Texas Instruments Tells War Stories At i2 Planet

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Texas Instruments Tells War Stories At i2 Planet
S. McVey - October 25, 2000

Event Summary

At Planet 2000, i2 Technologies' recent user conference, Marge Namdar of Texas Instruments reviewed benefits realized and lessons learned in their epic 3-year implementation of i2 and SAP. The multinational semiconductor manufacturer implemented i2's TradeMatrix Supply Chain Planner, Factory Planner, and Demand Planner products jointly with SAP's R/3 Supply Allocation Planning to create a platform that would unite the supply chains of several plants around the globe.

Many regard the TI project as the most ambitious simultaneous supply chain-ERP implementation ever undertaken. The new solution affects over 42 sites in 25 countries and touches an audience of 10,000 internal TI employees and over 2,000 external suppliers, customers, and distributors. In addition to resources from TI, i2 and SAP, the project team included representatives from Andersen Consulting, Sun Microsystems, Cisco Systems, and others. A project of such monolithic scale is risky but gives participants a unique perspective from which others may learn. As Planning and Shipping Systems Support Manager for TI, Namdar presented her insights with the unmistakable gravity of one who has lived on the front lines and witnessed battle first-hand.

Market Impact

While few would doubt the extreme difficulty involved in a project as large as TI's, Namdar and her colleagues were misled by certain well-meaning groups (probably before a deal was signed) into underestimating the difficulties involved. As Namdar put it, "if anyone tells you it's going to go really smoothly, they're lying." Texas Instruments devised novel strategies for dealing with the more difficult and unpredictable aspects of the implementation. The most interesting of these was the "War Room," a physical location staffed by knowledgeable project personnel who would respond to questions and issues "by any means possible as quickly as possible."

In another reference to organizations of war, TI mobilized small groups called "triage teams" to address unforeseen problems that sprang up during the final conversion phase. Each team was composed of three to four project personnel having expertise specific to a particular emergency. The sole objective of each team was to resolve the problem as quickly as possible without affecting implementation work that had already been completed.

Namdar also emphasized the importance of maintaining open channels of communication among separate project sub-teams and between these teams and the project high command. Good communication ensures that activities of different groups contribute in a focused manner to the common, higher-level goal.

User Recommendations

Users who regard the TI story as characteristic only of global multi-site integrations involving i2 TradeMatrix and other enterprise applications are kidding themselves. The elements that created problems for TI exist to some degree in any supply chain management implementation. Points to consider for companies that plan to attack supply chain engagements of any scale:

  • Project team needs to prepare a list of detailed requirements by involving end users and then conduct a careful evaluation of several packages to find the one that best fulfills them.

  • No supply chain management solution will work unless the parties involved agree upon the business processes it is designed to support. Obtaining this agreement should be an ongoing process that starts before the technical aspects of the project begin and continues through the implementation phase by allowing all organizational entities, both internal and external, to understand the new changes.

  • Users should determine the project scope at the outset and adhere to it throughout the implementation. New requirements that arise during the implementation should be prioritized and only the "must-have" changes should be made.

  • Timelines should always be constructed using a bottom-up approach, where project milestones are determined by the availability of people, software, and hardware. Timelines drawn to coincide with marketing expectations are almost always revised.

  • Where project scope spans multiple business functions, users should employ a phased implementation approach to reduce the complexity of the project. Lessons learned in the early phases can often be applied to succeeding phases.

  • Rapid prototyping provides a basic system to users who then have a tactile understanding of what the new system will look like and how it will behave.

  • End users, those who will be working with the new system on a daily basis, should be included in the project implementation phase early on. Managers need to give these key users time off from their normal duties to contribute their expertise to the project. This commitment requires the support of top management.

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