In today’s dynamic and data-driven economy, organizations need to identify and deploy the right collection of solutions that best serve their business vision and strategic roadmap. 

Businesses must determine which trusted legacy technology serves its purpose well, or when it’s instead time to replace with a newly emerged solution that gets the job done quicker and far more effectively.

With flexibility and agility in mind for maintaining a competitive edge, retail and wholesale businesses today are exploring emerging solutions trends – a headless microservices approach, for example, or cloud-based versus on-premise. Understanding these concepts and comprehending the cost-benefit analysis enough to make an educated decision is a challenge for many, which is why Columbus Consulting provides a variety of consulting and tactical services for making these transformational decisions across an organization. 



functional design

Functional Business Design

Business leaders need to come to terms with how their tools and technology enable or inhibit the desired, customer-centric business goals.

Through a series of interactive workshops, Columbus Consulting defines in detail how business systems need to function for each user to support the business requirements with efficiency.

During the Functional Business Design process, Columbus will build proof-of-concept examples to simulate the functional requirements of the solution. This hands-on prototype approach acts as a catalyst for highly relevant user feedback to bring the business process to life.

The Functional Business Design phase will:

  • Outline the capabilities required to achieve long-term goals;
  • Prepare  a gap analysis to determine needed solutions;
  • Present use cases;
  • Provide actionable blueprint for how to configure, build and integrate the solution or group of solutions.
  • Supply a complete design document that guides the implementation from start to finish.

A primary consideration of the Functional Business Design process is an intimacy with the end-user experience. In the end, stakeholders will receive a complete design document from Columbus Consulting to guide the implementation from start to finish. Consultants map out the specific business functions that customers interact with for a given business process, and from there, concentrate on improving and simplifying that experience to amplify its benefits.


system selection

System Selection

Identifying functional gaps and the solution types that help fill them is the precursor to the decision to select new systems.

In order to move forward with a selection process, companies need to evaluate the cost and potential business disruption associated with gaining the new capability, so that they’re able to balance against how it will support the business strategy and drive explicit incremental value.

Companies also need to understand the field of vendors in the marketplace offering solutions that align with their criteria. Columbus maintains tight relationships with many software and analytics providers to ensure we can provide first-hand knowledge of what works and how to optimize it for your environment.

Columbus utilizes an agile approach and parallel work streams to manage the full System Selection life cycle to:

  • Define business process and document requirements;
  • Communicate business and functional requirements to system vendors so they may prepare for and demonstrate their systems in context with your business process and/or with your data;
  • Understand gaps between the current and future process to gain awareness of data, organizational and training requirements.

With first-hand experience as retail executives themselves, our specialists understand the nuances of each business function and what it takes to deliver results. This expertise comes to life through the system selection process and key deliverables including:

  1. Request For Proposal (RFP);
  2. Use Cases for vendor demonstrations;
  3. Management of vendor demonstrations;
  4. Scoring matrix and report;
  5. Recommendation for selection;
  6. Negotiation;
  7. Implementation planning for selected system in collaboration with vendor and other third parties.

program management

Program & Project Management

Program Management safeguards business continuity while delivering new capabilities to the business. Similarly, Project Management ensures all tasks within a program are delivered on time, within scope, and on budget.

Coordinating these complex deployments requires significant focus and resources from the deploying company, which is why Columbus steps in to offer an independent and highly experienced team of Program and Project Management specialists to completely manage the implementation process, starting from day one.

Beginning with a detailed project charter and project plan, the Columbus team collaborates with client stakeholders, detailing the planning program and determining integration protocols with other initiatives and normal business activities.

Columbus takes charge of program execution in alignment with the plan schedule, and in doing so will:

  • Synchronize deliverables;
  • Align and consolidate communication;
  • Minimize unnecessary downtime through a cutover plan;
  • Report on progress and monitor deliverables, spend, and overall project health;
  • Manage budget and time constraints for the eventual delivery of the program.
  • Conduct meetings to support all levels of communication across the organization including daily stand-ups, status meetings and steering committee meetings

Columbus conducts a number of meetings throughout the project, depending on a particular phase and the client’s methodology. Typically, this is communicated through:

  • Daily stand-up meetings for working team members to ensure alignment on priorities;
  • Weekly status-update meetings;
  • Monthly steering committee meetings;
  • As-needed report-out or walk-up meetings in support of urgent key decisions.

system architecture

System Architecture

No building or structure appears in a cityscape without an architect first taking the time to carefully and thoughtfully illustrate the concept. It starts with an idea or a sketch, and then specialized teams work to determine the foundational and structural elements needed to bring that design to life.

