Since the birth of the cable industry, cable operations have been subject to the need to generate an invoice for services. Because of this, cable warehouse management has always been intimately tied to the ability to generate an invoice within the billing system.
Now, new Enterprise Inventory System (EIS) software has changed this dependence and is enabling warehouse inventory control to function more efficiently while interfacing with the 3 major cable billing systems. The challenge for cable MSOs is now how to manage the change with the least amount of disruption. This post highlights some of the key areas of change management that cable MSOs should follow.
Approaching the Purchase of EIS
When a decision has been made to look into an EIS system, there are numerous factors to be considered starting with detailed knowledge of current operations. Once a true and complete knowledge of cable warehouse operations, staff and opportunities for improvement have been gathered, cable MSO planners are ready to take the next steps which include:
EIS Readiness Analysis and Change Management Preparation
Before any software implementation, enough due diligence should be done to make sure that the software can meet the needs of the cable MSO as well as make sure the cable management is ready for the change. Great change management is critical for a successful implementation that will change the way a cable MSO conducts business.
Reviewing EIS capabilities as well as the strength of the cable vendor.
The first step is to analyze the capabilities of the systems and compare it to needs and resources available including:
- System compatibility with other systems
- Scalability of EIS software
- Cable vendor experience in industry, scheduling, and technical support capabilities
- Ability of EIS software to be customized
- Scope of service agreement
- Training costs
- Staff involvement
- Customization cost
- Time it takes to complete implementation
The total cost of change includes: software, people, training, hardware and turnover but is offset by productivity gains, changes in capital inventory requirements and long-term operational flexibility.
Change management considerations
Much of change management is common sense, but too often key questions are not asked and answered which can lead to unnecessary turnover, low adoption rates, cost overruns or even a failed implementation. Cable management should work together with their vendor to:
- Achieve buy-in from all levels of the company. Without buy-in from employees, departments and impacted business units, implementation WILL fail. Achieving buy-in is the single most important piece of change management. This is also the ideal time to get staff involved and let them believe their thoughts and suggestions are being heard.
- Determine which processes will be changed and the impact of each change on each department or function. Planners want to make sure a positive change for one function does not create extra work somewhere else down the line. For example: how will serialized reconciliations be affected in terms of operational staffing/time and also accounting.
- The setting of expectations for key players and expected results throughout the implementation process. This includes the setting of benchmarks to measure success or to make adjustments.
- Help with the early identification of Dragons. Dragons are people who are abnormally resistant to change, fear for their job or are unable to see the bigger picture and feel threatened. Dragons derail implementations through continued negativity, stubbornness and poisoning others. Dragons must be dealt with quickly and decisively.
- Understand that there will be some people whose positions will be eliminated, yet at the same time, new positions will be created to reflect the new warehouse objectives. Other personnel may simply not be able to adjust and will turnover. Organizational changes should be expected and planned for.
Implementing an EIS
Implementing an EIS solution takes time, patience and planning. Key components of the implementation phase include but are not limited to:
- Making sure there is adequate training. Training is more than a day in a classroom, it should be hands on and continual even after the EIS software has been installed.
- Making sure the new EIS software has become integrated into everyone’s daily routine. Software adoption rates increase when the software is utilized on a consistent basis. Set up a system of rewards or recognition for achievements in learning and use.
- Keep a sharp lookout for Dragons. They can appear at a moment’s notice once the changes begin.
- Make sure the benchmarks are being met. If benchmarks are not being met it may be a result of a lack of training, a miscalculation, a miscommunication. Either adjust the benchmarks or the steps necessary to achieve them.
- Keep all communication lines open and uninhibited both internally and with your vendor. Ego issues have no place in an implementation.
After the Implementation
Once the software has been successfully installed, and initial training completed the most important things to be done are:
- Monitor all benchmark progression. Set new benchmarks on an annual basis.
- Schedule additional training for both new employees and expert level training for current staff. The more experts on a cable MSO staff the better the more likely that adoption rates will continue to increase.
- Allow for tinkering. New cable MSO staff should be allowed to tinker with the system to uncover new applications, suggest changes etc… Tinkering allows staff to find new solutions instead of claiming the software doesn’t work.
- Recognize the individuals who participated and stepped up to the plate the most. This helps ensure continued buy-in and a desire for additional knowledge.
- Identify where new technology can be added to improve the systems dynamics. For example, will an EIS help your operations make the transition to a hub and spoke model?
EIS software will change the way cable MSOs conduct operations. It is not a minor change nor should it be viewed as buying a cheap off-the-shelf tool for someone to try. An EIS software solution is a commitment to change. As with any change there are some inherent pitfalls. These may include:
- Poor planning – Winging it is not an option no matter how smart you are. There are too many variables to be taken into account for a successful implementation.
- Assuming staff will get it. Some might adopt quickly but most staff will need thorough training.
- Believing that you can train better than the vendor. The vendor is the software expert. Training must include software training as well as training in the changes of operations.
- Not setting up measurements of success. Benchmarks are critical throughout the implementation process.
- Expecting instant results. Planning, implementation and achievement of the desired results take time. There will be continual adjustments necessary before all the desired goals are met.
There is far more to change management than can be written here. The points above are just starting points. If you have questions be sure to ask your EIS vendor for help as your success is their success.