You’d be forgiven for breaking into a cold sweat after reading the title of this article – thinking about something that has the potential to disrupt yourself, your team and your whole business can do that to a person.
After all, the MIS is at the core of every department and (if you’re doing it right) integrates with your other key software and hardware. So swapping it out is bound to have an impact on the day-to-day running of your company.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a secret solution or magic trick to protect you from this. But we can help you make it that little bit easier. If you consider all the items below, and make sure that you have the right resources in place, you can minimize the disruption and make things a little easier on you and your team.
Here’s our 4 step guide to minimizing the pain:
1. Put together a list of your business needs
- Start the migration process by identifying both your current and your future business needs, including which markets you might want to target in the future. Are there any specific requirements for these markets e.g. B2B or B2C web portals?
- Scope out what your workflow would need to look like to support work within these markets. Try and minimise the number of human touch points so that you can cut manufacture time and reduce cost. This will help you stay competitive in your existing markets and enter new markets with an advantage. So if you think there’s an opportunity to automate part of your workflow, add it to the list.
- Use this idealized workflow to create your list of business requirements.
2. Evaluate and select your MIS partner
- But don’t forget to look at your existing hardware and software and identify the potential impact of a migration to all of the MIS solutions on your shortlist. Will you need to upgrade any of your hardware, for example? Don’t forget about your other essential software packages – will these be affected in any way?
3. Select your on-site Implementation Team
- Create a working group of competent key staff from each of your departments. If you’ve already put a working team together for the evaluation and selection process, you might decide to stick with the same group.
- Allocate backup resources. Your Implementation Team will soon have additional responsibilities and you’ll need someone to cover them whilst they deal with these. You might even consider getting some external help to assist with data input tasks. One of our customers recommends doing just that: “If I had my time again, I’d make my life a bit easier and pay for additional resource to support us during the data collection and implementation process.” (see full case study here)
- Create a culture of inclusion. Educate staff on the need to change and how important it is that they get involved and take ownership of the project. It’s important to address any concerns in a positive way; don’t dictate how things are going to be done – explain how important it is that the project goes ahead and tell people that you’ll need their help to come up with solutions to any concerns.
- Learn from the past. Have you implemented an MIS previously? Get together those people who were around the last time and talk about anything that went particularly right or wrong and what you need to avoid or repeat.
4. Put together your Implementation Plan
Below are the 6 key areas that you need to consider. Unless you’re sticking to your existing hourly cost rates, you should have a section for each in your Implementation Plan.
Hourly cost rates – You’ll need to make a decision about whether you’ll be using your existing hourly cost rates or if you’re going to calculate new ones.
Data collection – There’s a large amount of information required during the initial setup phase and the success of the project is dependent on this being complete and accurate. You should ensure that all data is collated before your first consultancy visit from your MIS partner. Your MIS partner may be able to help you with this part – new Tharstern customers are sent a set of online forms that guide them through what data they need and in what format they need to collect it in.
You’ll need to consider how you’re going to extract the required data from your current MIS and/or account package and how you’re going to cleanse it. Who will perform this task? Set deadlines.
You’ll need to have a plan to gather the following data:
- Contacts (customers, suspects, prospects etc).
- Raw materials.
- Finished goods.
- Outwork services.
- Pricing matrices including any required explanations of the calculations involved. You can make things even easier by including working examples.
- You should also compile plans of the production facility, detailing locations of all pre-press, press and post-press devices.
- Compile plans of your warehousing facility indicating the structure and naming of bin locations. Outline if specific raw material and/or finished goods are located in specific locations.
- Outline the top 20 products that are manufactured by the business and outline the prepress, press and post press mechanisms that would normally be used (in manufacturing sequence) to produce the items.
- Compile a full list of devices with technical specifications related to min/max sheet sizes, run speeds etc.
- Get the finishing department to confirm the viable CIP4 Folding Schemes used within the facility.
- Obtain a full list of courier price and pricing.
- Outline any customer and supplier documentation such as estimate letters or purchase orders. At this stage you might want to consider rebranding this documentation – if it’s potentially on the cards anyway, it will be much easier doing it now than after the project has started.
- Identify all key reporting requirements including non-conformance reporting.
- Compile a site plan with the intended location of any shop floor data collection (SFDC) terminals.
