This is the perfect time of year to review all the software that runs in your facility. Make a complete list and create a spreadsheet of development date, last update, platform, etc. Reviewing functionality is very important with all the changes taking place in Omni-channel Distribution. If you are not looking at an Omni-channel effort and think this article isn’t for you, think again. In today’s world software is “the bones” of most operations. What will happen if your hard drive decides to quit or gets corrupted? What type of fault tolerance plan do you have in place? Have you tested it recently? All too often, companies have gone through the expense of mirrored computers and elaborate back up plans only to realize when it’s really needed it failed. Recently, this happened to a top company in the Consumer Products Group (CPG) world. After finding out from the IT person that all the equipment was installed at go live but a mock switchover failure was never performed, I just shake my head. 

I know it is work and effort but your failure plan should be tested and reviewed annually. You will appreciate your efforts when the time comes for the back-up strategy to be put in place and everything works as planned.

If you haven’t already done so, develop a hardware and software tune up check list. During the infamous Y2K scare this was being done by everyone. What components have a failure opportunity? Is your back-up working? How often to you test it? Recently, working with a company in California, we checked the daily backups and, voila, they were blank. The IT department went through the motions every day to back up critical systems but never checked to see if the backups were really happening or were corrupted. Another company after a review, found out 90 days before the software company closed that their software was being obsolete. Ouch, 90 days to select, implement and learn a new system. The company ended up being held hostage by the freelance developers who left the closing software company.

With all the acquisitions and mergers that have taken place in the supply chain space it is very important to stay connected to your software user group. Some end users are getting smart and starting blogs or LinkedIn groups themselves. This way you know the collection of companies that are going through the same steps you will need to go through should the company end-of-life your software. It is also a great place to find freelance support people and programmers. It gives you another avenue should something happen and also gives you a longer window to prepare for a selection and select and implement a new piece of software.
After reviewing your tune up check list of both software and hardware components don’t forget any embedded software within a said application that is needed for the application to run properly. Also, review any third party software that is a part of the application. You may want to set up a grading scale color coded for each item so that you can visibly see at a glance what areas need attention throughout the year. Green, yellow, orange and red, with red being the critical ones. This checklist also becomes a handy tool for budgeting, which usually takes place this time of year. When reviewing a software that has now been no longer supported by the new company that acquired your initial software provider, please realize going to another product the company owns is a complete new install with interfaces, etc. And no matter how attractive the company tries to make it look, it will be a task and you may not get what you were looking for, which is usually an opportunity to upgrade functionality and enhance your operation with new abilities.

Technology is a challenge sometimes and is worrisome to the non-technical executive but there are plenty of resources available to assist in determining your needs and risk. It is certainly becoming apparent in the marketplace today that the company that focuses on technology to drive their business to the next level is the company that will end up on top. If you are not an IT person and you don’t get the attention of the IT department from a supply chain effort, this may be a good time to develop and budget for an IT knowledgeable associate that will bridge the gap between your department and the IT department. This interface person can help advise on actions needed and look out for your best interest. Many companies have gone to having some IT people reporting directly to the supply chain executive because they understand the importance of quick response in the distribution level. It’s definitely a good idea to have an IT advocate with the omni-channel opportunities changing at a rapid pace.