Assessing IT Skills Needed to Install New Order Management System

   

With the implementation of a new order management system, companies need to assess user order management systemdepartment and IT skill sets as they plan their system conversions. The skill sets are often dramatically different from what is required to support the current legacy systems. Additionally, the user department manager will have the challenge of learning the new applications and potentially upgrading their knowledge about using the new platforms, data repositories and reporting applications.

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It behooves you to assess how much change there will be for the IT staff and user management. This learning curve impacts not only the cost of the project but the timeline to install the order management system. Here are 5 points to assess:

1. What are the changes in IT operation and support the new system will create? On-line versus batch processing? SQL vs. proprietary data bases that you may currently be using? New systems may use HTML, .net and other modern languages vs. C, COBOL and others that have been obsoleted. Client Server software used for transactional processing may be new to your organization. Assess how changes in IT platform changes IT skills required?

2. Does the IT staff have conversion experience? They may have implemented other types of systems in your company. But an order management system replaces many of the systems and changes the processes in the call center, warehousing, inventory control and accounting. Most IT personnel don’t have this experience on their resume. Here are some challenges to deal with:

a. Proper sizing of hardware from legacy systems to new systems. It’s not simply a matter of “the current system has this configuration and storage and we’ll need something comparable”. Vendors will give you specs but this is often an area of under estimating the amount of equipment. Will reports be run from production servers or a report server? Are you setting up separate incidences (or copies of the systems) for production, test and training? System redundancy, backup and recovery options? We often see systems undersized by a factor of 2X plan vs installed.

b. System integrations. Most conversions have at least 15-20 interfaces with other corporate systems (e.g. e-commerce sites, data warehouses, accounting, etc.), outside services (e.g. catalog printers, marketing services, etc.) and vendor systems and portals. When considered at the transactional level, these data flows explode into dozens to hundreds of individual data flows. Integrations become one of the longest lead items. Does your staff have this experience? Or should you use contracted or free-lance services?

c. File conversions. Another long lead time item. The most common misconception is to convert all of the legacy data via programming. In many systems there are hundreds of data files and tables required to make the new order management system operational. Look critically at what files you will convert (examples of files: customer, item or product, 2 year’s order and return history, etc.). Other major files such as inventory, new promotional files, chart of accounts, etc. should be manually entered. It will be faster, cheaper and more accurate. In the planning, agree with VAR on which files, data feeds and history. Does your staff have this experience? Or should you use contracted or free-lance services?

3. What formal courses does the vendor have? Are they on-line (self-taught), classroom training (on-site or away)? Review the courses’ curriculum. Self- taught, self -paced programs abound but they are tedious and I don’t think as effective as classroom training. ERP training by the software manufacturer will not include the specifics for the VAR layer. For a major ERP system conversion we have seen training cost $50,000 for IT and user department training. Be sure you know the extent and content of the courses. Include the training time and learning curve in the project plan.

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4. Hire new personnel? That’s easier said than done. You can hire managers and programmers experienced with the language and data base. It’s hard to hire people experienced with the order management system, especially the VAR layer. You can hire IT managers experienced with conversions which will be helpful. New people don’t know your current systems and your culture. Understand what skills sets are needed and time required for the implementation. Look to the VAR to provide services at an additional cost.

5. Remember your staff’s day to day responsibilities. Recognize IT skill sets may become the limiting factor in how quickly you can implement the new system and support yourself without additional implementation expense.