Time to Spare?
I’m going to go out on a limb and dare say that there are not many, if any, Directors of Finance, Procurement, HR or IT who can say they have spare capacity in their day. For as long as I can remember, there has been pressure on support function teams to do more in less time and/or with less people. “Work Smarter, Not Harder” has been the mantra sung by many, often without any real thought as to how to do so.
In practise, what does this mean? In my experience, many of these teams are simply overworked as they handle day-to-day matters along with the odd curve-ball thrown at them, to think of how to work smarter. A case of which comes first: Chicken or Egg? Technology has of course facilitated incredible efficiencies within these support functions. However, it takes time to research and select the right technology, implementing it as well as following through to ensure users actually make the most of the new systems etc.
While most businesses get the first step done without much delay: research & selection of a system, they often get stuck at either implementation or follow through after go-live of ensuring a system is used to its potential. There are generally two causes; 1. Implementation is on hold or delayed because in-house teams are so busy with the day job and/ or 2. Implementation goes ahead but is done in a rush with limited resource and therefore systems end up being utilised at a reduced capacity. Like paying for a 4x4 monster truck but only ever driving it to the grocery store. I’ve witnessed these issues numerous times during my career.
Cause 1 examples:
A document management system which had been paid for and mapped to existing procurement and accounting system for almost a year, without having been implemented. When it came to actually implementing it, the user-mapping was out of date, so the work had to be re-done, creating further delays and associated expense of paying for a system not in use.
A document management system which was sourced and paid for by IT but due to lack of senior executive support to allocate appropriate resource for the implementation, it was not yet in general use four years after purchase.
Cause 2 examples:
A HR system where electronic annual leave & sickness tracking was done off-line two years after system implementation, despite functionality being standard rather than ad-on. This resulted in excessive manual work & calculations, not only for payroll & accounting but also for HR team. There wasn’t the follow up after go-live to ensure employees used all the functionality. Definitely a case of “Work Harder instead of Smarter”.
Interface between sales & inventory systems. The implementation of a new Point of Sale (PoS) system was rushed so the interface between the PoS and existing inventory system was never completed due to lack of resource. A year later, all reconciliation between PoS and inventory (procurement) system still done manually. A complex and time consuming task even if both systems are being utilised to their full capacity but made even more complex by the fact that the PoS was missing many Stock Keeping Units (SKU’s) which lead to items being sold as “miscellaneous”. It meant it was nigh on impossible to identify issues with losses resulting in unacceptable Cost of Sale ratios. Where they due to inventory miscount, un-accounted breakage, items sold under “miscellaneous” at lower than the official price to friends & family or plain theft.
The common factor with the above examples is the lack of time and resource to deliver the promised benefits of a new system or an enhancement to existing systems. While I’ve witnessed the above examples, I have also been part of implementations that have delivered the promised results. The most successful implementations have a proper plan, with a senior executive project sponsor and owner to signal the importance of the project. They also have the appropriate internal resource along with some temporary external support. The last point about external support is essential, as I refer back to my opening point, the Directors who need these new systems or system enhancements rarely have the spare capacity to project manage an implementation. It’s why interim project managers and / or consultants like myself are here to provide support. It should be considered both a time and cost saving exercise as it will deliver the implementation in a timely manner and therefore the expected benefits too.