The menu of supply chain software tools available on the market today is head-spinning: Between the incredible range available and the constant race to develop faster, more sophisticated products, the challenge of choosing the best one has never been more difficult.
But what exactly is the “best” supply chain tool? Is it the quickest? The most complex? Is it the one that promises to revolutionize the entire supply chain organization?
Those are good questions. But what I’ve learned over my years of experience as a supply planner and scheduler as well as a project manager – which means I’ve been both a deployment leader implementing these tools as well as a regular user of them – is the importance of focusing not on the “best” tool, but on the right one.
Trust Your In-House Experts
The right tool is the one that best suits your needs. It’s the one that can interact with the other tools you use. It’s the one that can be shaped according to the particularities of your supply chain process.
At Profit Point, we know that the companies we work with are the experts in what they do best. They know their products and processes inside out; they know how to run their businesses; and they know exactly what they need their supply chain tools to accomplish in order to succeed. So why would you want to implement a supply chain tool that tries to modify the way a business is already working successfully?
You wouldn’t – and there are several good reasons why: For starters, this type of misguided software implementation is likely to struggle with adoption among users because it probably adds additional steps and extra work instead of simplifying their job. This will create unnecessary stress in the organization as people and teams recall the high expectations set for the tool, which now isn’t meeting its core purpose of making things better. And now on top of everything, someone has invested hundreds or thousands of dollars in a software tool that was supposed to be the “best” – but turns out not to have been right.
Seeking A Balance
I’ve seen a lot from the end user’s perspective, from solutions that worked well to using tools that I wouldn’t touch again in a century. And I’ve also been on the management side of implementation. As a user, it’s important for a tool to help me do the mundane things as efficiently and accurately as possible, freeing me up to address problems and issues that really need my considered input.
But it can be difficult sometimes to bring this discussion to management, to make them see how particular and unique the planning process or the scaling process was for that specific business unit. As management, you’re the one that has to make the decision, but the user’s voice has to be heard: What is their need? What are the minimum capabilities they are expecting from this new tool to help them do their tasks?
Flash Doesn’t Always Deliver Functionality
The right technology addresses a problem. It may sound simple and obvious, but I’ve seen management teams get off to the exact wrong start by saying, “We’ve got to re-do the processes, and we need all this software functionality.” And then vendors come in and show off a ton of shiny new capabilities, but nobody pauses to consider whether those capabilities are actually going to be utilized by the users.
The right technology isn’t always going to be the most feature-rich: It’s going to be the most effective at allowing end-users to make their value-added decisions. The right technology for Company A won’t necessarily be the right one for Company B. Looking for the most bleeding-edge technology isn’t the best for everyone, so the process needs to begin with a thorough assessment of exactly what type of technology is best suited for them.
When we’re trying to implement a technology, we listen to the teams who know their processes. They know what they’re doing and what works for them, so that we don’t come in and disrupt their systems. We might need to adapt in places, but it’s always with the goal of creating a solution that helps the users do their jobs better.
When It’s Right, It Works
So what happens when you choose the right tool? You realize multiple benefits. A tool that’s flexible can be configured to deliver just what the company needs by replicating the current supply chain process and its basic requirements. Flexibility also creates opportunities to improve the current process without changing or hindering the aspects which are working just fine. And flexibility enables expansion of capabilities according to new needs of the business.
Having the right tool is also key for the change management aspect of a software implementation, because it shows the end users a simplified way to perform their tasks, and delivers time reduction which empowers them to focus on more important parts of the job. And ultimately, this enables them to efficiently deliver their customers what they need in the moment they need it – reliability which can’t be overvalued in today’s hyper-competitive market.