The 4 Phases to Success
The following describes the way we like to engage with our customers. Of course, not every client will desire, nor need, to pursue all 4 phases. For some, the assessment will fit the need; for others, the pilot will be sufficient; and so on. In addition, we want to emphasize that this 4-step process provides the client with total flexibility and budgetary control, as the conclusion of each step serves as a gate, or decision point, as to whether to progress to the next step.
Phase 1. Assess
Prerequisite: Clear problem definition and agreement
Duration: 2 to 4 weeks (includes 2-day in-person workshop)
• Detailed design of proposed solution
• High level implementation plan
• Preliminary cost estimate and business case for the proposed solution
Our typical customer engagement model begins with a low-cost assessment of the customer’s current processes, identification of areas for improvement, and preliminary quantification of the potential benefits BBA could help derive.
In the Assessment phase, we work closely with the customer to define the problem they face and agree on a set of criteria (indicators or metrics) that will be achieved with a successful solution. Then, we develop a vision for what the solution should accomplish, and a plan to implement the solution.
The implementation plan will typically involve 3 phases:
The Pilot phase, where, depending on the complexity of the operation, we either develop a prototype of the solution in a reduced scope, or we recommend the customer purchase an existing solution
The Integration phase, where the prototype developed during the Pilot is further enhanced to fulfill any additional requirements identified during the Pilot, and then integrated into existing ERP/MES systems
The Deployment phase, where the integrated solution is either deployed individually at other, similar customer facilities, or centralized and deployed on the cloud such that it is accessible from other facilities
The Assessment phase serves two main purposes:
First, we get to learn about your business and your manufacturing operations: What are the characteristics of that make your operation unique? What are your business objectives? What are the (physical and logical) constraints that must be accounted for in the solution? This allows us to provide a realistic value proposition, set the correct success criteria, and set appropriate indicators to track performance.
Second, it allows you – the customer and ultimate owner of the solution – to provide your perspective and input in the design, requirements, and functionality of the solution.
Phase 2. Pilot
Prerequisite: Statement of Work (SOW) agreement for Pilot
Duration: 3 to 6 months
• Prototype of proposed solution
• Prioritized list of additional requirements and proposed enhancements
• Temporary support agreement for prototype solution
Once we have completed the Assessment phase and the customer has approved the implementation plan, we will create a document that details the work that needs to be done to build a prototype of the solution and the related costs. We call this a Statement of Work (SOW). Although fixed-price SOWs are possible under certain circumstances, we prefer a Time and Materials (T&M) agreement for the Pilot phase, since requirements are likely to change, and the scope is likely to expand, during this phase. A T&M approach allows us to accommodate changing requirements more easily as we develop the prototype.
The prototype is not intended to satisfy 100% of the business requirements identified during the assessment phase. For instance, the prototype will most likely be a stand-alone solution that reads input data from flat files, runs the optimization, and writes the results to flat files or a database. In other words, there is no systems integration and automation work done during the Pilot. The focus is on developing the functionality necessary to solve the business problem.
Before the end of the Pilot, we will thoroughly test the prototype in the intended business setting to ensure that the customer will have a tool that they can use.
As mentioned before, requirements are likely to change during the Pilot phase, and it is not uncommon that new requirements will be identified that were not part of the original design. Some of these may be addressed during the Pilot phase itself; however, we may decide to defer those requirements that involve significant enhancements to subsequent phases of the project. Before the end of the Pilot, we will create a prioritized list of new outstanding requirements and related enhancements.
Once the Pilot phase is complete, we will sign an agreement with the customer to support the prototype and correct any issues identified while the complete solution is being developed. As the customer uses the prototype, and users realize what it can do, it is common for new ideas to “spring” from users’ minds. Again, we will work with the customer to evaluate these ideas for merit and add them to the priority list of outstanding requirements and enhancements.
In case the list involves significant effort, we may recommend a “Pilot 2.1” phase prior to the systems integration phase. If so, the process would be similar to the original Pilot, with the additional scope of work, duration, and related cost all detailed in a new SOW agreement.
Phase 3. Integrate
Prerequisite: Statement of Work (SOW) agreement for Integration
Duration: 3 to 6 months
• Enhanced solution integrated with ERP/MES, automated data I/O
• Updated business process document
• Roadmap and cost estimate for deployment at additional sites or cloud deployment
Once the prototype has been fully developed and tested, we will begin the Integration phase by working closely with the customer to re-design the business processes that will be affected by the new solution. Whether the solution is for optimal production scheduling, supply chain planning and logistics, or business process optimization, multiple business processes will likely have to be modified to accommodate its effective use.
Only then can we proceed with the design for the integrated solution: Where will the necessary input data reside? How often will the solution run? What will trigger a new run of the solution? How will input data be updated? How frequently? Who will be responsible for updating each aspect of the data? Etc. Once we have this information, we will document it in detail and provide the documentation to the customer. This documentation will also provide a blueprint for the integration.
BBA does not provide software integration services. We provide an API that makes it possible to integrate our solutions into any existing ERP/MES systems. At the discretion of the customer, we can suggest and/or select an integrator; otherwise, the customer can contract one directly.
We will work with the integrator to ensure that the process goes smoothly and will thoroughly test the integrated solution alongside the customer to ensure that it works as intended.
Before the Integration phase is complete, we will work with the customer to put together a plan for deploying the tool at any additional sites with a similar process, if applicable.
Phase 4. Deploy (if applicable)
Prerequisite: Statement of Work (SOW) agreement for Deployment
Duration: 2 to 4 weeks per additional site
• Integrated solution deployed to additional sites, or in the cloud
• Updated business process document
• Solution licensing agreement
The Deployment phase consists of the implementation of the integrated solution at additional customer sites. This is more common for optimal production scheduling solutions, where the customer may have several facilities producing similar products to satisfy customer demand across geographical areas. However, it may also apply in supply chain and logistics.
During the Deployment phase, we will work with the customer to either deploy the solution to the individual sites, or to deploy it in a cloud environment such that it can be accessed by all relevant facilities in a centralized manner.
Depending on the deployment model selected, we will generate an appropriate licensing agreement that will enable the customer to use the solution and obtain extended support and maintenance.