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Archive for the ‘Business Transformation’ Category

Business Intelligence Requirements Gathering: Ask the Right Questions!

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We have discussed these things before: business intelligence requirements gathering, maintenance management, and even business intelligence for maintenance management. The following example dialog is intended as an easy way to understand how asking the right questions can lead to getting the right answers for your business when it comes to business intelligence requirements gathering. This is a key stage, and that’s where the right information needs to be collected.

For the purpose of this mock discussion, let’s assume the following:

MM Lead:  Leader in the maintenance area who has a requirement to give to the BI team

BI Lead:  Business intelligence leader trying to understand requirements

Example Conversation

MM Lead:  I need a report that tells me how many service requests have not been turned into work orders. That’s all I need, just a report.

BI Lead:  Ok, help me understand a little bit more.  What about this report is important to your business?

MM Lead:  It is an indicator of whether service requests are left open and work possibly being missed.

BI Lead:  Is part of the reason you are asking for this report because you are finding a high number of service requests left open?

MM Lead:  Not a high number, but occasionally I get calls asking about a service request that was entered but no work has started. It takes a lot of my time to investigate.

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When KPI Really Means “Keep Profits Increasing” (Hint: It Always Does)

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How’d you like that headline?

Yes, you and I both know KPI is an acronym for Key Performance Indicator but the goal for most organizations is to utilize these valuable metrics to keep profits increasing.  KPIs are the lifeblood for any company; they provide the pulse of the business.  All of the various metrics that people analyze provide valuable information to guide decision making and help chart a company’s path toward realizing their full growth and profitability potential.

They exist for no other reason.

This post by Rob Petersen, called 12 Experts Define Key Performance Indicators, provides a simple overview and four-minute video about KPIs. Petersen states that one of the best definitions he has heard is “KPI’s are an actionable scorecard that keeps your strategy on track. They enable you to manage, control and achieve desired business result.”

This article supports the notion that you do not need a lot of metrics. You need to select them carefully, report and take action.

Steps to consider:

  • Desired Business Result: Begin with a clear understanding of the desired result and be specific – how will you achieve your result? If you are clear about where you are going you can construct KPIs that get you there.
  • Actionable Scorecard: Choose a handful of measurements, generally no more than six or so that you believe are the most important to the achievement of your goal.
  • Keep Your Strategy on Track: You have raw numbers – the data. Use this data to measure your progress against the achievement of your desired result. And choose a comparison period: are you comparing this against last year, last month, last quarter?
  • Dashboards: This data provides graphical representations for your dashboard.

Now is always the perfect time to review your organization’s existing KPIs to determine if they are still relevant and it is the perfect time to create new KPIs if your company has not done so in the past.

The Seven Deadly Sins of Business Process Management

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Chris Taylor over at Process Excellent Network has a piece about the damp world of  Business Process Management (BPM) gaffes that struck me as interesting. In it, Taylor riffs on his seven deadly sins of BPM, which are:

  1. Taking the word management in vain
  2. Working in process silos
  3. Reinventing the wheel
  4. Making it hard to find
  5. Failing to keep it up to date
  6. Making it hard to understand
  7. Failing to drive adoption

As a person who’s been heavily involved in BPM most of my career, I have some thoughts on each of these. Here goes.

Taking the word management in vain

Taylor discusses how BPM has come to mean “automation” for many vendors — but it does not matter how equipped you are to streamline your processes, BPM still comes down to “humans not machines.”  I totally agree with this assessment. You can have the best and newest HR and financial systems but the end result is still going to fall within manual business processes. Something as simple as having to follow-up on a timesheet or expense report that was either late or posted incorrectly — unless your systems have a mind of their own and can talk to you and others —  is likely to fall within “human hands.”

Working in process silos

In today’s world, because of increased risk, process improvements are in fact fixed within each department.  I agree with this assessment in that the overall process is often duplicated across departments, and thus a waste of time. The example given about ERP once it goes live is quite interesting — that process knowledge discovered by specialist integrators is lost once the project goes live.  Is this really the case for ERP-centric processes? Does everything really sit in a forgotten network folder until it is time to upgrade? I am in agreement that so much time really could be saved if all projects started off with an updated single source of process truth. On the flip side, having individual departments is something companies tend to like for security purposes.  For example, ideally you wouldn’t want your Security Administrator as part of the hiring process anymore than you would want Human Resources to necessarily be part of the Accounting Department.  So I guess this would depend on how much you want your employees from all levels and departments to know? How segregated do you need your organization to be? These are all valid considerations.

