We usually expect new software systems to improve our operations, right? Unfortunately, the road to improvement is not always smooth, nor without risk. Bad things can and do happen and take you completely by surprise.
Consider, for example, the case of this online retailer: the company purchased a new shipping system to enhance delivery service for its customers. However, when the system went live, it suddenly found itself in the opposite situation – with a warehouse full of orders and no way to ship.
Signs of trouble during implementation
The company had signed an eight-month contract with its existing software vendor to replace its legacy system with a new solution. Seven months into the project, it became clear that the vendor wasn’t going to meet the deadline. Instead, the installation went online with a partial solution that allowed for ground shipping using a subset of its usual carriers.
Shortly after going live, the team realized that the vendor had not understood the company’s processes and goals as well as they had thought. The new system was slower than the old system. Operations became bogged down.
“Our labor and shipping expenses had increased two to three times above normal,” said the company’s IT director, “Our production levels decreased by 40 percent.”
Next, the system completely shut down. Shipping came to a grinding halt.
Thankfully, this company had a clear understanding of what it needed to get the shipping moving again – and they now knew they needed a more experienced vendor to solve their problem. They called in ADSI, who installed their Ship-IT system and quickly get the shipping lines moving again.
What could the company have done to avoid this shipping system shut-down?
It may sound like a rare occurrence, but this company is far from alone. A few missteps, and even the most experienced shippers can find themselves with a stalled shipping line. The truth is, we have to rely on many other people in order to do our jobs, and nowhere is this fact more glaringly true than in systems implementation.
Pre-implementation project scoping and planning is the best way to protect your project from disaster. At a minimum, any project team should consider the following:
- Proven experience. When you’re reviewing vendors, check to verify that they have previous, direct experience in implementing systems in a similar operational environment. Ask for references and ask detailed questions when you contact them.
- A comprehensive, detailed implementation plan. Experienced vendors will know what it takes to create a clear implementation plan that includes step-by-step milestones and deliverables.
- Threshold testing. Experienced vendors will also have the expertise necessary to specify the right software and hardware to handle your shipping volume. They will also know how to test the system before you completely cut over.
- A clear cross-over plan to prevent the company from relying on an unreliable system.
- Disaster recovery plan. There are many aspects to disaster planning, but at a minimum, consider the following:
- Redundant systems. Have a complete software and hardware system installed and ready to go in the event of an emergency.
- Backup software license. Your software license should allow for a backup copy of the software you’ve licensed, included in your license price.
- Data backup plans. Have a plan in place to routinely back up of any data sets are necessary to process shipments.
- Backup hardware. If you’re also using equipment such as mobile computers, barcode readers and label printers on your shipping line, keep backup equipment on hand. Also, work with a vendor who offers several service and repair plans that will support your specific operations.
This blog is intended to serve as a starting point for anyone considering a new system implementation or reviewing their operations for disaster planning. For a more complete summary on this topic, go to: