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The Importance of Developing Internal Supply Chain Execution Solution Experts

The Impact of Change on Your Supply Chain Technology
In today’s complex business environment, change is inevitable. No doubt you’ve been faced with its impact on your supply chain technology infrastructure in the form of a new implementation or upgrade project. Sometimes your business is staffed to manage these changes through its continuous improvement program, and sometimes it’s not.

Developing effective support systems during a software implementation project may require you to leverage external resources. Whether you call them subject matter experts or systems integrators, these supply chain consultants have a thorough understanding of unique technology applications, upgrade best practices, industry-specific solutions, and more. 

Consultants can be brought in and utilized to supplement your internal team during and even after your project to lay a strong foundation for long-term success. However, it’s important to remember that you need to develop internal solution experts as well, particularly if they will handle long-term support.

Enhancing Internal Know-How Throughout Your Consulting Engagement
At every stage of the process, take steps to harness the value consultants bring by developing internal subject matter experts who evolve to know the solution inside and out. Not only is it mutually beneficial for your team and the consultants to share knowledge during the project, but you’ll also make sure you’re ramping up your internal team’s skillset.

Two Options for Long-Term System Support
There tends to be a misconception that an implementation or change project is complete at or following go-live. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There is actually more to gain by continuing diligent support and training efforts. Your support system does not start and end with ensuring that the technology in place is working successfully and to the standard. The human element in this equation needs to be addressed, as your business will reap far more benefit by focusing on a plan that sustains long-term change for both the users and the system.

At the end of the consulting engagement you have two options for your approach to supporting the system going forward: You can continue your partnership with the consulting group, or you can have your internal subject matter experts take over. Both paths should be designed to define how future change initiatives are undertaken and provide a strong platform for developing leadership and continuous improvement programs for the organization.

If you choose to handle support internally, here are some recommendations to ensure the information transfer is effective BEFORE the consultants wrap things up. This will help provide a smooth transition from external to internal reliability.

Committing to Continuous Improvement and Innovation
Making continuous improvement and innovation a core part of your culture is necessary to meet the shifting demands of today’s customers—and to achieve success. For consultants to be effective in leading change in any capacity, there must be a discussion about how to maintain project momentum during and after implementation. This will drive the support strategy. This support model can include topics such as the collection of performance data, root cause analysis, process evaluation standards for continuous improvement initiatives, solutions development/implementation, and training measures to coach and correct ineffective or incorrect performance-related issues. 

Remember: To take the greatest advantage of what consultants have to offer, you need to embed these external resources with internal staff so they can engage during each step of the change process. In this way your internal resources can find out exactly what is required to support your business and customers long term.  

Learning and Information Sharing Checklist

  • Ensure your executive team fully supports the process and is prepared to spend time, resources, and energy to back the consulting initiative to steer the organization onto a path of productivity and self-sufficiency
  • Identify dedicated internal resources early and assign them to partner with the consultants
  • Involve these internal ‘subject matter experts in training’ in the development of planning strategies, materials, documentation, and other activities required for the success of the change initiative
  • Stress the importance of understanding that the internal resource is the business-specific process expert, while the consultant guides how to integrate the agreed-upon change requirement through pre-determined development initiatives

Steering the Transition
As you near the end of the project or agreed-upon level of competency, a measured shift from external to internal SME support should take place. The consultant will hand off all planning tools, materials, documentation, and training resources to the business owner/change management team. You’ll then shift to the long-term post-production plan to build your own capacity to sustain change.

It is important not to open a void of knowledge at the end of a project when external resources are no longer involved. This underscores the importance of positioning internal experts to take on ever-increasing ownership and responsibility throughout the initiative. It will build confidence and creditability within your organization that they can support the ongoing needs of the business and will make the final transition from external support seamless and successful.

Final Transition Checklist

  • Request formal signoff from the business owner or change team accepting guardianship of support
  • Deliver all tools created during the change initiative to the business owner
  • Reiterate the discussion about any further external support needs

Developing and using internal subject matter experts can provide a repeatable, long-term strategy that supports change initiatives as your business evolves.

Working with 4SiGHT on Your Next Project
Developing a relationship with a trusted supply chain consultant is truly worth the time and effort, as you’ll reap the benefits in the long run. The expert consultants at 4SiGHT have years of experience in helping leading organizations achieve their supply chain goals. The level of support we provide varies from client to client. Not only can we guide your project from start to finish, but we also provide long-term system support for many of our clients. We’re just a phone call away for ad-hoc requests as well as future implementation and upgrade needs.

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