Re-inventing the wheel

To me, this is pretty self explanatory. Basically this ‘sin’ is stating that you don’t need to re-invent the wheel to put BPM into motion. I agree every company already has some type of process in place that they can improve/expand on.  (If you don’t you have more important things to worry about.) Engineering new processes from the ground up to get your BPM ‘done right’ is unnecessary.

Making it hard to find

Many employees’ play ‘compound’ roles in their organization. When someone needs something urgently they are not going to accept the answer of “I am sorry but she/he is not available ’till Thursday, so I will have them call you back.” My experience has taught me that you should always have job sharing and training involved for multiple people to be able to serve as a backup.  Things always come up, and often unannounced. I believe every employer would love for the business to continue to run as smoothly as possible instead of everyone running around in a panic because the head accountant isn’t available. This coincides with setting up your software systems to provide easy access with respect to to tasks and roles that more than one employee can easily access. Without this, you can all too easily cause organizational confusion.

Failing to keep it up to date

Agreed! What good is documentation that you don’t update when your systems and processes grow? If there is no one person assigned to this task to ensure that documentation gets updated once a process either changes or is put into place, when it comes time for one of those unannounced emergencies to come into play no one person can jump in and run the operations smoothly. Updating process documentation is huge.

Making it hard to understand

Weasel words have no home here. If  your BPM stuff is cryptic, don’t expect it to be effective.

Failing to drive adoption

You can’t drive adoption of a new way of doing a business process unless you do make note of Taylor’s rules for this:

  • Provide a single source of truth instead of multiple process silos
  • Use frameworks to accelerate discovery and adoption
  • Make it easy for every employee to find what they need
  • Keep it all up to date
  • Make it easy to understand

People either dramatically under-or over-think BPM. It doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes, following some basic rules, thinking ahead a little bit, and making sure the process knowledge you put in place can grow as your systems expand is all it takes.

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Poor Asset Maintenance Represents Real Risk

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Good article from Mike Schmidt over at Manufacturing Business Technology about how a lack of proactive, intelligent asset management is a true risk to the organization:

If you’re not managing assets properly, you don’t know what the cost of those assets are and (what the cost is) to repair those assets,” he says. “That creates a big risk to an organization.

That’s really the crux of it. Said another way, if your organization is not managing its assets properly and systematically, you are throwing money away!  In my daily conversations, I often find myself surprised at how many companies do not have an asset management system. Of those that do, I’m finding that many don’t use the solution to its fullest extent — if at all.

My daily conversations jibe with what Schmidt found:

According to the survey, only 37% of respondents currently have EAM/CMMS solutions in place. In addition, 49% do not use applications to manage documents about their assets.

Organizations need to understand that’s some powerful shelfware.

Schmidt’s is targeted at the manufacturing sector, but is directly applicable to all asset-intensive industries, such as higher education, utilities and power generation, energy and healthcare.

Another key quip about whether or not executives realize the true risk poor asset management represents:

And it’s that risk that is only going to lead to more pressure in the coming years, says Zirnhelt.

“The pressure’s been there, but my impression is that executives, in an average sense, don’t appreciate it,” he continues. “It has just taken them a long time to appreciate the severity of it.”

Bottom line: if your organization is not managing its assets effectively and efficiently, there is no better time to start than now. If you’re an Oracle/PeopleSoft shop, check out our whitepaper about PeopleSoft Maintenance Management: An Introduction and Overview of Benefits for a good jumping-off point.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Piloting the Power of Business Intelligence

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In several of our previous blogs we have discussed the proper way to build a business intelligence enterprise solution.  Many of you have responded in agreement with much of the content and the steps required to truly unlock the potential of BI.  However, there are a number of readers who have reached out and asked for ways to promote BI within an organization that does not have a deep understanding or appreciation of what business intelligence can do. In other words, those that still view BI as mere reports.

