Case: The digitalization of FishStaRama AS.

Nortura is a large food industry conglomerate and Norway’s largest brand in meat and egg products. They have approximately 5,500 employees and achieve an annual turnover of 25 billion NOK.

In recent years, they have undertaken a significant digitalization project. FishStaRama AS (FSR) is a substantial enterprise that shares some similarities with Nortura, such as being spread across the entire country and having multiple production facilities and processes, but they operate in a different industry.

Sigleik Knatten is a newly appointed group director known for his decisiveness. One of the tasks he has been challenged with is precisely the digitalization of FSR. Despite his proactive nature, Knatten wants to base decisions on a solid foundation. He is keenly observing the digitalization process that Nortura has been undertaking for over six years.

Similarly to Nortura, FSR is considering implementing a comprehensive and integrated ERP platform. ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning, which is software designed to support various business areas such as sales, production, inventory, finance, and more.

Knatten has contacts in Nortura and has received informal information about their process. Some of the revelations include the fact that the intended benefits at the beginning of the process became less relevant over time due to the lengthy duration, and the testing and implementation did not work well. The assessed gains mainly consisted of financial savings resulting from streamlining processes. The process heavily relied on external consultants, which left the employees feeling less involved. Many also perceived that the IT program itself guided the process more than the actual needs of the organization. Moreover, the project lacked sufficient support from top management, leading to a lack of ownership. This led to a kind of re-initiation in 2019, where the project organization and concept were reevaluated to improve the process and, most importantly, the outcomes. This revitalization put the project back on track, and the rollout of the new system has now been implemented at all units in Nortura, largely as planned.

Knatten’s assessment is that FSR must avoid both a prolonged process and significant difficulties along the way. Drawing on his background as a former ski jumper, he believes that if you take off crooked from the jumping platform, it’s challenging to recover. Therefore, he emphasizes the need to thoroughly plan the concept before starting. During his first management meeting, he highlighted that the project’s definition will determine its success or failure.

Knatten is preparing a briefing document for his leadership team, knowing that the group comprises individuals with diverse attitudes towards change and varying levels of digitalization expertise. Additionally, he has been informed that many of the previous projects initiated by the FSR leadership have not been particularly successful. This is something he definitely wants to avoid, and in preparation for the upcoming leadership meeting, he reaches out to you, seeking the following assessments and inputs.

Not everyone in the leadership team has a precise understanding of what digitalization entails; it can be related to both processes and products. Therefore, provide a concise explanation of what digitalization is and what it entails in the context of projects.

Digitalization involves the use of digital technologies and solutions to transform and automate business processes, information flow, and collaboration. In the context of projects, digitalization refers to the implementation of digital solutions and systems to enhance efficiency, productivity, and quality in the organization. This may include the use of software, automation, data analysis, artificial intelligence, and other technologies to optimize and streamline workflows, gather and analyze data, and make data-driven decisions.

What key questions will you emphasize in connection with the process of concept development? Provide some examples of what this could entail for the project.

  • Purpose and Objectives: What is the purpose of digitalization? What specific goals do you want to achieve, such as increased efficiency, cost reduction, improved customer service, or innovation?
  • Needs Analysis: Which existing processes, systems, and challenges need to be addressed and improved? What are the most critical needs and requirements for the new system?
  • User Involvement: How can you ensure active participation and involvement from the employees who will use the new system? How can you understand their needs, challenges, and preferences to ensure that the solution is tailored to their workflows?
  • Organizational Change: How will digitalization impact the organizational structure, roles, and responsibilities? How can you prepare and support the organization through the change process?
  • Risk Assessment: What risks and challenges may arise during implementation? How can you identify, evaluate, and manage these risks to minimize negative consequences?

How can FSR work on concept development, especially regarding ensuring alignment, involvement, and a strong collaboration with the external IT system (ERP) provider?

To ensure alignment, involvement, and a strong collaboration with the external IT system (ERP) provider, FSR can consider the following measures:

  • Clear Communication: Clearly communicate the vision, goals, and expectations to the provider and all involved parties. Ensure that everyone shares a common understanding of the project’s objectives and the significance of the provider’s role.
  • Collaboration Model: Establish a collaboration model that promotes open communication, knowledge sharing, and cooperation between FSR and the provider. Define roles and responsibilities clearly, and create a framework for the collaboration.
  • Involvement of Key Stakeholders: Involve key stakeholders from different departments and levels within the organization early in the process. Ensure that their perspectives and needs are heard and addressed.
  • Joint Workshops and Task Groups: Organize workshops and task groups where representatives from FSR and the provider collaborate on concept development, requirement specifications, and solution design. This can foster mutual understanding and ensure that the solution aligns with FSR’s needs.
  • Regular Status Meetings: Schedule regular status meetings with the provider to track progress, address any challenges, and ensure the project stays on the right track.

Finally, Knatten seeks some general input on how to avoid decisions based on fallacies, along with examples or specific considerations relevant to this project.

To avoid decisions based on fallacies, FSR can consider the following input:

  • Gather thorough information: Ensure to collect and analyze sufficient information and data before making important decisions. Base decisions on factual evidence and reliable information.
  • Involve relevant stakeholders: Engage relevant stakeholders and subject matter experts in the decision-making process to gain different perspectives and expertise. This can reduce biases and lead to better decisions.
  • Conduct risk analyses: Perform comprehensive risk analyses to identify potential pitfalls and negative consequences of decisions. Assess risks and develop measures to address them.
  • Test and evaluation: Conduct pilot projects or tests before full implementation to evaluate the impact and consequences of decisions. This can help identify and rectify any mistakes before they have significant repercussions.
  • Learning and adjustment: Be open to learning from mistakes and adjust decisions and strategies based on feedback and experiences along the way. Continuous learning and improvement are crucial for success in digital projects.

This case is taken from the book “Verdiskapende Prosjektledelse” – 2022, 2. Edition, by Torgeir Skyttermoen og Anne Live Vaagaasar.

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