Go With The Flow


By Matt Leathers

We not too long ago completed a client engagement in the cannabis market. Our duty was to overview the existing state of technologies personnel, processes, and options, define the future state, and make progress toward the future state though hiring our replacements. All in all, pretty common in consulting.

In our initially week in California, I asked for a tour of the warehouse. Not the IT systems, but the warehouse itself. I wanted to see how folks operate, shake hands with the employees, and realize how IT was either creating their lives less difficult or having in the way. No laptop. No tablet. Just taking occasional notes on my telephone as a warehouse administrator and I walked and talked. I largely listened and asked for their opinions.

If you do not know how your small business operates, you are setting oneself up for high-priced failures. One particular hour in procedure definition will save weeks of improvement time and income. This is an immutable law. Refuse to do small business with any provider who is not prepared to place the screens away and talk about how their procedure and your procedure examine to one particular a further.

When you get a software program package or a remedy, you are either driving or getting driven. Especially, you will be following the workflow that the software program or hardware prescribes. Otherwise, you will will need customizations that add to the price to implement and price to preserve the software program. Customizations frequently make it tricky to negotiate a favorable contract or reduce ties as you develop. This is how you finish up with a Winnebago as your everyday driver.

Most organizations dive promptly into software program demonstrations and screen sharing dialogues. Application vendors will happily inform you that it is the finest way to operate, commonly working with some kind of terminology, e.g., Agile, Activate, Activity-ize-ification, or some other branded excuse for not writing something down. Cease. Ask for their default procedure, independent of the software program.

For instance, Salesforce has a prescribed flow for sales possibilities and deal flow. The remedy is fairly uncomplicated to configure, but if you can examine your sales funnel, crucial filtering information, and essential selection points to the default Salesforce funnel and procedure, you can rapidly mark up a whiteboard or piece of paper with a uncomplicated gap and match evaluation.

Nicely established providers managed by newly minted MBAs struggle to begin with procedure. Primarily based on our experiences therefore far, cannabis market leaders are no distinct. Frankly, most of these productive businesswomen and males have had larger issues than defining requirements and processes. Even so, enterprises that scale and make income in the extended run help their folks with processes and technologies.

The cannabis supplier small business procedure beneath was pulled with each other more than the course of a two hour operating session.

  • We focused on capturing the existing state, taking care to steer clear of judging the procedure or activities as fantastic or negative.

  • Circles represent distinct folks in the procedure.

  • Squares represent distinct technologies or tools made use of in a unique step.

  • In a far more formal flow, you could have selection trees and several paths, but in this context, we have been making an initial visual to drive design and style discussions.



In the image above, a fairly uncomplicated procedure expected a lot of folks and a quantity of technologies options. If your gut tells you that this procedure appears overly difficult, you are right. You would make a fantastic consultant. For reference, Kettle has noticed huge insurance coverage providers run 5 distinct claims applications, developing a sixth, to help one particular claims procedure for 3 item verticals. Portion of the worth of writing down procedure is to make the inefficiencies and friction points painfully apparent. If you have far more IT platforms than toes, you have a burgeoning issue.

In later meetings, we identified discomfort points and challenges inside methods or handoffs in between methods. These discomfort points have been prioritized in terms of price and worth. When arranging technologies investments, you will need to know if you are focusing on the $five challenges or the $5M challenges. It is not that we ignore the $five challenges, but we address them in parallel to the higher priority and higher worth challenges.

The rest of this weblog will concentrate on two scenarios from cannabis engagements. Each scenarios involved huge scale software program implementations. One particular implementation was a half million dollar Enterprise Resource Arranging (ERP) remedy. The other was a new HR Data Method (HRIS) that was set to go reside at the starting of 2019, beginning with payroll.

In each scenarios, the small business teams have been sold on the significance of acquiring software program as the remedy to their small business challenges. Regrettably, the concentrate rapidly shifted to capabilities and demonstrations, rather than clear specifications, comparing small business flows, and reviewing price v. advantage.