Promoting BI certainly is a challenge if the organization has a lack of appreciation for what business intelligence truly represents.  However, there are still proven methods to promote BI within the organization.  The key way to do this is to find one area of the business that has acute pain, secure an executive sponsor who needs that pain resolved, and pilot the power of business intelligence.  Done correctly, the executive and business unit will become BI evangelists, spreading the word internally and driving the desire for business intelligence organization-wide.

The key to this approach is to deliver results in a very quick fashion.  Contrary to what has been preached previously on the holistic approach to BI, this will require an iterative development process, so you still need to be careful to treat this as a pilot and make sure the pilot does not become the foundation of the organizational BI structure and unknowingly paint yourself into corners that will later result in much rework.

In summary the steps to this approach include:

  • Find pain in the organization.
  • Secure an executive sponsor that requires a solution to that pain.
  • Take an iterative approach to development.  The first delivery may not be perfect, but show speed of response. (Also don’t worry about getting every BI requirement correct the first time.  Let the process develop the requirements. )
  • Demo the solution — perhaps start with a simple dashboard (see our earlier blog on how to build a proper BI dashboard) as this will help displace the myth of BI as a simple report.
  • Tweak the solution based upon feedback.
  • Once tweaked, let the business begin to utilize the BI solution, appreciate it and evangelize. Once it realizes BI truly helps enable more mature decision-making, that’s when buy-in occurs.

Hopefully, done well, there will be an influx of requests for increased business intelligence analytics across the organization.  Once that need is established, you can take the proper steps to build out your enterprise BI program.

Questions about this? I hear them all the time. If you have any, don’t be afraid to reach out.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Anatomy of a Help Desk Call: A Parable of Maintenance Management

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I recently overheard a conversation at a higher education institution that went something like this:

Facilities Mgr.: Good morning, how can I help you?
Caller: I need a new bulb for this projector.
FM: Sir, what projector?
Caller: The projector in my classroom.
FM: Okay, where is your classroom?
Caller: I’m in the Johnson Building.  Johnson 218.
FM: (fumbles with the computer)  Sir, I apologize, but there is no record of a projector in that room.
Caller: Well, it’s here and the bulb is burned out.  We bought it about a year ago.
FM: Okay, what kind of projector is it?
Caller: You know, it’s a Smith XLJ-2000.
FM: Is there a tag on the back with an Asset ID number?
Caller: No, I don’t see one.
FM: And you bought this about a year ago?
Caller: Yes, Dr. Washington approved the purchase.
FM: Did either of you fill out the ARSF?  The Asset Requisition and Service Form?
Caller: No, I don’t think we did…I just use it for this class that I teach.

 

Now, you can ask yourself why this happens, and there are hundreds of reasons from not following policy, to not filling out forms, to rogue purchasing, to simply bending the rules to get things done.  The caller needed a projector and they had budget so they bought it.  It likely never dawned on them that Facilities needed to know about the asset so they could stock replacement parts (or more important, that Faciliities is already stocking parts for a different ‘pre- approved’ projector). If this sounds anything like your institution, you have just encountered the demon of silo-ed systems.  You have to feel sorry for the poor Facilities Manager because the caller clearly believes that he should be stocking projector bulbs (along with every other perishable part) for non-standard assets, and yet you know for a fact that the Facilities Manager has no idea this asset ever existed.

This is an all-too-common situation when you have systems that do not talk to each other.  If the process of purchasing an asset does not notify Facilities that they have a new asset to maintain, then the chain of communication is bound to disintegrate.  Yes, you can create policies and forms, but they are only as good as the user’s compunction to adhere to and use them.

On the other hand, if Facilities was notified anytime an asset was acquired, they could then take proactive steps to acquire a user manual, track warranties, identify potential replacement parts (and the preferred vendor for ordering those parts), and establish a preventive maintenance schedule.  When the processes are tied together in an integrated solution, the software drives the communication instead of asking the user to remember who needs what and when.  It’s not foolproof, but it is light years better than the silos we deal with today.

If you are interested in what an integrated facilities management solution can do for you, download our whitepaper about PeopleSoft Maintenance Management.  The paper walks you through the benefits of integration and ways that you can optimize your business processes to capture data at its source.

If you have questions about the whitepaper, or even questions about facilities management as it relates to your organization, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

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Who is Killing Your Project?

