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Conference Room Pilot Techniques – The Handoff 09/30/2010

Posted by TBoehm30 in ERP.
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In a Conference Room Pilot the object is to practice the process.  You get a group of people in the same room to use the new software and make sure that you understand how to use the system.  One of the most important aspects of this meeting is to practice the handoff.

There are so many processes at any company that require more than one person to complete.  Many processes take more than one department.  At what point does a person know to start their part of the process?  What does a person do at the end of their job to let someone else know to begin theirs?  That is what the handoff is all about.

A good ERP system will have a screen that a user can go to that will show him all of his current responsibilities.  This needs to be fully tested during the Conference Room Pilot.  You need to make sure that when things go right, the screen shows all that it should.  You also need to test that the screen still shows the next steps when things go wrong.

Some ERP systems will send a notification, most likely email, to let someone know that they are next in line for the process.  Testing email in a software system can be tricky, but definitely worth the extra time.

Sometimes the process will be to run a query showing you what still needs to be done.  The queries are good to test, but also show the user what they will see on a regular basis.  When the process isn’t followed correctly, you will need to know if the right records show up in the query.

If users don’t know how to find their work, then their work won’t get done.  The best time to evaluate whether they know what they are doing is before you go-live with a new system.  The Conference Room Pilot will test the process and test the people.  If the process isn’t as smooth as it could be, then you should have plenty of time to fix it and then have the users practice.

The other side of the coin is important as well.  When a user is done with his work, what do they need to do to make sure the process is completed?  It is not good enough to finish their own tasks, they need to do what is good for the company as a whole.  That means making sure that the processes are finished correctly.  It means that the person creating a payment approval alerts the person printing the checks.  It means that the person receiving material notifies the person who matches the purchase order.  This should be documented and practiced in the Conference Room Pilot.

Take a look at what processes your company uses that include a handoff.  Could the process be improved by better or easier communication?  You’ve got Sales Orders that have to be filled, then invoiced; eventually the payment has to be recorded and possibly finalized to a General ledger.  You’ve got Purchase orders that have to be ordered, received, and then paid for.  You’ve got inventory that has to be moved around and possibly inspected.  For manufacturing plants, you’ve got plenty of processes around the routing of materials.  For distributing companies, you’ve got to get the shipping process exactly right.

Technology should have a good way of notifying users that there is work to be done.  Users should understand the process of making sure that tasks are fully completed.  The Conference Room Pilot is the place to make sure that the process works, it is documented, and that people understand what to do.  It is good practice to be ready for go-live; now is the time to test the process for when things work and when things go wrong.

The Conference Room Pilot is a safe place to get processes in order.  It is the time to get used to the new software system.  Sometimes change can be difficult and users need time to practice without any pressure.  Project Managers should schedule plenty of time for the Conference Room Pilot because they know that it’s a global world out there and Technology makes it happen.