Canadian Manufacturing

The seven sins of digital transformation implementation failure

Using digital technologies to either create new (or alter existing) business processes, change culture and improve customer experience can be a daunting task

January 23, 2020  by Steve Bassaw, product manager, SYSPRO Canada

While digital transformation implementations may be new to your organization, there is a very good chance that similar projects have been successfully deployed by others. PHOTO: Thinkstock

—Sponsored content provided by SYSPRO Canada

As your manufacturing firm seeks to diversify, improve operational efficiencies and increase market penetration (among other goals), embarking on an Industry 4.0 initiative is a likely first step. Using digital technologies to either create new (or alter existing) business processes, change culture and improve customer experience can be a daunting task. It probably won’t come as a surprise that implementing complicated new software can be challenging but there are many diverse reasons why failure can happen.

Given the time, resources and cost required, getting it right is imperative. According to Jonathan Gross at Pemeco, a vendor-neutral consulting firm, here is a list of seven sins that you must avoid to make sure you succeed.

No. 1: No Senior Level Buy-in

Because of the pervasive nature of large-scale implementations, virtually every department will be affected on some level. Therefore, it’s critical to have a senior executive champion. Without one in place not only may the project performance be compromised, but it could be difficult to effectively design your company’s future business processes. Further, an executive champion can ensure that there is collaboration among departments. Lack of a formal governance structure for this project can also lead to potential user adoption issues.

No. 2: Insufficient Stakeholder Input

If you don’t get enough participation from the people that are going to be using the system, it’s much more likely that they are going to snub it and that it won’t meet the needs of your business. You’ll want to involve key stakeholders across the organization, specifically staff that are (or will be) users of the system, those responsible for implementing it, and—of course—the people signing the cheques. The project management team must include these stakeholders and ensure they remain engaged throughout the process.

No. 3: Errors in Specifications and Change Control Procedures

One of the main reasons why a system implementation will break down is because the project specifications were not well defined and change control procedures are lacking. A project’s chances of success are far greater when all of the requirements are clearly delineated at the outset. Have planning sessions to clearly spell out the project scope, describe how the system will meet your needs and clearly define the process of how proposed changes will be handled.

No. 4: Expectations that Are Either Unrealistic or Undefined

Stakeholders often have personal opinions about what’s required, but unless they are experienced in this scope of project, their expectations may be unrealistic in terms of scheduling and resource requirements. Therefore, the ever-dreaded scope creep is bound to happen if these expectations are not managed right from the get-go with pragmatic planning. Without a well-defined plan in place that assigns roles and responsibilities, a seemingly simple project can become a nightmare.

No. 5: Picking the Wrong Consulting Partner

Having an outside company come in and talk about changes to organization structure and business processes is disruptive enough, but there is a danger if feathers get ruffled and employees get their backs up. It’s extremely important to pick the right consulting partner, one that won’t send you its best employees for upfront sales meetings and then suddenly switch them out for a less experienced team later on. Ensure your partner brings the required operational and technical experience to the project as well as being a fit for your corporate culture. Getting an agreement in place to ensure the consultant’s role is defined is also important.

No. 6: A Failure to Communicate

Communication almost falls into the common sense bucket, thus it can become a huge issue because of the challenges some non-tech staff have in understanding high-tech terminology. Whether positive or negative, the project manager must convey the status of the project in a timely manner. Otherwise, senior management might not know that the project is in trouble until it’s too late. Create a communications system that ensures every stakeholder group receives all pertinent information and can provide feedback when required. Although it’s cliché, you can never overcommunicate.

No. 7: Using Unclear/Unproven Methodology

While digital transformation implementations may be new to your organization, there is a very good chance that similar projects have been successfully deployed by others. So why reinvent the wheel? Trying to implement a complex project using methodology that is not proven and time tested can be the worst—and most damaging—mistake a company can make. Tasking inexperienced staff to manage a system implementation—regardless of the size of the company—may result in a costly lesson.

To learn more about how to implement your digital transformation strategy, download our recent webinar featuring Jonathan Gross: Manufacturing in a Connected World: Implementing Your Strategy.