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.

Lessons (learned)

ERP, Project Management

This blog was written by Michael Burns

Although I have provided consulting services for a long time and should know how to prevent problems, there is always a risk that they will occur. In this article/blog, I am going to share with you a problem I recently encountered.

A client needed a new ERP system and I helped them through the process. The client had a number of unique requirements and I did my best to be precise about them in the RFP. The vendor claimed that could handle the requirements without any customization. I basically told them I did not believe them and they were very upset. However they were able to demonstrate that they could handle the requirements without customization based on the RFP, discussions with the client and sample documents. The vendor was engaged to perform a needs analysis to firm up the costs and only then found that an expensive customization was required after all. Not only that, the customization could cost more when there were vendor upgrades.

The vendor claimed that one of the requirements was not clear to them. The requirements in question looked something like this:

  1. Amount = rate * quantity with rounding which varies by product group
  2. Calculated based on units and not the case

The vendor claimed that they did not realize that the 2nd requirement referred to the 1st requirement until they conducted their needs analysis. You can imagine how I felt about this. However, the client did have a good relationship with the vendor and the client did not want to engage in a fight with the vendor over this. We met with the vendor and I told them they had made a mistake, to which they accused me of throwing them under the bus. I told them that we all make mistakes and that the client was willing to move forward despite the mistake.

So what are the lessons learned? First, you can’t be too specific in defining requirements. Second, when setting up demonstrations, you need to have multiple scenarios for tricky calculations that can differ based on the inputs. At the same time, you can’t expect the vendor to demonstrate every possible scenario during the sales cycle. So there will always be a risk that there will be surprises later in the process as the vendor learns more about the business. The best you can hope for is to be working with a vendor that takes responsibility for their mistakes and does their best to rectify the problem. I have said to my kids many times that a person’s character is revealed when there is adversity and not when things are going well. So the 3rd lesson is not to just evaluate the system – it’s equally important to evaluate the vendor. When you speak to a reference, ask them how the vendor handled the inevitable problems.

Another lesson is to not to let your emotions get the better of you. I must admit that I was not happy when the vendor claimed that I had thrown them under the bus. But I bit my tongue mostly because the client wanted to have a good relationship with the vendor. However I am not sure if my emotions were written all over my face or were expressed in my body language or the way I spoke, which leads me to my last and 4th lesson for this article.

I have been told by a very wise man that what is heard is often very different than what was said. This happens to all of us when we are in a discussion/argument with someone and they get upset with us even though we think we did nothing wrong or said anything that was bad. But they hear something else based on how we said it. I am not sure if I will ever master the 4th lesson, but at least I am aware of unintended consequences.

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Deltek Interview

ERP

This blog was written by Michael Burns

On October 4, 2012 I interviewed Patrick Smith, Vice President, Corporate Marketing and Communications to find out what was happening at Deltek partly because Deltek will be acquired by a private equity investment firm, Thoma Bravo, LLC, in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $1.1 billion. I wanted to know the reason for the acquisition and the impact on the management team and product roadmap. I was told that the company basically got a good offer and that it will be business as usual with a new owner. Prior to the acquisition, Deltek made significant investments in complementary products such as Maconomy, which has led to new business in North America for Maconomy and new business opportunities for Deltek Vision in Europe. Deltek continues to invest in its products and have announced a cloud version of their software. They have also new products in Beta including their Vision Project Navigator dashboard that runs on mobile devices. Patrick said that project managers often are not fond of Deltek software which more appeals to accounting types. Patrick thinks that project managers will be on board with Project Navigator. Deltek has also released a social networking system called Kona (http://www.kona.com/) which can be used by anyone for free for project team communication and collaboration. It sounds like Thoma Bravo made a good investment.

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The Simplicity and Agility of Zero-Upgrades in Cloud ERP

Cloud Computing, ERP

May 16, 2012 from The Enterprise System Spectator – “I am coming to the conclusion that a primary benefit of cloud ERP is the reduction or complete elimination of version upgrades. This observation was reinforced again this week in my one day attendance at the Plex Systems user conference in Indianapolis. Plex is a great example of what a cloud ERP vendor can accomplish by taking what I call a “zero upgrades” product strategy…”

180 View – Another great article by Frank Scavo.

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SAP CEO Tackles Tough Cloud Questions

Cloud Computing, ERP

October 12, 2012 from Information Week – “SAP, like its rival Oracle, is in the middle of a most interesting transformation. At the risk of implying a reptilian constitution, SAP is molting. It is still a software company, but it is trying also to provide a software suite in the cloud, for companies of all sizes…”

180 View – It’s clear that cloud computing appeals to small and mid-sized companies that would rather not worry about IT infrastructure but it’s not so clear that cloud computing will have the same appeal to the larger companies. SAP already has an ERP cloud solution in Business ByDesign, which has had limited success with 1,100 customers. But the better known SAP ERP and All-In-One (same as SAP ERP but preconfigured for a specific industry) is such a heavy application that may not be easily supportable in the clouds.

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Market-Proof Your KPIs

Business Process Analysis

October 1, 2012 from BusinessFinance  – “…Organizations begin with the best of intentions by creating new performance metrics to measure and assess impact. However, unintended complications almost always arise: data collection consumes the reporting process, leaving little time for forward-looking analysis; reports are created to meet the needs of the moment and persist despite few internal consumers; KPIs become buried among the host of “key” performance indicators and bevy of reports; and personnel at all levels struggle to interpret how performance measures relate to their business functions and, more important, to the company’s bottom line. …”

180 View – The article makes good recommendations for improving KPI’s. For example they suggest “KPIs should focus on the core of the business and overall business strategy, as well as what propels the value of the business long term.”  We start all our projects asking our clients what are their Critical Success Factors and what metrics (KPI’s) are used to measure them.

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New Face Of IT: Line Of Business Execs

Cloud Computing, IT Strategy

October 1, 2012 from InformationWeek – “…a major new dynamic in IT: the ever-increasing group of line-of-business managers willing to take on key corporate technology initiatives themselves, and doing so well enough to embolden their bosses to let others do the same. “Having tech resources involved wasn’t that necessary,”…”Tech has evolved so much that it’s possible for non-hardcore tech people to deploy something effectively, especially with things in the cloud…”

180 View – The article is about non-IT people bypassing IT to implement systems in the clouds. It is liberating but at the same time can lead to a proliferation of systems that are not integrated or have some technical problems. We think it’s a mistake to bypass IT who will help ensure that the cloud does not turn into a hurricane.

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