Proven Steps to Accelerate the ROI of Your Supply Chain Solution
Welcome back to the PlanningPosts Podcast! Today we’re not just talking about demand forecasting, or new items, or deal buys. Episode 9 focuses on how getting a great start to your implementation can accelerate the ROI of your supply chain management solution. A strong kickoff. Dominating the first inning. Scripting the first 10 plays of the game.
This session is going to be eye-opening. “The First 100 Days” podcast draws on the deep experiences of PlanningPosts supply chain evangelist Dan Craddock and special guest Crystal Seeley – an inventory leader who has successfully led four major implementations in 4 years, impacting 100 planners and hundreds of teams.
For businesses already active on their supply chain management solution… This is an invitation to listen in, follow this same guidance, and your results will soar.
Todd: Today is about how to prepare and execute an implementation game-plan that can’t miss. Everything you should do — and shouldn’t — in the first 100 days of your new supply chain management solution.
Obviously, to do this we need great experience, and that’s why I’m excited to have Crystal and Dan sitting here with me.
Crystal Seeley is the Director of Inventory and Demand Planning at Watsco, the country’s largest HVAC distributor, who has led and lived inventory implementations from every angle.
Crystal, it’s great to have you with us because you have experienced implementations as a user, an executive, a consultant and even a trainer.
Tell us a bit about your unique background.
- I started in retail at Macy’s/Garts – solid foundation in supply chain management
- Learned through M&A, really like to solve problems and help the business, so I transitioned into an ongoing role for that purpose
- IC – perspective into many companies’ pain points, ongoing gain of experience and expertise
- Now for $4B+ enterprise, I’ve experienced 4 major implementations in 4 years. 100 planners, hundreds of impacted teams. All that experience definitely came into play for on-time and on-budget projects, with successful go-lives.
Todd: Dan, welcome back to you also. We will have the chance to have both you and Crystal share all of your ideas and suggestions for the first 100 days. I believe you are suggesting that this guidance is NOT just for inventory teams who are brand new to their inventory planning solution.
Dan: Thanks Todd, always great to be here. Todd, I hope you have a lot of tape on that reel-to-reel recorder of yours because this is a huge topic!
Crystal and I have talked quite a bit over the years about all of the things companies should do to achieve and accelerate their results with supply chain planning solutions. This includes the executives, the inventory analysts, and of course the position we call ‘Team Champion’.
These suggestions will benefit brand-new inventory teams, as well as teams who implemented 12 months ago — or 5 years ago. We see many companies go back and put a whole new focus on the keys to success.
Our favorite question is when someone’s preparing to implement, and they sit with a notebook and ask, “Tell me everything you would do if you wanted ultimate success”. That question has been asked of some great company leaders.
So Todd, here today, let’s pretend that our audience has asked the same question:
“What should we do in the first 100 days to ensure ultimate success?”
Todd: Dan, you requested a special prologue statement to set a foundation. Now is your chance!
Dan: I did, I did. You know, many of our supply chain resources found on PlanningPosts will state the same thing, and that is there are two keys to success in any inventory planning solution implementation. Stemming from decades of experiences, these two keys are:
#1) Strong top management support and
#2) An empowered Champion or Champion Team
During the planning and roll-out, Top Management must be all-in. They need to set a tone that it is a new era and a new attitude about inventory planning being crucial to higher profit. And of course, when you see amazing inventory optimization success in a company, you will always find a key leader or leadership team leading the charge. We refer to them as the Team Champions. They champion the cause.
Crystal: Well, that’s a great point because…
One of the most important keys is for leadership to realize that change is essential for growth. If the goal is to own the space in which they operate, companies should realize that means change. Change is vital to being the best and outpacing any potential competitors.
With that, Step #1 is to get total buy in, agreement and support from leadership about what the enterprise is going to do; how they will go about it; and what it will look like when they get there. Step #2 comes when that leadership is a constant messenger to all others in the enterprise. When they empower others to be the leading edge of the change – those are your Champions. Having the Champion in place first means everything.
