For Mission Hockey, Small Business ERP is Mission:Possible
The path to a successful ERP implementation begins by acknowledging that it could be a total disaster, says Dave Hoover, IS Director for Mission Hockey.
“I think there was a bit of trepidation at first and I think that was natural and even desired,” says Hoover, who had assisted with ERP implementations at two other companies before joining Mission Hockey. “We came in with full knowledge of the dangers involved. We knew that this was an 8- to 12-month marathon.”
| ||Key Elements for Successful ERP Implementation In conjunction with Mission Hockey’s successful Movex ERP launch on Aug. 1, project manager Don Hughey issued a memo analyzing the factors that contributed to the project’s success. Following are the 20 elements he and his team regarded as the keys to their on-time, under-budget ERP implementation.|
1. Executive commitment and unity
2. A realistic implementation schedule
3. A detailed Project Plan
4. An experienced Project Manager
5. Few modifications
6. Full time users on the project
7. Full time MIS staff on the project
8. Proper level of funding
9. Planned for contingency
10. Properly trained users
11. Department procedures
12. The correct software and vendor was chosen
13. An implementation methodology
14. Regular auditing of progress
15. Reporting needs were addressed early
16. Strong legacy manager
17. A dedicated project meeting room
18. Key in master file data
19. Knowledge of the legacy system
20. A positive attitude toward change
Mission Hockey is a global distributor and manufacturer of in-line and ice hockey skates, hockey gear and protective equipment. Based in Santa Ana, Calif., the company posts revenues of approximately $40 million per year and employs about 100 people.
Founded in 1995 by three hockey players living in Ontario, Mission Hockey relocated to California and soon began producing innovative products—particularly in skate technology—which gained a strong reputation and widespread popularity. In its infancy, the company employed a MAS90 system for its operations, but by mid-1998 it became clear that Mission Hockey was quickly outgrowing its IT infrastructure.
“The MAS90 system was just not able to carry our company any longer or to grow as fast as we were,” Hoover says.
So Mission Hockey set out on an ambitious goal—with a strict plan and a big budget—to implement an ERP system that would integrate data, adapt with the company’s rapid growth, and address industry-specific needs such as forecasting and product style management. Today, Mission runs Swedish software firm Intentia’s Movex ERP on AS/400, and considers itself one of the most successful ERP implementations Intentia—or any other vendor—can claim.
“I am very pleased to say we came in on time and under budget,” Hoover says.
If that statement is surprising, as it might well be for anyone who’s dealt with the protracted implementation time and spiraling costs often synonymous with ERP, Hoover’s description of the eight-month process leading up to Mission’s Aug. 1 Movex launch will likely come as an absolute shock.
“It was fun,” Hoover says. “We had a blast. And that’s the way it should be. But there was a lot of planning and foresight that went into that before January.”
The detailed planning began from the first day and at the highest levels, according to Hoover. The first two steps were to hire Don Hughey, president of IS Technologies Inc. and an experienced consultant, as a dedicated project manager, and to get management fully on board. Hoover says he and Hughey decided there was no sense making the project seem any less complex and problematic than it was, so that they would be prepared for every possible contingency.
“The players involved at the top level had no blinders on,” Hoover says. “They understood exactly what was required, and were prepared to take it on. We gave that feeling to Don, and we said, ‘You really need to tell us what it’s gonna take to do this.’”
The result, according to Hoover, was a budget “which was not small” and staffing requests, “that raised some eyebrows”. In addition to Hughey, Mission hired a dedicated programmer and several data-entry workers. As part of the process of training users, the company moved three existing full-time operations employees, including the customer service manager, away from their usual positions to work on the Movex project full-time.
In terms of funding, not only did Mission’s Board of Directors allocate all the funds the project team recommended, but they also built a contingency amount into the budget that the team could use for unexpected expenses, without having to get the board’s approval. Right down to a dedicated project meeting room, the board met all of Hughey’s and the project team’s requests.
Choosing the right solution was, of course, critical, and Hughey and Hoover had a very specific idea of what they were looking for when they began their search.
“I think we were looking at a hundred ERP manufacturing vendors and there were 10 we were looking at in the second phase,” Hughey said. “We narrowed it down to basically two – JBA and Intentia, and then we conducted extensive interviews.”
Mission chose the Movex solution based largely on Intentia’s implementation methodology and service offerings. However, the central criteria of the selection process was driven by the need to find an application with the capability for managing and tracking products according to variations in style.
“The narrowing process from 100 to 10 was based solely on that one factor – that core style-management capability,” Hoover says.
Part of the reason Hughey and Hoover were so thorough in their selection process was that they wanted their business to be precisely compatible with their ERP solution, virtually out-of-the-box. Both say they knew from experience how much over-customization could complicate an ERP project. According to Hughey, the solution eventually was implemented with only four “minor” changes.
“We were really, really stingy on what we were willing to allow in terms of customized features,” Hoover says. “I had a lot of people who worked on the project who were not too happy with me because they had to bend over backwards to show that any customized change they were asking for was absolutely essential.”
Intentia’s post-sale service was extremely important to Mission for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that their solution ran on AS/400, with which neither Hoover nor his staff had much experience.
“One of the risks, as we got going with Intentia, was that we didn’t have any AS/400 experience within the company,” he says. “We had a pretty steep learning curve in getting up to speed, but our partnership with Intentia really helped us.”
Although Movex has only been in place at Mission Hockey for a matter of weeks, Hoover says they have already seen dramatic changes in day-to-day operations. For instance, the ability to access data quickly and easily has made it possible for employees to view inventory information in real-time while a customer is on the phone. This has improved efficiency and reduced excess inventory because customers know exactly what is available when they place their order. Integrated data has also meant end-of-day documents—that used to take six to eight man-hours to compile—and were often released days later when they were already outdated, can now be finished in a matter of minutes.
“How do you put a dollar value on the effect that will have in terms of increased sales?” Hoover says. “The intangibles are enormous, just for that one item.”
Mission Hockey makes no secret of how they got from the initial 1998 decision to the Aug. 1 launch so smoothly, but that doesn’t mean they expect other businesses will be able to duplicate it.
“I think a lot of people would like to bottle what we did. I can’t emphasize enough how impossible that would be,” Hoover says. “It’s a combination of great people and no less than 10 different critical processes or critical components that were all just an A-plus. And the person who has the least credit for that is me. I just got to stand back and work with these terrific people with this great solution and really get this project moving.”
Related Information: Intentia (new window) Movex Overview (new window) Mission Hockey (new window)