The same can be said of an IT system and its architecture – to go from ideation to implementation, someone with the architectural know-how must lay the groundwork for acquiring a desired solution or capability, and then determine how best to construct it for both stability and longevity.

Organizations need a detailed eye for the technology needed in today’s competitive landscape, and as such, Columbus teams help clients to:

  • Evaluate architectural requirements for recommended solutions;
  • Drive business transformation through the appropriate technology and systems;
  • Enable best-of-breed cloud capabilities through modern solutions.

development

Development, Configuration & Integration

Development and Configuration 

The Functional Business Design comes to life through the Development and Configuration of the solution, leading to what will become the everyday user experience.

During the “build” phase, Columbus regularly holds reviews with internal teams to determine how closely the functionality and user interface aligns with expectations, and supports the functional business design.

In parallel to the end-user solution being configured, the back-end configuration is developed following technical specifications. Columbus does this by following either a sequential “waterfall” development process or via agile methodology to:

  • Develop custom solutions;
  • Configure third-party systems;
  • Include workflows, views, business rules, and reporting in the implemented solution, based on the business design and requirement.

System Integration

System Integration is focused on systems and data. This service ensures that no new system is stood up without an attentive and deliberate eye assessing what information is needed for the input and output to support critical business decisions and processes.

As part of the overall technical design, experts from Columbus Consulting map out the data required to be fed into the system, architecting and implementing data as the valuable corporate asset it is. From there, Columbus consultants define data and interface requirements, and recommend integration tools and methodologies.

The System Integration design will :

  • Validate data;
  • Cleanse data;
  • Provide strategic formatting and data design;
  • Centralize data through data hubs as well as other methods;
  • Interpret data, strategically;
  • Offer expertise in a vast array of legacy system and packaged software interfaces.

Testing & Quality Assurance

The deployment phases of Testing and Quality Assurance (QA) require as much consideration as the business process and system implementation planning phases. Columbus works with business leaders to get these critical activities right.

The test strategy will lay out the stages and stage gates across the full testing program – test preparation, test plan, waves of testing. Each test phase consists of a test plan, test scripts, and a test log. Also called out in the test strategy are details of unit testing, system integration testing, performance testing, data design, end-to-end or “day-in-the-life” testing, user-acceptance testing, and a smoke test as part of the go-live.

In order to facilitate testing, Columbus QA experts establish a stable ‘Quality Assurance’ environment to allow for a controlled testing environment, while still allowing the development team to work in separate and more dynamic development regions.

Testing & Quality Assurance from Columbus will:

  • Define test strategy;
  • Build and execute test plans, scripts and use cases;
  • Manage and monitor regression testing, end-to-end system integration testing (SIT), and user acceptance testing (UAT).

training and support

Training & Support

Training

Training requires a well-curated plan and the effective execution of the end-user training sessions. Following best practices, Columbus Consulting experts can effectively train the trainer or perform end-user training to:

  • Educate in support of process transformation and adoption;
  • Aid the development of training material that is both functional and technical.

The materials to lead training must be developed to be concise, effective, and in alignment with the full business process. As well, training materials should encompass the system, reports and other operational spreadsheets or processes used by the organization.

The training environment is important, too, and the recommended setting for training to take course in should allow for ‘sandboxing’ and mock go-live validation. Courses used for training should include tangible, real-world examples, as well as sample data and scenarios to allow for new training sessions and continual re-trainings as needed.

Training support from Columbus will:

  • Define the training approach, including communication, delivery and the training calendar;
  • Develop training curriculum and the course outline;
  • Create materials for training, such as job aids, user guides, and e-learning modules;
  • Build training facilitator guides;
  • Support training sessions and user workshops.

Support

The Support phase of the project ensures that a client has first acquired the skills, and secondly, put processes in place to take full ownership of the solution.

This phase begins with the assurance of appropriate knowledge transfer from Columbus Consulting to the business and IT teams who’ll step in, with Columbus offering shadow support as the client runs the new system.

The Support phase concludes the project with formal highlight review and a project close-out report. During Support phases, Columbus Consulting will:

  • Coach and reinforce training to end users;
  • Optimize the overall system’s success through go-live hyper care;
  • Impart ongoing functional and technical support;
  • Provide continual improvement support.

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