Situation 1: ERP Implementation

The project was launched at the request of the finance group. With a increasing, distributed small business, they required to have tight and verifiable economic controls. Implementing an ERP presented an chance to standardize small business operations and finance functions across the organization. A common tool would make processes effective, handle fees, and simplify administration. The founding thought was sound and logical.

The existing state, as observed:

  • Warehouse employees made use of hand scanners and paper printouts for choose, pack, and ship processes. Order accuracy was inside handle limits. Shipments have been on time.

  • Back finish integrations with QuickBooks helped reconcile inventory and economic transactions, although the systems have been rickety and in will need of upkeep.

  • Wi-fi coverage in the warehouse was spotty.

  • Workers entered the facility by way of an entryway monitored by an armed guard. Keypads monitored entrances and exits.

  • A paper shredder lockbox was required for completed order manifests.

  • Route arranging and delivery was largely manual. Inventory counts have been manual.

  • Compliance and regulatory recordkeeping have been updated everyday. The procedure was far from utopia, but it got the job carried out.

four months into design and style and implementation, the project was troubled. As the vendor remedy became clearer, a quantity of issues, e.g., scope alterations, have been identified.

Right here are a couple of customizations that the vendor identified, effectively soon after design and style was carried out:

  • Existing hand scanners expected a custom integration. The vendor encouraged that we get fifty iPads for the warehouse and replace the hand scanner and paper options.

  • All of our small business units ought to scrap QuickBooks. Our software program license incorporated the finance module of the ERP and rather than integrating with QuickBooks, small business units ought to just get on board with the new ERP.

  • Delivery management and route arranging options have been not out of the box, but they could be customized and integrated at a later date. The later date was not specified, while the small business identified this as a essential function required to address competitors.

  • Inventory controls have been not a portion of the initial deployment scope. Existing challenges with inventory accuracy and quarantine management would be addressed at a date to be determined.

  • Integration with Metrc, the State’s selected compliance remedy, was in improvement. Metrc integration out of the box was a crucial promoting point that drove the initial software program choice. As a reminder, base your selection off of current functionality, not vaporware and improvement roadmaps.

  • Repeat software program demonstrations had failed to win help amongst small business operators, e.g., workers in the cultivation and warehouse facilities. Personnel have been frustrated that three – four hours of their time was consumed by developers who appeared to be mastering on the job.

Inside 1 hour of walking the warehouse floor, we discovered far more about the fantastic and negative of warehouse operations than the ERP group had discovered in four months. It turns out that the ERP group had however to set foot on web site. Face palm.

The ERP group and the small business have been in direct conflict. Leadership had been sold a utopian vision, powered by the ERP. The workers performing hands on operate have been frustrated that IT was creating their lives tougher, not less difficult, and the new ERP wasn’t even reside. What would life be like when the method went reside?

Important Takeaways:

Expectations had been set devoid of seeing how folks operate. You will not get get in and adoption if folks do not see that their challenges are heard and addressed, even incrementally. Appropriate specifications gathering and design and style operate needs an precise view of how shoppers and folks reside and operate. To acquire this level of understanding, you need to stroll in their footwear. User encounter and design and style leaders apply concentrate groups and user research to realize and drive their styles. FaceTime, screen sharing, or video conferencing are affordable workarounds if travel restrictions protect against you from getting present physically.

IT ought to make operate less difficult, not tougher. Finding out new systems, new devices, and new tasks devoid of addressing core discomfort points was doomed to failure. When we asked for a copy of the workflow supported by the out of the box ERP, we have been offered a software program demonstration. This was an instant red flag that the possible modify to workflow and activities have been fully unknown. We paused the plan, idled sources, and focused on instant discomfort points, e.g., device safety, e-commerce channels, and sales group effectiveness.

