Cool new technology? Not cheap? Big strategic advantage? Okay, I'll do it! Unfortunately, in most organizations, it's just not that easy. You have to contend with the bean-counting police before you can actually start having fun. That's why, in this chapter, I explain how to put together an analysis of this technology that any card-carrying CPA-, MBA-, CFO-type would be proud of.
A business case provides the overall business justification for the initial and on-going commitment of time, resources, and funding for an RFID implementation. One of the major lessons I've learned from large implementation efforts over the past 15 years is that the lack of a business case invariably leads to a lack of success. RFID is here, and failure is clearly not an option!
A critical success factor to your business case is your ability to execute with a rigorous and disciplined process. This chapter reveals a best-practice, nine-step process that will set you up for a successful RFID business case and clarify how to present it. For each of the nine steps, I define a purpose and tasks, followed by some experience-based how-to-get-it-done discussion.
Finding the First-Round Draft
Picks for Your RFID Team
Prior to the project kickoff, you need to establish a core team of players who are already interested and motivated by what RFID can offer your business.
Look for people who are not only excited by the project, but who are also capable of conceptualizing how RFID can transform your business and who have the credibility within your organization to effectively evangelize the message.
Successful team members need to be able to push themselves and others to look far beyond the standard supply-chain-efficiency type of RFID benefits. A successful team also needs a structure:
- Steering committee: This is a small group of three to five executives who are the final budgetary decision-makers. The steering committee's role is to provide guidance and oversight to the project.
- Project lead: The project lead is a core team member who leads the business case project. In addition to having the right leadership and experience level, choose the project leader from the part of the business that has the most to gain from RFID deployment. Usually the project lead is someone in operations who will benefit from the RFID system or someone from IT who owns the system.
- Core team members: Like a great football team, you need players who
are proficient in different disciplines--from kickers to linemen. For some companies, this step is akin to a puzzle wrapped up in an enigma, encircled by a cruel riddle. But it doesn't have to be that difficult just use some common sense. Choose your key draft picks from finance, security, sales/brand management, information systems, and operations/logistics.
You might have leaders who are already skilled in the topic or have some experience with the technology. You also need a technological guru who will be the primary leader for all things technological. This person's forte is the bits, bytes, chips, tags, hardware, and software--not the business processes. This person must understand the business, but doesn't need to be an expert. Understanding the business process is critical, however, so make sure that you have one or two members who really understand how things work on the manufacturing floor or in the warehouse.
Some companies are pressing for new structure here, such as a VP for RFID. Do you really need that? The likely answer is no, not unless RFID is going to be one of your core competencies. What you need is leadership, not a new office with new costs, without the organizational power and respect to make things happen.
- Extended team members: These individuals are normally brought in as required for specific steps or tasks over the course of the project. Typically, extended team members are key to the build-out of quantifiable benefits and costs. An example of an extended team member is someone from your customer service department who can provide the kind of detailed data collection and analysis that's necessary to establish credible benefits in the area of returns management.
Figure 1. A typical team structure with the core team shaded in dark gray
Many companies employ a consultant to lead them through the business case effort, typically because no one in the company has the proper RFID and business case process expertise and can be dedicated full-time to the RFID business case effort. If, like most companies, you bring in a consultant, select wisely. Make sure the consultant has experience doing RFID business cases in your industry. Be sure to review examples of his or her work as part of the selection process. If you look to some of the early adopters in the technology--the Wal-Mart top 100, for instance--many of the RFID leaders for those companies have spoken with the press. Call or e-mail those folks and ask whom they have worked with. Talk to some of the technology analysts like Yankee Group, Forrester, IDC, ABI, or Gartner. Also look at consultants who have been involved for a while with associations like AIM Global, CompTIA, or the CEA.
Make your RFID implementation a company effort, not a departmental affair. Cohesion is the key to a solid company-wide RFID program. If you fragment your RFID effort, your implementation will fail. From every point of view, an RFID implementation revolutionizes and touches almost every area within the company. Because RFID has received so much press coverage, everyone wants to know about it. If your company has an often-visited intranet or portal, setting up a section specifically on RFID is a great way to keep everyone from sales to operations up to date on the progress. If you have a project timeline and milestones set up on the intranet, it's also a great way to publicly and collectively audit progress of the project.