Stuart Mann, WiseTech’s Global Implementation Manager, points out that no matter how small, every new move you make should advance your business as a whole.
Most organizations large and small can achieve a fast implementation and a quick return on their investment, but a few never realize their full potential. The dividing line between success and failure is very thin. From fear of selecting the “wrong” software to unrealistic implementation plans that lead to disaster, you can often find several warning signs within the range of attitudes towards the change.
Business common sense tells us that organizations are holistic entities defined by the idea that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Changing how one part of your organization works will affect many others. Change is not something that can be done in isolation, nor should it be. But change can, and should, be managed incrementally to bring about exactly what you need.
Targeting Effective Change
I’ve seen RFPs that read like a wish list for every possible feature under the sun. The reality however is that most enterprises only need a small subset of functionality to make significant business improvements.
There is a difference between looking for a system that can do everything – as if it was a safeguard against the unexpected – and not constraining your future capability. You need to be able to not only find the right tools for the job but to determine what the job really is in the first place. It’s vital to look at your processes holistically, from every angle, from start to finish, and identify the real problems and bottlenecks to be broken. Identify the quick wins and focus on those first.
The Urgent and the Future
It’s important to differentiate between addressing immediate issues and pursuing your longer term strategy.
Most organizations have immediate business issues and face unforeseen events that must be solved quickly. The projects that are designed to address these challenges can also be the building blocks for wider, more holistic changes. (I’ll explain in a moment how this is now so much easier to do.)
The trick, of course, is to identify and then solve a specific subset of major pain points. From every area and at every level of the business, all staff members need to know they can speak freely and provide both positive and negative input. It takes no small effort to help everyone see how they fit into the broader enterprise and think how they can work together to make improvements.
Then you’ll need to look at potential software suppliers’ total capability sets. Can their approaches solve both your current and future needs and deliver with rapid returns?
One or Many?
Logistics is a multimodal industry; there are vast opportunities for clever expansion. Even if you currently specialize in one particular area, think about your ability to offer an end-to-end, fully visible and integrated service, whether by air, sea, rail, road, barge, bicycle, or whatever else will be key to your growth.
(Are you ready for delivery by drones?)
Everyone also talks about real-time collaboration and end-to-end track & trace, but in my experience, relatively few logistics companies achieve these on their own. A reliance on standalone systems – no matter how technically excellent they are – cannot achieve the straight-line path it’s aiming for. An integrated system (where the various modules share a common core) brings much better results because it is immune from the inherent complexities of trying to maintain multiple suites and the links between them.
Converting to Reality
Large, upfront capital investments in enterprise-class software are the expensive, high-risk options of yesterday. Today, enterprise-class software is available to all, irrespective of size, thanks to cloud-based subscription models. Switch on new functions one by one as each area of the business is ready for change. Switch user seats on and off as you need and pay only for the features you use when you use them.
It is now possible to take small steps to prove you can deliver and then grow your investment incrementally as you make use of more features or roll out to more users, making it easy to pave the way for holistic change as you move forward.
Proof of Success
A CIO at one of the world’s largest freight forwarders told me recently that by simply implementing the basic features of our software uniformly across the entire operation in more than 50 countries, they had increased their staff utilization by 40 percent. And from the addition of workflow automation tools, they found a further 40 percent productivity improvement from their next round of optimization. That efficiency was measured by the number of shipments processed per operational head count while also improving the accuracy level of data captured and the increasing overall quality of service to their clients.
I asked him to share his secret to success, but he simply said, “Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. And the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.”
In other words, you’ll need to find the sweet spot between your people, your processes, and your systems. And remember they’re all part of the same target.
Stuart Mann is Implementation Manager at WiseTech Global
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