Application demos do not take the location of understanding workflow. Prior to purchasing for high-priced design and style or project software program, Use Post It notes, napkins,photographs, or windows to document what you have observed, confirm your understanding, and drive subsequent method design and style or choice.

Situation two: HRIS Implementation

The HRIS project was launched by the VP of HR as portion of an work to standardize payroll, rewards, recruiting, and mastering management. Like the finance group, the HR group was struggling to meet their overall performance objectives working with their existing patchwork quilt of providers and software program options. two months just before going reside with payroll on the new platform, the VP of HR named to inform me that US payroll was getting removed from scope, per the vendor. I was asked to dig into the specifics by the CFO and CEO.

What I identified and why it mattered:

  • The initial vendor choice procedure was not documented. This is significant for the reason that mature providers base IT investment choices off of a short, but clear, small business case. If it fees far more than a made use of Honda Civic, it ought to have a two web page evaluation of the fees and rewards.

  • My initial issues have been dismissed for the reason that the remedy was in the cloud, i.e., software program as a service. Exactly where the remedy is hosted (public cloud, hybrid cloud, private cloud, in a regional server area or information center), does not matter as considerably as the potential to give a strategy for testing, instruction, and cutting more than payroll. 1 month just before payroll cutover, I nonetheless didn’t have these essential specifics obtainable.

  • The modify in scope was not formally documented. The vendor was removing 50% of the scope by taking US payroll solutions out of scope. But the initial contract, requiring complete payment for complete scope, was nonetheless in force. Eliminating or adding scope ought to outcome in a formal modify request with corresponding value alterations.

  • Payroll processes have been undocumented. US and Canadian personnel that ran payroll have been offered access to a test method and asked to kick the tires. No formal test scripts. No formal use case scenarios. The probabilities that a thing would be missed in testing and break in production have been higher. Payroll is not a thing that you want to get incorrect in the new year.

Important Takeaways:

Once again, we have been potentially altering a essential small business procedure devoid of understanding the complete implications. Answering angry telephone calls about missing paychecks was not the way that I wanted to begin 2019. Regardless of assurances that the remedy was “in the cloud” and that the vendor would take care of any troubles, I knew that the client IT group and I would get an earful if a thing went incorrect.

Cloud options or vendor agreements do not make life less difficult. In lots of circumstances, they are promising much better service for a decrease value than your personal internal group can supply. Examine your workflow and activities, identifying the tools that you at the moment use, like possible integrations, regulatory requires, safety tasks, and manual methods.

For instance, right here are some higher-level methods, with supporting design and style considerations:

  1. Emma is a economic analyst who runs payroll for US provide chain unit operations. Could we have a central function run this and free of charge up Emma?

  2. Every single two weeks, she collects time card entries. Could payroll be run off cycle or ad hoc?

  3. She usually has to send reminders out by way of e mail, followed by telephone calls. Could this be automated or simplified to make entry less difficult and more rapidly?

  4. She can’t run payroll till she has completed timecards from absolutely everyone, which commonly outcomes in hounding at least two or 3 habitually late employees. Could we track a reportable history and have managers step in?

  5. She sends an e mail to the payroll solutions firm, indicating that payroll is prepared. Could we boost this procedure for efficiency, accuracy, and safety?

  6. She receives an automated reply when the payroll is submitted, an invitation to overview and approve the amounts for every single individual, and commit the run. How could we simplify the quantity of checking and overview that Emma has to do?

  7. The run automatically commits soon after 24 hours if Emma does not reply or have any edits. Has this ever developed challenges, e.g., if Emma is locked out of the method?

  8. Every single so frequently, Emma is out of the workplace and James methods in to run payroll. He utilizes Emma’s account. Could we establish person accounts for folks for safety and transparency?

If you do not know how your processes operate, in this case payroll, you are just outsourcing your issue in the hope that the vendor can do a much better job than you. Cannabis firms ought to steer clear of the errors of their brethren in economic solutions, healthcare, and manufacturing and drive, rather than be driven.


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