OK, I will start off with an overused, but appropriate, cliché: Those who fail to plan should plan to fail. There are variations of this phrase just as there are variations of plans. So, what is a “proper plan” when it comes to a data collection system? Before we get into this, let’s take a step or two back.
Hopefully, you have gobbled up all of the exciting information I supplied in my previous data collection system articles. Who am I kidding? Hopefully, between yawns, you grasped several ideas you could use. You have taken a look at your current operations. You have decided that something needs to be done. You have discovered areas that could improve. You have a design in place. You have justified the cost. Now, you are chomping at the bit and can’t wait to go.
It is time to state what your successful project will look like – your goal. You have hours of research time invested in this, so state it! “We will collect data at this point…” “We will not lose product…” “Our customers will know when their orders are shipping…”
When you begin to plan your project, take a look at the resources you have, the resources you will need, and the implementation time frame. Simple enough. The timeframe is key and should be the first consideration. Since the Return on Investment stated that you are losing money for every day you’re not implementing a new-and-improved data collection system, you have set a fairly aggressive date as you promised your management that you can get it done…soon. Do you have the internal resources to accomplish this in a timely manner? Your staff may be top notch, but if they are swamped with day-to-day activities or do not have the knowledge base to incorporate new technologies, it may be wise to find an outside source. This could be the consultant, the data collection manufacturer resource (field engineer), contract programmers, or a combination of the above.
Each step of the way needs to: be defined, have a responsible party, and have a critical date associated with it. These milestones will give you a good picture and help you stay on top of the project, especially if you are managing multiple internal and external resources. There are professional project planners and managers who can assist you, but using a tool, such as Microsoft Project, also is a big help.
It is extremely important that these milestones and responsibilities are met. It is a good practice to check in several days prior to the milestone to see if you are on schedule. If things slip, it can affect the entire project, and it is easy to mess up. It does take more effort than sending out a few e-mails or talking around the water cooler, but by staying on top of your plan, a successful project will be launched and brought to fruition.
There is no one right way to plan, but there are plenty of wrong ways. In a nutshell:
- Define what your successful project will be
- Circle the target date for the launch
- Determine what resources you have/need
- Set milestones, and stick to them
Simple in concept, but extremely painful and difficult to explain if you don’t.