When you look at an implementation project plan for a large scale IT project like APO, the end date is not really an end date. Really, it’s more of a transition point. The transition from spending to realizing return on your investment starts there. Managing that transition effectively and with a forward looking plan will help realize those dividends faster and more effectively.
APO is like a shark – Just like a shark needs to keep swimming to survive, so must you always be moving forward in your APO implementation. There is always going to be something more to do, so it is best to account for those changes in your ongoing budgets and resource plans. Businesses change, processes evolve and new functionality is developed. If you do not have the ability to account for these inevitable changes to your system requirements, then users will find their own way outside the system, and you lose returns on your IT investment. It is important to realize when developing this plan that it is not to account for missed system requirements, but rather to adapt to changing requirements. Look back at what your business was doing 10 or even 5 years ago. Chances are it is not the same things you are doing today. You need to account for this ongoing change in your maintenance plan, otherwise your investment quickly will seem stale and outdated long before its time.
Change your oil every 5000 miles – Good advice from your father that still resonates today. It’s best to keep up on maintenance for all the moving parts that keep your system running. Establishing ongoing maintenance and system health procedures will prevent that gradual slide into decline. A partial list of these activities includes:
- CIF queues – backoffice teams should be monitoring these daily
- Master data – up to date master data eliminates workarounds and keeps the system relevant
- Alert cleanouts – essential to keep the alerts focused and relevant
- Old data – important to delete old sales orders, transport orders and production orders to keep the data in the system reliable and accurate
- Transaction data reconciliation – ensures ECC and APO are on the same page when it comes to data assumptions
Measure, rinse, repeat – Continuous improvement is the name of the game here, and unless you measure the factors that matter, you will not know if you are improving or not. So it is important to create, monitor and focus improvements on critical areas of system performance. These obviously vary from organization to organization but there are some key areas that need monitoring to know that the system is in good shape and moving in the right direction:
- Batch job performance – degradation issues sneak up slowly so it is important to understand and address any performance issues before they have a business impact
- Supply chain metrics – there are many many options here; the key is to measure what is important to your business. Identify critical metrics and monitor closely
- Ticket backlogs – Long standing issues weigh down the system usefulness. While none of these non-critical issues may alone warrant an issue, the cumulative effect of a large number of low priority issues will.
- Recurring issues – Are there tickets and issues that come up time over time? Make sure you identify these so you focus on fixes, not band aids. This will free up resources to focus on other more important issues.
These factors are not the most exciting or dynamic factors in a new IT project, and it is easy to lose focus. However, if all levels of the organization are aligned in expectations and effort that it takes to maintain the system, you will all realize dividends from your investment faster and longer than those that walk away after an implementation.