By Alfonso Pentangelo | Integrated Demand & Supply Planning Consultant, Chainalytics Europe |
In our day-to-day work with clients, we sometimes come onboard projects that have already surpassed planned budgets and timelines when we arrive. But often these overruns could have been avoided with a little concerted pre-planning and preparation–and having the right people involved in managing the integrated demand & supply planning (IDSP) project.
Why undertake project planning? Done right, it can save hours of unnecessary project and supply chain delays and overspending. For example, IDSP clients sometimes purchase multiple software licenses, and don’t avail themselves of the product’s functionality. Or worse, they entirely scrap using the software, since they haven’t put the correct attention into learning or using it, or did not use it to support the correct business requirement. This type of resource misuse is just the tip of the iceberg in projects that have gone awry.
Why a Strong Project Manager is Key
No matter how seasoned your consulting partners are, any project can take an unplanned direction without 100 percent preparation. The most common symptoms of a project without a strong project manager include:
Lack of strategic focus: A welter of smaller initiatives are launched simultaneously, overwhelming financial and human resources, with no clear project prioritization in place.
Middle-management and line employee disengagement: Often, different levels of management in the organization do not have a comprehensive view of line employees’ skill sets. So they create project teams based on human resource availability, rather than on actual skill sets.
Poor communication: High-quality project management is required to obtain visibility into the overall project, its goals and potential bottlenecks.
Inaccurate data: Any newly extracted data requires substantial clean up, which can be challenging when dealing with multiple sources and formats. Without quality data cleansing and analysis, though, companies often end up following misleading insights and messages.
How Errors Build Over Time
Before we get into troubleshooting, we need to understand that problems that arise in the beginning of the project have different impacts and cost effects compared with problems that show up towards the end.
Projects advance through cycles of problem solving: Errors, new findings and insights may result in adjusting project scope and final goals. For any unexpected findings or problems that occur throughout the life of the project you can either (a) deal with them right away, (b) postpone them for later or (c) ignore them:
The diagram above shows that when an unexpected finding/problem/error appears early in the project, solving it may make the most sense, because the cost of the change is still very low, compared to that of an unexpected issue found in the final stages. Here, the cost may become unacceptably high, and we will have to ignore and carry on, which implies compromising the quality of the outcomes.
How to to Minimize Potential Errors & Unexpected Project Issues
Consider taking these five proactive steps to prevent project delays, cost overruns, lagging and incomplete employee buy-in:
- Obtain maximum information on the project early on by involving the project stakeholders ahead of time, rather than at later stages of the plan. Establish a communication plan and set roles and expectations.
- Do research to see if similar projects have been completed before and get in touch with the teams behind those projects for maximum learning and preparation.
- Plan to begin working with the prototype of the final product/service as soon as possible to be able to discover all the potential flaws early.
- Start on your data collection early to ensure you have enough time to carefully process and analyse it.
- In some industries it makes sense to employ what’s known as the project management “flexibility principle” and plan for modular parts production; by creating various product parts separately, an error in one part is less likely to affect other parts–or the product as a whole–thereby reducing the time and the cost of corrective action.
Using the five tips above will help you to best prepare for your consulting engagement, or, in fact, for any other project you are planning to execute. As we’ve seen time and again, It’s time well spent.
An IDSP consultant at Chainalytics EMEA, Alfonso Pentangelo provides Chainalytics clients with supply chain process re-engineering, transportation, integrated demand and supply planning (IDSP), S&OP, material planning and fulfillment, and supply chain optimization projects, including supply chain network design and inventory management.