow.