People are the Problem
By Isaac Bennett, Solutions Architect, Flexware Innovation
Call me anti-social, a recluse or a geek. The older I get the more I am convinced that people are the problem. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a good conversation with another human in a comfortable setting while I hold a delicious beverage. Outside of that cozy fireside chat, when I am working or trying to get personal tasks accomplished, any problems that arise can almost always be traced back to a human. While I am dealing with these day to day issues, in my head there is a mantra banging away, “if we could only replace these people with robots.” Sadly, we are far from replacing all humans with wonderful, emotionless task handlers. In the meantime, I will make sure that the automation projects I tackle, focus first on people and process.
So, what do I mean when I say focus on people and process first? Let me give you an example:
A global discount grocery store company, Lidl, decided to move to a new ERP system, SAP. After 7 years and 500 million Euro the plug was pulled on the project. So what went wrong? Well, in a nut shell, the inventory process that Lidl had been using across the globe didn’t fit the technology.
Lidl could have easily blamed SAP and the capability of the software. They didn’t. Instead they simply stated, “The originally defined strategic goals cannot be achieved with reasonable effort.”
I have heard similar stories throughout my career. So, what is the solution? I profess the solution is making damn sure you start a big complex project with the right people. Second, walk through your process with all those people in the room and make sure you cover all your bases. The technology will work the way its programmed the same way robots will do what they are programmed to do. So the question is, will the solution fit the need and do you have the right people in the room to determine that.
If I break down what went wrong with Lidl and how they could have done things differently I would say:
- Evaluation: Lidl could have paid more attention during product demonstrations and proof of concept to identify potential issues with the chosen solution. (Process)
- Stop Earlier: The management could have intervened earlier, especially when the project exceeded the budget and showed signs of potential failure. (People)
- Less Customization / More Change: Customization was identified as a risky approach, and Lidl could have opted for more change in its business processes.
- Executive Sponsorship: The importance of having a competent director who owns the project and is responsible for its success or failure was emphasized. (People)
The case of Lidl’s SAP implementation provides valuable lessons for organizations undertaking large-scale technical projects, emphasizing the importance of alignment, evaluation, and a realistic approach to customization.
So until the robot revolution, when AI takes over, I will continue to make sure technology doesn’t get blamed for human failure and I will continue to emphasize the importance of getting the right people in the room and making sure the process fits the solution.
Watch Isaac’s interview on “A New Perspective.”
Isaac Bennett is an internationally recognized author and keynote speaker on the subject of manufacturing technology. He is a Solutions Architect at Flexware Innovation and provides digital transformation consulting for global manufacturers. Isaac most often writes and speaks on subjects like 1) accelerating business through technology 2) breaking down traditional business silos through digital transformation 3) demonstrating how technology can bring value to the organization. To book Isaac for an upcoming podcast or keynote, contact us.