In this multi-part Blog Series, we’ve looked at how companies can identify process pain points, communicate them to executives to secure buy-in and map their O2C processes to eliminate bottlenecks.
In this blog, we’ll look at tips for successfully completing a pilot project to work out any kinks before going live.
“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” - Albert Einstein
Your organization has been going about its Sales Order automation project carefully and by the book. You’ve established clear objectives, made a compelling (and reasonable) business case, recruited an executive champion and chosen a technology partner to implement your dream Sales Order automation system.
Now, it’s time to turn all of those plans into a reality - one step at a time.
Your next step should be a pilot project that allows you to test out all of your plans, assumptions and expected results.
This is where things get real.
Putting Your Plan into Action
Project Pilots should be implemented with a project plan that includes interim checkpoints and milestones that tie to the final success criteria. That said, there are success factors that go beyond your order to cash KPIs.
Other factors to consider include:
IT lessons learned - because ongoing IT support is essential for continued adoption of any automation project, the sponsor and IT managers should closely monitor and document the need for IT support, from the beginning to the end of the trial. This will help to forecast the level of support required for the actual launch.
Unanticipated staff availability/bandwidth - the sponsor should work with primary business owners to monitor for the anticipated productivity gains expected from the project. If these expectations are met, you will want to have alternate (preferably higher value-add) activities planned for any otherwise ‘empty’ employee time caused by unexpectedly high productivity gains.
User Training - the sponsor should look for opportunities towards the end of the Trial to test the training approach for getting staff members familiar with the new systems and processes, and to get their feedback and comfort level with process changes.
Reporting: Pilot Trial reporting should cover two elements - results (tied to success criteria) and issues. It is highly recommended that the sponsor create a three person report committee (IT, Primary Business, Secondary Business) to review ongoing and final results, take any desired actions based on results, and resolve or escalate significant Pilot issues.
The Devil is in the Details
The key to success with any pilot process is to obsess over the details that will springboard the pilot into a full-blown project/solution. Ironing out minor issues now, even if they result in delays, will prevent bigger problems and bigger delays down the road.
Without sound details regarding risk and/or benefits, the pilot will be limited in its effectiveness to garner support by the wider organization. Project stakeholders tend to stay focused on the functional requirements of a pilot project, while non-functional requirements, such as benefit metrics, are the first thing to slide.
It is important to keep your eye on the larger goal and ensure that by the time the pilot has been implemented, you have a sound example of success.
In the final segment of this Blog Series, we’ll look at measuring return on investment for sales order automation projects and monitoring operations to continually refine and improve processes.