- A list of all operators with operator shift patterns
- A list of which devices each operator has the skills to operate
- The level of detail to report on for both direct and indirect operations.
- Compile a list of users and proposed work functions – though this may change upon the installation of the system.
- Add to your Implementation Plan some milestones for the purchase and installation of any necessary hardware. You’ll need to make sure that it’s above the minimum hardware specification provided by your MIS partner.
- Bear in mind that any delays in the installation of the hardware will have a significant impact on the project.
Once you’ve set a realistic timeline for collecting the necessary data required to set up the software, you can start thinking about a date for the software to be implemented. Talk to your MIS partner about this, run through the milestones you have so far with them and agree a realistic implementation schedule together.
- Assign accountability and responsibility to all members of your onsite Implementation Team.
- You might want to consider implementing during a quieter period of the year.
- Consider allocating resource full-time to the project to reduce the implementation period.
- Do take advice from your MIS partner – they will have a wealth of experience when it comes to system implementation.
- Expect delays in the implementation program but make sure that you re-schedule with your designated Consultant / Project Manager when they do. Consider working outside core hours to all achieve objectives.
- Availability of staff – This is actually the number one issue that we come across on new installations. Because customers expect their MIS partner to keep project costs as low as possible, the number of consultancy days will be estimated based on the assumption that all relevant staff members will be available when required. The effectiveness of training days is significantly reduced when trainees are required to break away to deal with customer or production issues, so you should arrange full cover for all staff members on the days that they’re required for training or system setup.
- You should allocate an MIS ‘champion’ or administrator who should sit in on all training sessions where possible and who will take an overview of the whole project, not just their own department.
- Your team might want to create function specific user guides as they progress through the training, including workflow diagrams for staff to use as memory joggers. You can do this for each module as it’s commissioned and then one for the entire system at the end of the implementation process.
- The Implementation Team might want to consider testing staff on what they’ve learned. Make it fun.
Some final advice on creating your Implementation Plan:
- Taking all the above into account, you should now work out your key milestones and create a timeline of completion dates. Highlight the essential completion dates and make your MIS partner aware of them.
- Don’t forget to factor in any potential disruption costs from any key implementation staff.
- Be realistic about the implementation endpoint and the project’s effect on your business.
And one final piece of important advice – don’t cut corners. One of the biggest regrets that some of our customers have when reflecting on an installation is that they tried to bend the system to fit a previous way of working. Whilst an MIS can be very flexible, there’s always a core workflow that connects the modules throughout the system, so if you try to cheat it, you’ll almost certainly suffer the consequences somewhere along the line. To quote one of our customers: “If you see something in your way then try to get over it because if you try to get past by bending it, it will spring back and hit the person behind’.
What about the go-live date?
- It’s important to have someone technical to hand – we’ve known projects where something as simple as an unknown password has set the project back by a whole day. So you’ll need to make sure that you have someone available who’s familiar with the following:
- Network/router settings
- Email server
- If you’re integrating with a third party system using cXML, JDF or our API, it might also be necessary to have a specialist available from the third party on certain days during the project.
- Whilst it might increase implementation cost, having a Consultant on site when each module “goes live” will provide your implementation team with immediate assistance if and when they need it.
- If you do want any of the go-live assistance described above, add it to the plan.
When it’s all over….
Once the go-live date has passed, you might be tempted to decommission the Implementation Team – don’t! You’ll need them to evaluate the MIS over time and ensure that the system changes if your business needs do. You should create a Constant Improvement Plan that considers how to:
Evaluate internal change
- You should hold regular reviews to see if any internal process changes or new business challenges have had an impact on your business needs. You should then evaluate if there are software solutions that will help you meet these new needs – proceed through steps 1 to 4 with your current MIS Vendor.
- Consider custom software development from your current MIS Vendor if there are no existing solutions available on the market.
Evaluate vendor software updates and releases
It’s important to keep up to date with any new changes to the software – any decent MIS has a roadmap of constant improvement and you should be taking advantage of any new releases. Send a key member of the Implementation Team to vendor ‘open days’ or user group meetings to:
- Share experiences and learn from others
- Evaluate updates and releases of software for existing or new business challenges.
The above has been compiled from many years of experience of MIS implementation projects and includes some valuable lessons learned from both ourselves and our customers. If you’ve got any additional lessons or advice for a successful MIS migration project, we’d love to hear them in the comments box below.