Moving to a cloud-based manufacturing platform: What to Expect

Beth Fanning Taylor
By Beth Fanning Taylor | Business Analyst and Project Manager, Mountain Point
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When managing a digital transformation project, think beyond the technology

Cloud ERP, marketing automation systems, customer service platforms, and IoT integrations are crucial tools in the Industry 4.0 toolbox. But these efforts go beyond a simple technology upgrade.



Cloud migration and digital transformation projects are top priorities for manufacturers looking to modernize their operations. Cloud ERP, marketing automation systems, customer service platforms, and IoT integrations are crucial tools in the Industry 4.0 toolbox.

But these efforts go beyond a simple technology upgrade. In this episode of our Q&A Friday series, we outline what manufacturing companies should expect when moving to the cloud and provide tips for successfully implementing a digital transformation initiative.

See also: Managing digital transformation in manufacturing: an agile or a waterfall approach?

Have a question you’d like answered?

Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll talk through it on a future episode!


What's the ROI? Just six months after implementing their digital transformation efforts, luxury textile manufacturer Matouk saw a 233% return on their investments. 

Read the Matouk ROI report


Transcript: What to Expect when Moving to the Manufacturing Cloud

Jessica Vodden: Hi, and thanks for joining us for another Q&A Friday, a regular series where we chat about issues facing manufacturing companies in the new world of Industry 4.0. I'm Jessica Vodden, a team member here at Mountain Point, and I'm joined by Beth Fanning Taylor, a digital project manager. Happy Friday, Beth.

Beth Fanning: Happy Friday, Jess.

Jessica Vodden: Beth, we're really excited to have you on the show because you worked as a digital project manager and business analyst for numerous organizations, both through your work at Mountain Point and in other roles. Interestingly, I mean, correct me if I'm wrong, but you've only been doing this less than year, right, but you've already got huge number of projects under your belt. Is that fair to say?

Beth Fanning: Yeah. That is fair to say. I think I just passed my year mark from when I started with my first client in this particular role. So it's been a fast and amazing year.

Jessica Vodden: Wonderful. Well, that's one of the reasons that we wanted to have you on because you have a lot of sort of lessons learned from your first year of working with clients and guiding them through the digital transformation journey, and so we wanted to hear what some of those are. What I'd like to talk about today is what you've learned in terms of what it really takes to implement a successful digital transformation project. Sound good?

Beth Fanning: Yeah, sounds good.

Jessica Vodden: Okay. First of all, let's talk about expectations because I think that's where things kind of start to go off the rails almost from the get-go, is I think a lot of people undertaking these efforts are caught off guard by the level of investment that's required, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of time and attention. So what are your thoughts on that?

Beth Fanning: Yes, that is definitely the thing that I think most people are caught off guard by, and it's not just investment of time from senior leadership within your company. You really need to also invest some time from really lots of different key roles within your organization. So we don't need to just talk to people in sales when we're doing a sales force implementing, for example. We also need to talk to people in accounting or marketing, other roles. So that is definitely what takes most of our customers off guard is that amount of time and energy needed not truly drive this sort of change within the organizations because it's really not just about technological changes. It's also imperative to create that new culture within the new organization that's open to ongoing change because obviously technology changes constantly. We also need to be able to drive adoption while ensuring that all the new processes that we're creating are customer-centric. Another thing that I've often found is that many companies try to silo that implementation process. The Executive User wants to handle the entire process on their own without enough input from the end users or they want to hand off the project to their IT or sales teams, but the most successful implementations have input from every level and division within a company with everyone focused on a common goal.

Jessica Vodden: Right. Right, because, I mean, there's a reason we call it the fourth industrial revolution. This isn't just a small tweak or tinkering. These are major overhauls, and a lot of them require a huge shift in thinking and a big cultural shift in the organization. One of the things that I wanted to mention. You mentioned making sure that everything is customer-centric, and I think that alone is a big change. That's actually what we consider to be the major driver of the fourth industrial revolution, is this whole Amazon effect of customers being at the very center of every process, having these personalized responses, this immediate response. And although manufacturing companies have always strived to satisfy the customer, in past decades, a lot of times they've been at least one step removed. So there's usually been a distributor or at least a outside sales team kind of in between the process, and a lot of those walls are being burned down. So that's a big change too, I think.

Beth Fanning: Definitely, and just the immediacy with which most consumers and customers expect to receive responses and meaningful engagement from the companies that they do business with is totally different now than it was even five or 10 years ago. The companies that are doing a good job of that are really setting themselves apart and setting themselves up for success. That's a big part of the work that we do at Mountain Point, is really helping manufacturers see from the customers' perspective exactly what they need to implement to create those meaningful engagement.



