News & Views

News & Views is published monthly by 180 Systems. Our objective is to provide recent articles to our readers on business technology topics. In some cases, our blog contains a title with a hyperlink to a source article, a quote from the article and our comments. In other cases, we have provided a blog without a hyperlink for original content by 180 Systems. We encourage you to post your own comments. You can also access our blog by topic.

System selection, done right — Part I

ERP, Software Selection

January 2012 from CAmagazine and written by Michael Burns – “Anyone who has been involved in selecting software knows the road is strewn with pitfalls — many of which we covered in “The top 10 software selection mistakes” (www.camagazine.com/selectionmistakes). But how do you avoid those mistakes altogether? In the next few columns, we hope to shed some light on the subject…”

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9 Magic Metrics Your Organization Needs to Adopt

Business Intelligence

June 2, 2011 from BusinessFinance – “It’s rare a singular metric like turnover or a customer survey score is by itself a good measure of an organization’s performance. Most of the more meaningful measures on dashboards of executives today are indices, made up of three to five submeasures. I review the nine most useful and creative performance measures I have seen in government and business organizations over the last few years…”

180 View – The article does contain a few good ideas such as a Distraction index which summarizes employee time in 3 categories – Job (Tasks that are directly part of doing one’s job), Administration and Programs (Projects).

I teach a graduate course which includes performance metrics. The theory is that metrics should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely. Without being specific, the numbers are ambiguous and there can be many ways to interpret the results. You should not choose metrics that can’t be measured accurately or take a huge effort to obtain. Actionable means that the metric is easily understood and that it ties back to a specific team that is being measured. Relevant metrics are linked to strategy. Companies that need to wait a month or more for their metrics are in deep trouble. Real-time should be the goal, but accuracy objectives will cause delays.

Financial metrics are inherently lagging indicators, which tell you about historical results – sales, gross profit … The most important metrics are leading indicators, which foreshadow things that could happen. For example rising error rates in shipping or longer time to ship often precede declining customer sales.

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Delivering Business Insight today: The Power of Operational BI

Business Intelligence

January 2011 from Aberdeen Group – “Today’s business decision maker faces a conundrum that challenges even the most analytical minds. In one hand, more data is available to support business intelligence (BI) tools and techniques than ever before… On the other hand, that growth in data volume and complexity can become the enemy of expedience…

The research shows that by delivering on-time business insight, these top performers are able to drive substantial performance improvement in key operational metrics…”

180 View – The article does make a number of good points. In our software selection projects, BI is always included as a requirement. The vendors often show multiple BI tools providing different and overlapping views of information. The pendulum has swung from not enough BI to too much. The article also pushes the notion that real-time or close to real-time information is the way to go.

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10 biggest ERP software failures of 2011

ERP

December 20, 2011 from Computerworld – “With the year drawing to a close, one thing seems abundantly clear: There are still an awful lot of ERP and other software projects running off the rails out there.

Software project failures are no fun for anyone involved. They lead to piles of wasted money and effort, heaps of accusations and recriminations, and even to lawsuits. Here’s a look at some of the highest-profile problem projects to surface this year…”

180 View – One of the 10 biggest failures is “the attempt to provide electronic health records for all of the country’s citizens.” This is not an ERP system. Another of the 10 was for a company with 20 employees. It seems to me that the author had trouble finding big ERP failures in 2011.

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2011 Review of Not-for-Profit Accounting Systems

ERP, Software Selection

October 10, 2011 from CPA Practice Advisor – “As with most organizations, nonprofits vary in size and scope, and their software needs vary, as well. As an accounting professional, you know that the software needs of the local animal shelter will vary widely than the needs of the United Way.

While this may be a drastic comparison, it really highlights the wide range of organizations served by nonprofit software vendors. Entry-level, off-the-shelf systems are intended for different types of nonprofits than the top-line, robust solutions. This is not a one-size-fits-all market… The review includes the following systems with their ratings:

  • AccuFund – AccuFund Accounting Suite for Non-Profits (Overall: 4.75 Stars)
  • Blackbaud – The Financial Edge (Overall: 5 Stars)
  • Blackbaud – Fundware (Overall: 4.5 Stars)
  • Cougar Mountain Software – Denali Fund+ Accounting (Overall: 4.75 Stars)
  • CYMA Systems, Inc. – CYMA Not-for-Profit Fund Accounting (Overall: 4.75 Stars)
  • eTEK International Inc. – eTEK Fundamentals (Overall: 4.5 Stars)
  • Fund E-Z Development Corp. – Fund E-Z Accounting (Overall: 4.5 Stars)
  • Intuit Inc. – QuickBooks Premier Nonprofit Edition (Overall: 4.5 Stars)
  • Sage North America – Sage Fund Accounting (Overall: 5 Stars)
  • Sage Peachtree Premium Accounting for Nonprofits 2012 (Overall: 5 Stars)
  • Serenic Software – Serenic Navigator (Overall: 5 Stars)”

180 View – Although all the systems have a high rating and the rating seems somewhat arbitrary, the article should benefit a not-for-profit organization seeking a new system. However there are many more systems available. For example, check out Unit4 and Tyler Technologies, both of which are good high-end solutions.  You will also find that many of the well known ERP systems have either built not-for-profit functionality or have partners that have extended their system with not-for-profit functionality using the same tools and database as the core product.

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It’s the Process, Not the People

Business Process Analysis

December 14, 2011 from Industry Week – “…The very successful companies, the leaders in their industries, generally have senior executives and management teams that understand it’s not people screwing things up, it’s the processes that are not up to the challenge of today’s business complexity, and it’s the processes that need to be improved. This is where they focus their continuous-improvement efforts, and they encourage the organization to identify the anomalies so they can be addressed… As a result, they have not enabled the organization to continuously improve its processes…”

180 View – Our methodology for our business process improvement and software selection projects include the notion that every problem is an opportunity and employees are encouraged to expose any problems. The only time that employees may be reluctant to expose problems is when they think that a more efficient process/system might lead to their position no longer being required.

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Why Projects Fail: A Root Cause

Project Management

December 2011 from Project Times – “…In a recent webinar, Joseph Grenny hypothesized that the root cause underlying these and other problems in projects is failure to effectively hold crucial conversations.  It is the Abilene Paradox in action, where silence or avoiding difficult confrontations robs the project team and its organization of the ability to either avoid the causes of failures or to catch the causes early in their life to turn the project around or end it when that is appropriate…”

180 View – Interesting perspective but I don’t think it’s possible to have a root cause for project failures. There are as many causes to failure as there are different kinds of people. However encouraging the project team to express their concerns is a very good idea. More than that, I would encourage project managers to seek out the naysayers and ask them for their opinion about the risks, probability, impact and most importantly what should be done about the risks.

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Change For A Dollar

Personal

180 View – There are many comments about this video. One of them was “This is a beautiful video. It says so much about how the smallest things we do can make a huge difference in someone’s life. Little acts of kindness can have far-reaching effects that we may never see, so next time you think you aren’t helping to change the world, just watch this video and maybe you will think differently.”

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