3 Tips for a Successful APO Implementation

(By Mike Raftery)

By now, the process of evaluating the possibility of an APO project inevitably includes the telling of enough horror stories to make any project manager shiver.  But the bottom line is that you are not evaluating those projects, you are evaluating your own project.  So it is important to learn from those mistakes when executing your own project, and make sure you do not become a horror story yourself.  How to steer clear of the rocks and plan for a successful project?  Plan your project around these three characteristics and you have got a fighting chance.

1. Know Thyself.  

APO, (or any other software package for that matter) on its own, will not change who your company is or what challenges you face.  It will accelerate your business and unlock new opportunities if you are ready to handle them.  However, if your company has serious issues with master data, supply planning processes, or manufacturing performance, it is important to address them or at least stabilize those issues before taking on something new.  A sophisticated planning solution will only highlight those weaknesses and prevent your organization from realizing the benefits promised in the business case.  So before signing up to make the jump to take your supply chain to the next level, make sure you have a solid footing to stand on.

2. Expect Change and Plan for It.  

So now you are ready, funds approved and project is underway.  The biggest task that does not show up on many project plans is the change management that comes with a new APO implementation.  Planning for change does not just mean the tasks of change management.  It means insulating your organization from change on all fronts.  That means preparing your customers for the change, building inventory to insulate your services levels against any system disruptions and involving all levels of a corporation in the go live plan.  Aligning all levels of a corporation around a go live is a critical success factor that prevents go live issues from occurring.  You get different perspectives that might prevent pitfalls, and buy in from all affected parties if everyone is involved in the go/no-go decisions.  It’s important that you face the truth here, because it will come out at cutover time no matter what is discussed in those project meetings.

3. Build Your Own Expertise.  

Be your own advocate.  No matter what partner you choose for your implementation, it is critical that you staff, and build internal expertise that represents your best interests at all stages of the project.  Even an implementation partner with the best intentions does not have to live with the final product.  They also do not have the deep knowledge required to influence and tailor the design to the individual needs of your organization and support it for the long term.  The decision maker should report to you, the customer, they should have deep business experience and the ability to understand technical solutions.  If this person doesn’t exist prior to the project, develop them prior to making that jump to a new planning system.  The worst decision you can make is to hand the keys to an implementation partner that does not have deep experience with your company.  That partner does not have to live with that solution and support it for the long haul.

Planning appropriately and looking out for your own best interests will increase the benefits and success potential of your APO project.  It is important to remember that this is not a project that has a specific start and end, but an investment that will be a part of your organization for a very long time.  Evaluating the long term implications of the decisions along the entire scope of the project will ensure the long term success of your investment.

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