We recently completed an update to our shipping software with the help of our ERP partner, ArcherPoint. I wanted to share a few thoughts about how we managed that project as a small business.
The update we needed to perform was a direct result of changes made by FedEx to their communication technology, and there is a hard deadline to begin using their new tools by the end of May. With that in mind, we started planning this process in July of last year even though it was considered a relatively minor project. That brings me to point number 1 : Plan as far in advance as you can. While it is true that there may be variables that are harder to account for when planning projects far off in the future, it is also true that it is better to run into a problem or delay with the most time to spare possible.
Point number 2 : When you are doing a project that is beyond the skill set of your organization, hire the right people to help. As a small business, we all wear a lot of hats around here at Bradshaw. It makes us versatile and flexible, but it can also sometimes make it difficult for us to specialize in one area and become a subject matter expert. If you have the opportunity to have an employee trained in advance in a new skill, that’s great because it ultimately makes the whole organization stronger. If that training isn’t going to be possible, then hire someone to help that has the skills you need to get the job done. We use an IT partner named Campanella, Inc. that understands our business and applications, and was available in a support role when we needed them. The middle of a mission critical project is not the right time to try to figure it out on your own, and the cost of hiring the right person will seem small compared to delays, expensive last minute consulting, or a business interruption.
Lastly, point number 3 : Make sure your project team has people willing to sound the alarm if it isn’t going well. No partner or vendor understands your business better than you do. How long it takes to get things done, the amount of financial and human resources you can throw at the project, and coordinating the calendars of multiple vendors can add a lot of variables into the equation. No matter how early it is in the process, speak up if it doesn’t feel right. If you have chosen good partners who understand you as a customer then you can have open discussions with them and come out of the project with a stronger relationship. If not, then planning far enough ahead will give you time to make changes before it is too late.
This upgrade project had good results, and we are pleased to have it behind us and move on to focus on other parts of the business. Hopefully these few points can provide something to think about when planning your next project.