How mature are your Advanced Planning System (APS) enabled processes? - May 2020

You and your peers widely deploy Advanced Planning and Scheduling Systems (APS). They look great on paper. But are you, like many leaders, still yet to see the transformational benefits you have read and heard about?

APS systems have the potential to radically improve the performance of supply chains and, for the more visionary, transform operating models and ways of working. Theoretically, it’s what C-suite dreams are made of, but for many, it can result in the nightmare of failed benefits delivery and broken business case promises. If I had a pound for every leader I had met who solemnly nodded their head and talked about the benefits of embedding APS in their business, without actually doing it or realising them, I’d be a very wealthy man.

When you think about it, it is an immature approach we are taking to a mature solution. So, why are leaders so comfortable in paying lip service to APS but then not implementing them properly? The mystery continues to remain a mystery for some. We understand the basic nuts and bolts of designing and implementing a good APS system:

  • Choosing the right system in the first place
  • Excellent collaboration between business and IT teams
  • Configuring and designing the use of the software in short increments (ideally using Agile or Agile hybrid methods)
  • Strong focus on change management
  • Treating it as a full transformation project covering people, process and systems

We are fully aware of the benefits APS can bring, and we know these are essential for business survival in the digital age. But still, the vast majority of projects don’t deliver as much as promised. Where are we all going wrong? The facts that need facing are thorny issues at the heart of complex areas of the business:

1. People forget their initial business ambitions and don’t stay focused

Never forget why you are bothering to do this. What difference did you really want to make in people’s roles and day-to-day tasks? During the design and build phase, project teams are working on a myriad of small to medium design options; it is very easy to lose sight of the overall goals of the project. A strong business overview of the proposed design and build decisions is therefore mandatory to orient the work of the teams towards delivering a new process that will answer initial ambitions.

2. Never underestimate the quality of the data

Data quality issues are the number one reason why the expected benefits from APS transformation programmes don’t happen. Therefore data governance and a framework are essential to control both transactional and static data. An APS implementation sheds light on issues with transactional processes; a data quality stream is, therefore, a key success factor for APS implementation. This stream will usually be on the critical path of the project (for testing, for instance). It must be anticipated and planned in from the outset with an early assessment of potential data issues. Consider the automatisation of data issues detection.

3. Don’t try and force-fit new processes into existing organisation structures

Modern APS systems can create opportunities to not only change the ways of working in the supply chain but also our traditional organisational structures. The current way we organise our supply and demand planning teams can limit the benefits we can achieve. ‘Sense and respond’ in combination with supply chain conditioning is replacing traditional planning processes and the way we organise our planning teams to solve emerging commercial and financial problems. But don’t try and force-fit these processes. They need careful assessing, planning and rolling out – with the right people hired, in place and onboard to bring them to life.

4. Forgetting the not so sexy bit after go-live

It is critical that the project team supports business maturity ramp-up quickly and robustly here, or those benefits won’t be realised. Measuring teams’ maturity regularly, as well as keeping a sharp eye on operational performance (e.g. stock coverage, shortage rate, etc.) should be part of the daily routine. Also consider a gap analysis to look for early bugs post-go-live, gathering user feedback to ensure you stay performance focused. Lastly, it is essential to remember this – implementing an APS will inevitably reveal problems you didn’t anticipate beforehand. The project team must support planning teams in analysing the APS results in the critical first few weeks, set up dashboards and refine improvement plans, following the first results from the APS runs. Iterate as you go.

Take our scprime® test here to see how your APS processes are positioned either pre or post-go-live.

 

– Dave Alberts, Partner, Crimson & Co UK

 

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