During the hours after switching on Dynamics GP I decided perhaps a Twitter service could have helped provide a good mechanism to communicate the status of the issue snagging from us the minority implementation team of 3 to them the large number of employees in the company we were putting it into. A thought for the next major system implementation that affects a large user community.
Today, another Dynamics GP installation now live and hanging together. Still coding into the early hours of Monday morning paid off.
It is always a learning experience delving into the inner workings of a company, trying to extract reality from fantasy as regards business processes whist navigating the rocks that lie beneath in the form of people's pride, work history, attitudes and capability to adapt to change.
It never fails to amaze me how you can ask so many people from the same department and get each one claiming that the thing you know is white, is in fact a different shade of grey to each other. This is where experience in mapping processes kicks in and you implement the system and transform the data during data load as you know in reality they use it now how they tell you they are using it! This has saved me big times several times during this project, together with my saviour, reporting services that came to my aid several times.
For this company orders were coming in from website, telesales, trade counter, post and emails, going to the warehouse for fulfilment and going out on a next day carrier. Switching over the ERP system was bound to be hard work. Due to plenty of planning, it went fairly smoothly considering the sorts of things I've seen go wrong before. We had a big load of GP modifications (vba & .NET & SQL) running to make it a slick system, mostly these were already tried and tested, even if they were implemented slightly differently than they were previously used. Of course there was an issue log growing by the hour from Monday morning, but the majority were trivial issues, like picking notes, picklists truncating the new extra long item numbers, a two min fix in reporting services etc. The modification that totalled up the weight of the order as the lines were entered in SOP transaction entry was wrong by a factor of 100, although it was picked up in UAT, the fix got lost before go live, that did annoy me. Quickly fixed by a nip into the stored procedure on sql server and divide by 100 on the output of the proc.
I soon realised communicating these quick fixes to issues was taking longer than actually fixing them. Even worse than that, the communication of what was going on was not always clear enough, so people were not using weights a couple of hours after a fix as they were on lunch when the announcement it was fixed was made and other scenarios occurred too.
I now think that I should really have used a Twitter (http://www.twitter.com) like service to broadcast information over the first two or three days. This would permit the workers to see that stuff was getting addressed and in real time. I have seen reports of this type of service being implemented internally by companies to communicate short messages to staff, information that would otherwise get lost waiting to be included in other larger communications.
Using a Twitter service would give stake holders, of all levels, a better tool to see the volume of snags we were being cleared. For those how have not tried Twitter, a stream of micro messages is provided to the consumer of the service, the key is that they are limited to the size of a SMS message. This is the key as it distils and concentrates the message content.
Those people with lower priority or more convoluted issues feel that their problem is not getting addressed. We know we are clearing lots of more important issues, they have no sight of that. A stream of messages saying things like "inability to charge customers at trade counter RESOLVED", help put their problems into context of the larger picture.
Obviously there continues to be a place for a shared SharePoint site for a view of issues and status of issues, but this is quite depressing/scary to view for us and the company stake holders half way through the first couple of days after the switch on. It shows every little thing to be addressed not the bigger picture of how much is actually working and how little disruption to the business there has been.
Finally I was glad to find that taking down one ERP system, replacing it with another does not always have to hurt, it didn't this time, or is that just experience taught us to have contingencies and effort in the correct proportions in the correct places... :)