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Should IT Make the Buying Decision for Operational Software?

Purchasing manufacturing software for the plant floor is no easy task. It isn’t something that can be done in 24 hours or with the click of a button. In fact, it’s a task that requires the input of many different teams and departments to find the right solution. While a team effort, the main buyer should be a manufacturing operations leader…. not the IT department. This may come across as controversial, but this blog is rooted in years of experience with manufacturers and the software that supports them. To get it right, a manufacturing executive is a right person for the job. 

The Rationale Behind the Statement

At one point, IT was the main decision-maker behind manufacturing technology, but that was during the days of on-premise software solutions. As we know, implementing, running, and maintaining on-premise software is no easy task, but with the rise of cloud software, the reliance the plant floor has on IT is decreasing. That does not diminish IT’s role in the process – cloud software simply alters it. 

Now, IT’s main role is to support the system, not run or maintain it. Why do I make such bold statements? Well, to put it plainly, IT won’t use these types of systems. Software like Mingo is built with the production floor in mind, designed to be used by the people running the machines day in and day out. 

Secondarily, there’s a big difference between IT and OT, and most folks in IT don’t have a lot of exposure or familiarity with the operational technology that’s needed on the floor. Without the institutional knowledge or the need, IT isn’t the right fit to make a final decision on which production monitoring software to buy.

Also, a system like Mingo will require minimal setup or maintenance from the IT Department. The only support needed will be to deploy tablets and TVs on the floor, but beyond the initial setup, day-to-day support isn’t needed. That type of support will actually be managed by the production team. 

Of course, this is a change from years prior when systems were on-premise and needed substantial support, but as the Internet of Things takes hold, cloud systems are the way of the future, and as a result, the buyer has changed.

If Not IT, Who is the Buyer?

To buy a system like Mingo, the ideal buyer is a member of the production team, but they can’t do it alone. It requires the support and buy-in from a larger team – plant managers, continuous improvement, engineering, maintenance, and even IT. 

Representatives from each of these groups need to have a seat at the table to make the buying of a production monitoring system worth it, and most importantly, successful.

So, how does the process work? Typically, the main sponsor finds the system and does an initial demo. Then, the representatives from the key departments are brought in for a demo of their own. When the solution has passed the tests of all members of the group, and it’s ready for the final green-light, the IT department is brought in for approval. At this point, that’s where IT asks all of the crucial questions they need to understand cybersecurity, infrastructure, and how it fits into the technological landscape of the company. 

This is IT’s time to take a step into the limelight. They are tasked with asking the essential questions. What is needed to support the infrastructure? Is the solution secure? Are there any security concerns? How will users login into the system? Are single sign-ons needed? How will it integrate with other software in the plant? What is its role in the larger technology landscape of the company? 

The answers to these questions will determine the next steps. Once the software passes IT’s round of scrutiny, it becomes a decision that everyone makes – yes or no. Then, if it is approved, the software is bought and moves to implementation.

What Roles is Everyone Responsible For?

In truth, IT’s role in the buying process is understanding infrastructure, integration, security, and how the software will play a role in the larger technology landscape of the company. Conversely, the operations team should be identifying the goals the system should solve – providing better visibility, replacing manual processes, finding and fixing inefficiencies, and so forth. The two teams work hand-in-hand to find the best solution for the company. 

It’s paramount that before anyone takes on the task of finding a production monitoring system, outlining and defining the roles of the buying process is completed. This will inevitably lead to greater success.

At the end of the day, these systems are designed for operational people. 100% of what is used every day is non-technical. It doesn’t make sense for the IT department to make the buying decision. Basically, it’d be the equivalent of IT buying the machines for the floor – they have input, but they shouldn’t drive the process because they aren’t the users of the machines. 

Long story short, the operations team should be making the buying decision for operational software. Do you agree? 

Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot is a lifelong entrepreneur, speaker, CEO, and founder of Mingo. With more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing technology, Bryan is known for his deep manufacturing industry insights. Throughout his career, he’s built products and started companies that leveraged technology to solve problems to make the lives of manufacturers easier. Follow Bryan on LinkedIn here.