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Posts Tagged ‘consulting’

Customization: Heads=You Win, Tails=You Lose

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The customization equation has always been a difficult recipe – a subtle mix of three parts regulatory requirements mixed with two parts user-adoption and then simmered to perfection by a competent group of developers to be consumed by a team of end-users.  The process was almost always a journey from disdain (“What do you mean it can’t do this?”) to total satisfaction (“I don’t know what we’d do without this!”).  In the back of their minds, everyone seemed to know that the risk probably never really matched the reward, but there was always a sense of accomplishment.  And done properly, the customization was almost always viewed as adding value.

Today, virtually every upgrade now talks about de-customization and people are realizing that the cost of de-customizing is almost comparable to the initial cost of the development.  Interesting twist.  CIO magazine presents an interesting perspective that everyone facing an upgrade should read. Here’s a taste:

“We do see more and more CIOs going the ‘less customization’ route” nowadays, she says. “In the last round of ERP deployments that people did, maybe 10 years ago, they did a lot of customizations. But I would say that the majority today are going 90 percent out of the box — with very vanilla installations. It gives you a more predictable and cheaper deployment and then obviously, it makes upgrades less disruptive and less costly.”

Part of the reason for this recent trend is that ERP vendors are now recognizing that if they build applications that include verticalization, they will be easier for more companies to adopt with fewer problems and far less customization, she says.

So, you flipped your coin, made your decision, executed your strategy and observed the results.  Now you have the coin again – heads or tails? What’s your strategy?

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

When Fixed-Fee Projects Fail: Were You Invested Enough?

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So, it seems another fixed-fee implementation project has failed and resulted in a lawsuit pitting the buyer against the implementer.  Somehow I don’t think this is the outcome that either of them wanted, yet I sense an undertone of suspicion that hinted at this early on.  Implementations go best when the system integrator is a partner with the organization who has purchased the software.  It has to be a joint effort or it simply won’t work.

I talk with many organizations who are buying an ERP solution for the first time and we always get around to discussing implementation strategies.  I often remind them that they can implement the software themselves, but “trial and error” is not a very good implementation strategy for an effective and cost-efficient project.  At the other end of the spectrum, you hire a consulting firm, but you can’t expect them to do 100% of the work and produce anything meaningful.  You, as the owner must make certain decisions, change business processes, and generally make an investment in your software to properly prepare yourself to take ownership of your new solution.  To allow the system integrator to make every decision, set-up every table, and develop every interface is a recipe for another failed project.

While a fixed-fee approach can work in certain situations, it rarely creates the bond or partnership needed to share effort, responsibility, and even blame, especially in a large project.  It has tangible, inherent risk by its very definition  It tends to draw a line in the sand that neither the owner nor the implementer are willing to cross.  Unfortunately, that chasm is more often than not too much to overcome and reach a successful outcome.

In fact, the outcome usually ends with lawyers, not celebrations.

Something to consider when thinking about how you want your next big project to go.

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More links:

MIPRO Consulting main website.

MIPRO on Twitter and Facebook.

About this blog.

Mental Models: Different for Everyone

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I’m fortunate to say that I work in the exciting profession of sales – for more years than I care to say. As with any profession or job, it can be very easy to go on autopilot in terms of how you do certain things.

In my years, I’ve had countless ‘first call meetings’ with prospective clients. I go through the same preparation routine each time: do some research on the company for recent successes or announcements, find out who my audience will be and do a bit of background research on them and then outline the meeting objectives and goals to ensure everyone’s expectations are coming from the same place. It is a simple process, and it has served me well over the years.

In my current position, I sell consulting services to implement PeopleSoft ERP applications. I’m a former PeopleSoft salesperson, and I fully understand the value and need for good partners. For instance, it’s important to work with the Oracle sales teams and demonstrate how I can help them grow their PeopleSoft footprint in existing accounts.  In this role, you always have to think outside yourself and ask how you can help someone else be successful.

Recently, I was asked to join an Oracle Application Sales Manager on a call to provide subject matter expertise in the area of enterprise asset management (EAM). For those of you who frequent this blog, you are already aware that we have more expertise in this area than most other Oracle partners, due to the fact that we have participated in almost every PeopleSoft EAM implementation out there.  So, I was happy to help.

In preparation for the meeting, I asked what the client was interested in and her statement was, “Well, the IT Director said they are very interested in learning how they can manage their assets throughout the enterprise.” The Oracle ASM knows our reputation and strength in Asset Lifecycle Management applications and gave us a call. Excited that we may be able to help Oracle, I lined up our SME for ALM to join us via phone.

After an internal prep call for the upcoming meeting, we were excited to meet with the client.

The first red flag came right after we opened the meeting with introductions so our SME knew who was in the room.  Attending from the client side were the following roles: Customer Services Manager, Director of New Technology in R&D, Manager Design Services, Industrial Designer and an IT Director.

This is definitely not an audience who would have information on how they currently manage their assets or perform preventative maintenance in an organization.  Not even close.

We had a room full of the wrong people given our subject and plan for the call.

We quickly learned that their interest in ‘managing assets throughout the enterprise’ was not even close to what we had imagined, much less prepared for. We had interpreted that statement to be ‘we are interested in Asset Life Cycle Management applications.’  We had interpreted poorly.

Here is where a couple of decades of selling experience came in handy – we danced!  Our SME went on to talk about how they may be able to enhance their product information, get feedback on how their product is performing and overall improve the customer experience.

