Cloud Readiness: A View from a Pilot’s Perspective

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When I became a pilot, it was an attempt to conquer a life-long fear of heights. After years of practice, I took the leap, obtained my license, and piloted my first plane in 2016. As a licensed pilot, I have a preflight checklist to go through before any takeoff, with step-by-step instructions to follow to ensure a safe and controlled flight.

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Aviation checklists are a staple in the cockpit. They help pilots plan for normal and not normal situations to defend against failure. For ERP implementations, a preflight checklist is also a good idea to ensure the right system is selected and that the organization is properly prepared for implementation and beyond.

Checklist discipline is important. In some cases there are action items that need to be carried out, in other cases, it is to verify that the necessary steps have been completed and verified.

As digital transformation rises on the CIO agenda, many manufacturers will find themselves headed into the cloud. Considering a new ERP? Here is a preflight checklist you can use to ensure a smooth journey:

Check your Controls and Determine Your Flight Plan

Before you can take off, you’ll need to build your flight plan: a frame of reference for where you’re coming from and where you are looking to go. It is important to look at current legacy systems, current processes, and what the goals will be moving forward. Because cloud ERP is a large investment, don’t make the mistake of just looking at how current operations can be moved to a new system, but how they can be improved. Similarly, taking the time to clean your data will help avoid the garbage-in syndrome and give your team the best running start in improving the user experience in the long run and business outcomes.

Deciding the right system is complex and challenging. Manufacturing CIOs need to look at their current technology footprint and ask themselves, are we prepared to move to the cloud? How can we ensure the system meets the greater business needs? What needs to happen (and when) so our implementation is a success and does not exceed the budget? Will the application fit with our other solutions in the network? What are the functionalities most important to our users? What is a necessity versus nice to have?

From here, researching vendors and their roadmaps, and determining what will align with your current and future goals is part of planning diligence. For example, would you benefit from industry-specific software? ERP designed specifically for food and beverage manufacturers will include out-of-the-box functionality such as labeling, ingredient, and batch management; fixed and catchweight functionality, lot traceability, food safety, and other unique business requirements. Consider if the vendor can be flexible in migration options. Organizations with many disconnected, legacy software systems may find it easier to move to a single on-premise or hybrid system, with a future goal to lift and shift to a cloud environment. Understanding the gaps and where there is an opportunity to scale can ensure the solution supports the current needs of the business as well as those in the future.

Enlist the Right Crew

Most of the project emphasis is typically on the technology itself. Often the people of the organization – the ones that will be using the system and driving ROI – aren’t included until after decisions have been made. Successful project teams are built from employees that know the business, support the vision for the future and understand how the system will be used and can serve as advocates to drive adoption. This team should include leadership, who will drive support for the initiative; subject matter experts (SMEs) who will review current processes and look at how they can be improved; and process leads, who will move the project from concept to go-live. Establishing the right team early in the planning stages and keep them involved as the project advances is critical. These team members will be your main project ambassadors to help encourage company-wide acceptance.

Prepare Your Passengers

Transparency is crucial in large-scale projects such as moving to the cloud. The mere rumor of technology, process, or other change can have negative impacts on performance and productivity when not communicated correctly. People are creatures of habit and naturally resistant to change, so it is important to communicate early and often, to explain why the move is taking place, and how it will benefit both the individual and the organization.

Including Organisational Change Management (OCM) in your ERP project from the start will allow for increased user adoption and overall project success. It is important to use a structured approach to manage the people-related elements of change. This can be accomplished through a blend of change impact assessments, readiness monitoring, leadership alignment activities, stakeholder engagement, ongoing communications, workforce transition preparation, training, and sustainment actions. OCM helps employees who will be impacted by the change to be ready, willing, and able to make the shift and adopt new ways of working.

Flying high in a competitive industry requires the right people, processes, and technology. Having a preflight checklist to refine the project plan and implementation is a key to successful cloud migration. Whether you’re preparing for take-off or in the early stages of planning your flight, make your checklist and follow it.

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