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From SCDigest's On-Target E-Magazine

Jan. 10, 2011

Supply Chain News: When it Come to Warehouse Management Implementation, there Can be No Short Cuts When it Comes to User Testing, Fralick Says

Companies Implementing WMS Should Change Thinking to Hitting a Testing Date, Not a Go-Live Date


Cliff Holste, Materials Handling Editor

When it comes to Warehouse Management System (WMS) deployments, the dynamics remind Mark Fralick of GetUsROI of the exact opposite of how Saturday Night Live producer Lauren Michaels thinks about that iconic show.

SCDigest Says:

Fralick says these schedule challenges are often a "systemic problems that start from the very first day, or even before the project officially starts."
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"Michaels always said 'Saturday Night Live' doesn't go on because it's ready, it goes on because it's 11:30,'" Fralick recently noted on another edition of our "Fralick on WMS" video series.

"In the WMS world, we need to think the exact opposite," Fralick says. "It doesn't go on because it's 11:30, it goes on because it's ready."

Fralick says that even though that might sound like an obvious principle, in reality schedule delays and other factors often lead to a time crunch as a pre-determined "go live" target date approaches, and what often gets shorted are two of the most important factors for success: training and testing.

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is an area that is especially critical, Fralick says, but one that too often loses out in the fight for time as the go-live date approaches.

"Schedules slip along the way, and schedules get pared down and pared down, and then we get this whole "schedule chicken" game being played with a go/no-go decision, " Fralick said. "Really, what we need to do, I think, is make that testing schedule golden, the thing that cannot be compressed. So instead of targeting to specifically hit whatever the go-live date is that has been set, we need to ask how long it is going to take to do the User Acceptable Testing and say 'That's the date.'"

In other words, Fralick says, you need to determine a date by which UAT needs to start to meet the target go-live date, and if the schedule needs to be compressed, it needs to be compressed before UAT starts. So if UAT needs to start Aug. 1 to meet an Oct. 1 go-live date, find ways to accelerate project steps prior to the start of UAT, but if the UAT start date slips, it rarely can or should be compressed, and so the go-live date will simply have to be pushed out - no matter how upset that makes some executive.

That puts more pressure on the middle part of the process prior to user testing to make up for the inevitable delays that occur along the way, but Fralick says those areas, such as system configuration and integration testing, are the most "scalable" steps of the process, meaning more resources can be thrown at them to get them completed in a shorter time frame.

But you really can't throw more people at user testing and training, because you have a fixed number of people that have to be involved, and it is hard to accelerate the steps that need to be worked through.
"User Acceptance Testing is really difficult to scale," Fralick said. "You can do a few things to reduce the time, but not much, other than parallel testing in different areas if you weren't planning that from the start."

(Distribution/Materials Handling Story Continues Below )


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Fralick says these schedule challenges are often a "systemic problems that start from the very first day, or even before the project officially starts."

For example, he says that small hold-ups in working through the contractual language can delay the start of the project for days, even though the target go-live date remains fixed. Here, Fralick repeated calls he has made in the past for a WMS "project executive" to be involved right up front and communicate how delays months before the go-live date can impact the ability to meet that schedule - or unfortunately lead to short cuts in testing or training that will impact project success.

"The whole schedule needs to be oriented towards hitting that User Acceptance Testing date, and that's a different way of thinking about it," Fralick added. "Then, there needs to be processes put in place to monitor that schedule with your vendor. And everything with regard to the schedule between you and your vendor needs to be completely transparent."

Pushing the go-live date out is almost always a better choice than compromising training and testing processes that can do long-term damage to the system's success Fralick says.

"Of all the systems that are out there, there is nothing worse than having a distribution system that is having problems, because tomorrow is likely to be worse day than today," he said. "Every day can get worse."

The full video discussion can be viewed here: When it Comes to WMS User Testing, Short Cuts Usually Lead to Implementation Disaster.

Do you agree with Fralick on the importance of focusing on hitting the user testing date even more so than the go-live date? Are you just asking for trouble in short cutting WMS user training and testing - or can it be done? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

Recent Feedback

This is music to my ears coming from an operational background where the "go live date" ruled and where often a new implementation would "go Live" to meet a committed deadline regardless of user testing being completed. Doing this is long term suicide as once "live" it is difficult to make changes without major disruption to operations. In addition the new implementation loses credibility with the end used and results in even more negativity and reduced "Buy in". In the end it is the "End user" who has to use a system and their "buy in" and acceptance of a new implementation is critical. The more user testing that is done with the "end users," the greater the chance of success and reduced downtime post implementation is trying to make adjustments and corrections.

Ian Bruggemann
Turnkey Solutions
Jan, 11 2012