Todd: Great, so that sets the stage. Now it looks like your guidance and suggestions for the first 100 days will fall into these 4 categories:
- THE PEOPLE & TEAMS INVOLVED,
- THE TRAINING WEEK,
- THE FIRST MONTH GOING LIVE,
- ACCELERATION & THE NEW NORMAL
1) PEOPLE & TEAMS
Todd: So lets get it started with People. It always starts with people. The players and organizational teams involved. Dan, a key point here is that this is about a lot more than just the inventory analysts.
Dan: Todd, that is why Crystal is such an ideal guest on this show. She has played every position and she knows the importance of having every audience involved, learning and participating.
The analysts are the main users of their supply chain management solution, but we need education and involvement of the entire Management Team, The Champion, all department leaders and our suppliers. They all play a part.
Crystal, can you speak first to the critical nature of having the president/CEO and all of Top Management engaged in the planning and through the first 100 days?
Crystal: [Shares on Top Management… their approach and things they can do]
You just used the word critical and that is exactly how to approach it:
- Critical that leadership and designated Champions are all-in and 100% on board with what an implementation or relaunch entails
- Whenever I have been involved in a project like that, we always have a full-court press on leadership, way before Day 1
- High-level reviews of future state; ensure they understand how we are going to move from current state and their support for what it will take
- Initiating change management/high-level educational sessions for the leadership have shown to be very effective
- Setting a brand or project naming also shows everyone involved that this is an enterprise initiative, not a compartmentalized activity
Todd: And we have talked in the past about the importance of the Champion role. What are some of the key things they should do in those first 100 days?
Crystal: [Shares about Champion tasks during First 100].
Assist in data planning prior to go-live. Verify data prior to go-live. Prepare, inspire, but also calm the analysts. Clear their calendars. Build bridges with IT, stores, Operations.
Success comes more easily when you basically integrate your Champions into your Project Team
In the design process (implementation – design for future state)/relaunch – Kaizen.
We have conducted training (early in the project) for Champions to help set the stage for them to be part of the change management and be SMEs.
Champions become the front-line testers and data validation leaders. We charge them with looking at moving from current state to future state in terms of process changes. They also get very comfortable in the new approaches and methodologies. They can then use their confidence to help in implementation activities, be messengers to other departments, etc.
We help immerse them in the analytics. The Champions can then collaborate with leadership from the unique position of the business operations converging with the new way of working.
Team Champions ensure a strong relationship with the technology partners.
Dan: Take every opportunity to learn ahead of the team. Reach out to other teams for advice. Ask great questions throughout while others are watching. Building bridges… will share other bridge ideas.
Todd: You mention building bridges. What other departments or department leaders need to be involved?
Crystal: [Shares thoughts on other departments]
Any areas touched by the impact of inventory planning. I have been through projects where this did not happen initially, and the effort to dispel the mystery and myths of what is happening can become almost all-consuming.
We have found the following works to help not only build bridges, but to get other departments on board, and not have them aggressively or passively fighting against the changes and outcomes.
Overviews for logistics, operations, sales, finance (leadership will help align the departments. That should be exposed to reviews of the future state and how we get there.
- Introduce the planning team; put faces to the department; not all others may know them
- Address their specific concerns, not generalizing
- Tell them the good and the not-so-good (there will be some tough times; we can weather through it)
- Be open and transparent, share data, share progress; anything else they are interested in, share it
- Keep in touch; involve them in updates/wins/challenges
Areas that can be the biggest opponent can become the biggest ally.
Dan: [Shares thoughts on other departments]
Todd: Finally, I see you both talk about suppliers being part of the team. How critical is that?
Crystal: Again, we can add to and mix these up in any way.
First, educate them that change is coming and what the goals are. Help the analysts plan their roll-out of product lines. Don’t start with the most difficult.
Communication is key. Also it’s a good time to reset with supplier, change policies, or ask for things we need (lower buying multiples, less order restrictions, move to EDI, etc.).
Show how this change will help THEM (projections/partnering on collaboration)
Note – suppliers get nervous when they see changes in ordering patterns or even less ordering. Explain how this helps both entities in the long run.
Dan: Assistance ensuring that we know the latest brackets, minimums, as well as pack, layer and pallet sizes, weights/cube and other unique item settings. There is great opportunity to update all of these.
2) TRAINING WEEK
Todd: I know Solution Training Week is big. Crystal, how do you plan for the week and then ensure that your team uses it as the launching pad for success?
