In the following article the consultants will try to answer the following questions raised during this assignment:
- What makes cross-organizational projects so challenging?
- Why is the scope often a moving target?
- What is the benefit of involve external consultants?
To support the growth in new business areas our client needed a new internal item number system. The project was defined by the client as a cross organizational project, because the item numbering is a general gateway to identify specific products in most of the company’s processes. The new Item number should also be supported by the existing ERP and sub-systems.
How did we approach this project?
Based on the cross organizational impact of changing the existing tag system, we decided on an approach based on workshops, to ensure input and participation from all departments. The department workshops formed the basis for a cross organizational workshop, aiming to facilitate a general discussion and alignment between departments and ensure buy-in and understanding of the cross disciplinary challenges.
How did the project evolve?
The preparation phase was used to get a better understanding of what the management challenges were and to clarify the technical challenges.
This phase identified several additional challenges, which were essential to evaluating the process. These additional challenges were not part of the original scope but had great impact on the project. One of the main tasks was to prevent the new solution introducing complications for future upgrading the ERP system or for other internal systems.
The most significant new challenges were identified as:
- Handling of serialization, GTIN and UDI numbers. (The customers are starting to request the information).
- Relations between items (spare parts and consumables for specific equipment).
- Better use of the existing functionality in the ERP system. (Migration from an older version had not utilized the new available functionality).
- The existing ERP system was reaching end of life within 3-5 years and need to be replaced with a new version.
- Cross organizational change management to ensure the integration of the new solution. (The different departments had opposing views on the requirements and the way forward and even some were resisting or not understanding the need for change).
The department workshops clearly identified the lack of readiness for new internal IT projects. A previous IT project had spiraled out of control and had taken much more time and resources than planned and did not reach the expected optimizations. The negative impact on the organization was clear.
The department workshops also provided identification of many new organizational challenges. Many of them had little to no relation to the main task of specifying a new tag numbering system. However, the workshops provided a platform for the different departments to communicate their daily challenges and limitations working with the ERP system. The communication and responsibilities between departments on projects (orders moving through the company) was not respected.
The cross organizational workshop
In the organizational workshop we used a different approach compared to the department workshops. We introduced existing options within their ERP system not yet utilized. The option was to use categories and a tree structure to find your product. In the first half 3 teams focusing on the 3 main business areas were created. The focus was to discuss how the new approach could benefit their daily work and the information/category structure needed to provide all the relevant information needed during daily operations.
The second half of the workshop was used to discuss some of the challenges identified during preparation and team workshops. The challenges were rated, based on the impact on daily operation.
Based on the workshops and our own findings and investigations a report was created.
The primary focus from management was to get a roadmap specifying what decisions had to be made when and a description of the solution that could solve their challenges. In short: A prioritized list of challenges and how to solve these.
The framework for the solution “new tag number system” had been established during the workshops. Additional findings and requests that was not a part of the original scope was:
- A roadmap for the management specifying the main challenge and how to clarify the scope.
- Reconfiguration of the system using already available features in the system.
- Alignment of how the different teams use and introduce information in to the system.
- Describing new procedures for how the workflows are aligned with the new system features.
- Define a responsibility matrix for the workflows to ensure the information flow from sales through purchase and regulatory to logistic.
- Retraining of employees to optimize the daily operation within the system.
Specification of the solution included the following for the 2 main projects. Structural Change (tag number system and serialization (GTIN and UDI numbers)):
- List of decisions to be clarified,
- Pre-project investigation tasks
- Project plan
- Organizational structure needed for the project
- Resource clarification based on internal resource availability
Additional projects evaluated to have a positive business case was also listed.
Summarizing the project, the following points of learnings are highlighted as the key points. They are also the basis for the conclusions:
- The identified problem was a derived problem and not the root cause. “You see only the top of the Iceberg”.
- The scope in the project was a moving target. The more information gathered directly relate to change in the scope.
- Involving independent consultant provided an impartial platform for open discussions and evaluation across the organization.
- The impartial investigation also identified underlying challenges and relations between different challenges. This would be difficult for an involved party.
- Furthermore, the mitigating recommendations from an impartial person provide a more open mindset across the organization for accepting the change management process.
- The implementation of Serialization and similar projects in existing ERP systems has a high complexity and require expert assistance in most cases.
The summation of the above must be in relation to organizational projects. Below the general learnings from working with organizational projects:
- It is difficult to specify the full scope of large cross organizational projects because the full analysis has not yet been completed.
- Cross organizational projects often face resistance if the project lack focus on change management and involvement of all affected parties and stakeholders.
- Organizational readiness is a key factor for successful implementation.
- External consultants provide impartial support and mitigation ensuring buy in from the stakeholders.
- Ensuring the right competences and their participation is key for a successful facilitation of these types of projects.