What's the ROI? Just six months after implementing their digital transformation efforts, luxury textile manufacturer Matouk saw a 233% return on their investments. 

Read the Matouk ROI report


Jessica Vodden: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Let's talk a little bit more about some of the steps that you need to take in order to begin that cultural change or to start building buy-in. How do you approach that process?

Beth Fanning: Sure. We use the Agile development method with all of our projects so that the solution can be adapted based on discoveries during the development process, so no project is truly linear. But the way that we start is always with creating a vision, setting goals for the overall project and identifying what success is going to look like for the stakeholders.

Once we've done that, then we begin the defined design process. Then during the initial discovery sessions, I'll meet with all the stakeholders to gather their requirements and start writing what we call user stories. We use those so that we can map out exactly what we want to accomplish for all of the stakeholders during the project.

Once I've met with all the relevant teams, I'll take all of the feedback and identify areas of opportunity to streamline processes or improve customer experiences. A huge part of gathering that feedback and taking part in those meetings is so that everyone knows that their voice is being heard during the initial phases of the project and that we're actually addressing concerns from all of the relevant teams and really taking everyone's feedback into account when we start building the solution.

Jessica Vodden: Okay. And so that's, again, that cultural shift, making sure that everybody is part of the conversation, on board with where you want to go because if you don't have that at the start, it's going to be hard to get it later on as well, I would imagine.

Beth Fanning: Exactly. Exactly. A lot of teams that I've worked with in the past have gone through a couple of attempts at digital transformation projects. So there's sometimes not a lot of trust in that process.

Creating that trust from the get-go with those teams so that they know that I'm actually listening and that their feedback actually matters is really important, and then making sure that the solution responds to their concerns as well so that they're actually going to use it, because if you're not doing that you're not going to be able to get the buy-in once you roll the solution out to the teams.

Jessica Vodden: Okay. Yeah. Let's get into the specifics. If you're a client and you've hired Mountain Point to guide you through a process, you've talked about sort of how to begin the problem-solving piece. What happens from there? What can they expect long-term throughout this project?

Beth Fanning: Sure. Once we've gathered all that initial information, I'll use it to create a project plan, and we'll set a project timeline with milestones. We'll also create a regular meeting cadence with the core project team. Typically, those are weekly, but sometimes they're more often, and we'll hold additional Q&A meetings to demo functionality as we build it and gather feedback.

Once we've agreed on the user stories and requirements and I've developed that project plan, we'll start developing the solutions, and testing will begin immediately on each piece of development as we finish it. So, as users test, we're still building, following pieces of the solution and ongoing changes or/and enhancements are made.

Once we've gone through that process where all the user stories identified during the defined design sessions and those that we've uncovered during development, we'll move onto User Acceptance Testing. During that phase, we'll provide the teams with [inaudible] to test the solution and gather feedback. After final changes, we'll deploy it. During this final phases of UAT, we're also developing the training plan for rolling everything out to the end users.

It's so important to have a solid training plan and ongoing communication about the solutions and what's working and gather feedback about what isn't working. Being able to address issues or gaps quickly is important, so that trust is never lost in the solution. Then many companies that we work with choose to engage us beyond the deployment to further assist in driving user adoption and ongoing feature enhancements.

Jessica Vodden: Awesome. What advice would you give somebody who's looking to lead this sort of change or lead this sort of project at their company? So you always have a counterpart working on the client, right? What advice would you give somebody who's new to this?

Beth Fanning: To start the process with an open mind and work with a consultant that has experience within your industry are probably the two most important things that someone can do. These technologies are changing rapidly, and working with a partner that is well-versed in the many ways these flexible frameworks can be leveraged to best support your business, both today and how to keep that solution scalable for your changing business needs is so important. Also, be prepared to bring every department into the process, make sure that everyone understands why this transformation is so important for the future of your business.

Jessica Vodden: Awesome. Well, Beth, thanks so much. Thanks for your insight. I think you've done a great job of outlining what people can expect who are starting these sorts of organizational change efforts at their companies, and so thanks for chatting with me today.

Beth Fanning: Thanks for having me.

Jessica Vodden: For those of you listening, if you have a question you'd like us to answer or a topic you want us to tackle, let us know. We can be reached on our social media channel. You can email us. You can call us. We always love your feedback, also really eager to hear what advice you might share for people who are going through this for the first time or even multiple times. If you've been through it before and have some insight, we'd love to hear it. Thanks, everyone, and happy Friday.


Topics: Digital Transformation

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