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Prior to jumping into the world of PeopleSoft consulting, I spent many years implementing accounting solutions, as well as conducting instructor-led training for those applications.  In my years, I had some great classes, and I had some that just plain left me scratching my head.  Was it me?  Probably not: nobody except the lead developer knew the software better than me.  Was it my delivery?  I didn’t think so: I resonated with people and their survey forms said so.  Was it the material?  Okay, maybe….sometimes accounting software doesn’t compare with the world news, or the latest celebrity gossip.

It took me a while to recognize characteristics of the adult learner and how the dynamics of the people in class impacted the whole class.  I can’t remember who shared this with me, but my world became crystal clear when I recognized the three types of learners – explorers, vacationers, and prisoners.

Explorers are there because there is a world waiting for them and they want to know about it.  They hang on every word looking for opportunity to be better, do better, or just make things better.

Vacationers are there because they just want to get out of their day job.  It is an interesting break from the mundane.  Needless to say, their heart is not always invested in what you are trying to say or do.

The last group is the prisoners.  These are people who are forced to be there.  Imagine their reaction when their boss said “I need you to attend this training”.   It should come as no surprise when you catch these people doing everything except what you want them to do.

I share this with you because I am often perplexed about the amount of time spent in today’s world in meetings, conference calls, planning sessions, etc.  The next time you have to run a meeting, maybe you should do a quick inventory of who is in the room and what category they fit into.  Chances are pretty good that the prisoners won’t volunteer (or accept responsibility) for anything, much less grab an idea and run with it, and the vacationers will agree to anything as long as it does not create more work for them.

As a consulting company, we work with many organizations implementing new software.  That often means adopting new systems, implementing new business processes, and challenging the client to see things in a new and different way.  Of the three types of people I have described above, who do you think tends to perform well in these scenarios?  And more importantly, how many of these people are on your project right now?  If the answer is “not enough,” you may have just found who is killing your project.

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The Importance of True Collaboration Between Executives and IT

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I came across this article over at CFO.com and couldn’t agree with it more.

It illustrates the importance of collaboration between business stakeholders and IT to any successful technology project — a topic we’ve all heard a dozen times. What’s the big deal?

We all do things with the best of intentions; nobody ever begins a project with the intention of killing it midstream. The thinking goes: We’re smart. We’re experienced. We know what we’re doing. This is especially true on the business side of the house.

But the details go like this: As business types get down the project’s path, we often find there are technical interfaces and integrations we are not equipped to handle on the business side. I know that many business-side stakeholders think we can handle doing it ourselves and in less time than when involving our IT departments. Well, that could wind up being dramatically wrong thinking.

Bottom line: if you are an executive with a DYI technology project underway, I would heed the advice in Susan’s article and learn from the project instead of killing it. Such an easy lesson, but often handled so wrong.

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MIPRO VIDEO: How to Create XML Reports Within PeopleSoft

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In previous blog posts I wrote about the value of XML Publisher, and I’ve outlined instructions on how to create an XML report.

In the video blog below we take it a step further and show you how to create a simple XML report with a chart and table.  We take you from the creation of a query, downloading the XML data, and creating an XML template to defining our XML report within PeopleSoft and making it available for scheduling.   This how-to video you should leave you with enough information to start creating simple XML reports.  As always, we are happy to help and if you are in need of XML experts to supplement your report developers, please drop us a line.

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MIPRO Consulting main website.

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SCREENCAST: Using PeopleTools to Improve Business Intelligence, Pt. 2

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In our previous video blog, we demonstrated the concepts of how to use PeopleTools 8.5 for improved business intelligence. We showed how to apply navigation collection, embeddable pagelets, XML publisher and related content to your business practices.  In this follow up screencast, we demo how to actually use PeopleTools to create an embeddable pagelet and related content.  This video will complete the story and give you some basic concepts to get you started.

If you need more than this demonstration to help your organization move forward, we do offer a one week quick start package to get you up and running around a subject of your choosing.  In this one week offering, we will help you define key requirements, translate those into business intelligence (read: help you uncover the questions you should be asking), create a navigation collection as well as a series of embeddable pagelets and related content.  Our quick start service is designed to get you moving forward to improve your business intelligence as quickly as possible, and it’s very effective.  I would be happy to discuss this service further should you have any questions. Please tell me what’s on your mind.

Here’s our second screencast on this topic. Grab some coffee and enjoy!


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MIPRO Consulting main website.

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