Crystal: [Shares about the team, the training, etc.]
- Training Week is big, but we approach it as another activity in the overall success
- Lots of ‘warm up’ prior to training, exposure of analysts to concepts, view of application, help on data validation, updates from project team progress
- Last round – Lunch and Learn sessions/videos for reference on specific topics; address THEIR fears (they will have them)
- Celebrate continuously how this change will benefit THEM (work day, performance, etc.)
- Messaging that THEY are the key to success as they go to training; they will be the messengers and ambassadors for the new normal and change management that is, and will continue, to occur
Dan: [Describes a 2-3 hour session with the executives, the company leaders AND the team in the room together. The goals, when it occurs during the week, etc.]
Todd: Crystal, when do you know you have experienced a great week of solution training?
Crystal: When people are energized after they get back to their normal work environments and keep that energy and new messaging going. When they stop talking about how they used to do it, and how it will be done NOW. Less reference to the past, they speak in the new language of the workflow. And they ask,
“How soon can we take the Level I certification?”
3) THE FIRST MONTH
Todd: So training has happened and each inventory analyst has some lines live. They are active. But, you are still using the old method for the other lines.
Crystal, describe the atmosphere and the unique work the team has for those initial weeks.
Crystal: It depends on how the roll-out was designed. It’s a very methodical approach:
- Project team availability (mail, ZOOM, in person); no detail is too small at this point; they will review down to an item with an analyst as needed so they ensure comprehension and trust in what they are seeing and doing
- Day in the Life (Every. Single. Day)
- Almost like boot camp for analysts – total immersion for GL30
- Every day, accountability to working on migration (moving lines to the new application and methodology)
- Continuation of moving old lines to the new way
- Lunch and Learns/Town halls
- Tip of the day (every day for GL30), FAQ
- Team Share with process document library, help videos, etc.
- Champions working very closely with each planner; How are you doing? What are your concerns? Where are you struggling or getting push-back?
- Champions can held hold the front lines on the business while the analysts are working thru migration and initial new ways of operation
- Get the Champions immersed in the data analytics at the outset. So they can see for themselves the shift to better performance and reduction of issues
Weekly updates to leadership and enterprise – wins, impacts any issues that have been identified. Team roundtable gatherings. Sitting 1-on-1 and coaching. Questioning and challenging SOQs. Peer-to-peer ideas and insights.
Champion opportunity to analyze and adjust. In group sessions or 1-on-1. Connect with your consultative leader for big changes.
Dan: The team will realize more and more how the process is working and WHY that SOQ of 100 is actually the right number… or if not, how to find the component that is wrong.
These initial weeks are your most important opportunity to embrace the new way of thinking… that you now manage the components and not the end results SOQ.
4) ACCELERATION & THE NEW NORMAL
Todd: So we are talking about the First 100 Days. Are the first 30 days much different than Days 31–100?
Dan: Crystal, I always have the feeling that in the first 30 days, the caution flag is out. The Champion has to ensure that the team, or even one analyst, does not have some key misunderstanding that could negatively impact all of the lines, or even all of the items!
That first 30 days allow strong auditing and coaching to happen. Big adjustments can be made if needed, including the roll-out schedule. However, once an analyst, or an entire team is given the go ahead, they can roll out lines at a faster pace.
Is this your experience? And can you expand on it?
Crystal: While the first 30 may be most critical, continuation of the above to whatever number of days past GL it takes has been a key factor. While we have found early successes, sometimes things come up well into the GL. So staying at a DefCon1 or having the caution flag out helps everyone understand that we are in a new way of operation. Until that becomes universally accepted and everyone is on board, we keep it going like we did out of the gate.
We also operate at the level until every item and supplier is being managed in the new paradigm for supply chain planning.
Todd: So, as an analyst has all of their lines active, I would assume there is a ‘new normal’ for their day. Crystal, can you describe that new normal, and do inventory analysts reach that point at different times?
Crystal & Dan: [Shares]
Todd: So, I have two final questions:
- If a plan like this is followed, what results can we expect from the supply chain planning solution, and in terms of overall change to the organization?
- If a key part of this plan is missed, what is most often missed?
Dan & Crystal: [Respond]