In the end, the client ultimately learned that PeopleSoft is truly a full blown ERP system which has tremendous potential to help them in their organization.  We, on the flip side, learned the importance of validating and restating what the customer says they want to discuss. Two very different mental models were in play, and it was up to us to validate we were on the same page before something like what happened happens.

That’s the beauty of a job like this: even after a long time in the business, there are lessons if you’re willing to listen.  Or, little reminders that your usual process isn’t carved in stone and failproof.

Just because you think you are looking at a scenario clearly, it’s up to you to ensure that everyone else’s mental model is cruising at the same speed.  This is such a simple on-paper lesson, but it presents itself not-so-clearly sometimes in the real-world.

Have you ever experienced anything like this?  I would like to hear your story in the comments.

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management) and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog. If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website. If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

More business posts.

Insight: On Having Human Business Ideals

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Then he gave me some advice about teaching that’s stuck with me for more than three decades: “Just pretend you’re teaching you. How would you do that? What would you want to know? What did you dislike when you were taught? What stories would you tell to make it understandable? What would keep you interested and engaged?”

—Steve Blank in Teach Like You’re the Student

As a boutique/specialist consulting firm, one of the nice things about breaking the mold of big-box companies is that we have an opportunity to create our own culture.  A lot of that affects how our employees experience working for us (something we’re proud to say we’ve done pretty well), but also how our clients experience working with us.

One of the precepts we hold dear is candid conversation.  We’ve turned down available work because we’ve told a client what he needed to hear instead of what he wanted to hear (in this case, that he didn’t need our services for another application he was considering).  We’re not afraid of the difficult conversation in the name of championing a client’s best interest.  And we’re dramatically opposed to the opaque, buzzword-filled communications that infect so much of business, especially in the enterprise IT space.  Don’t believe us?  Check out our Twitter feed, Facebook page and this very blog to get a feel how we engage our clients.  (We even try to humanize our datasheets.)

A lot of what drives us to this idea is that we don’t like being talked at in a jargon-heavy style any more than most of our clients do.  We find the best way to help clients understand our value as a specialist firm is to speak openly and naturally with them. When we help clients with knowledge transfer, we teach them like we would want to be taught ourselves, because it’s stickier that way.  People remember not only what you’re helping them with, but also you as a company.

It’s not always easy to explain how a consulting firm can be different above and beyond the standard R&R: resumes and rates.  But in 2005 we founded our company on ideas that ran a bit counter to the norm, and our clients have noticed.  And that’s the most we can ask for.

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management), Workday and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog. If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website. If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

More business posts.

MIPRO Consulting at the Ohio RUG, This Thursday 4-8-10

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Quick update: MIPRO Consulting will be at the Ohio RUG this upcoming Thursday (4-8).  If you are a regular Ohio RUG attendee, please note that the venue has changed.  Here’s the information:

University Plaza Hotel and Conference Center
3110 Olentangy River Road
Columbus, OH  43202
Phone (614) 267-7461

Hope you or a representative from your company can join us!

Incidentally, here is the link to the registration site.  You can view the agenda for the Ohio RUG here (link to Ohio RUG blog).

Additionally, one of our most talented consultants, Michael Sweeney, will be talking from 1:45-2:45 under the Enterprise HCM track.  His topic will be custom leave accrual, which includes discussion about why this is a custom process and maximizing user control.

Again, hope to see you there!

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MIPRO Consulting is a nationally-recognized consulting firm specializing in PeopleSoft Enterprise (particularly Enterprise Asset Management), Workday and Business Intelligence. You’re reading MIPRO Unfiltered, its blog.  If you’d like to contact MIPRO, email is a great place to start, or you can easily jump over to its main website.  If you’d like to see what MIPRO offers via Twitter or Facebook, we’d love to have you.

Now Available: Kindle-compatible Files for PeopleTools 8.50 and PeopleSoft 9.1 PeopleBooks

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If you find yourself eschewing tree-based documentation in favor of the  Kindle’s .MOBI format,  you can now get your  PeopleBooks from OTN for your Kindle.  Among the available documentation for the Kindle:

  • PeopleSoft Enterprise Customer Relationship Management 9.1 PeopleBooks
  • PeopleSoft Enterprise Financials and Supply Chain Management 9.1 PeopleBooks
  • PeopleSoft Enterprise Human Resources Management System 9.1 PeopleBooks
  • PeopleSoft Enterprise Portal Solutions 9.1 PeopleBooks
  • PeopleSoft Enterprise PeopleTools 8.50 PeopleBooks

Get them here.

Why Excel Is Not an Enterprise Business Intelligence Solution

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But don’t let the title fool you.Excel

I am not one of those Business Intelligence (BI) consultants who thoroughly bashes and discounts Excel. I think Excel is a flexible, powerful tool that has almost limitless uses and value. In fact, before becoming a convert to enterprise BI, I used Excel to create the world’s greatest spreadsheets.  With a bit of tweaking, these spreadsheets could walk outside and pick up the morning paper for me. I used Excel for everything, but I just didn’t know there were problems with what I was doing.  In my everyday conversations, I come across folks doing the same thing.

Excel can run a small government, but alas, it’s a fairly lousy BI platform.

The problem is when Excel is used not as “a BI tool” but instead “the enterprise BI solution”. The main concern I have with using Excel for a full-on enterprise app is that it is so easy, so pervasive, that it introduces error far too easily.

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QUOTE: On discerning what matters

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Something we discuss all the time when talking to our prospects and clients, as consultants often find themselves facing myriad information:

I learned back in the days when I was consulting that they give you more information than you could possibly read. So you needed to quickly step back and say, “What are the two or three things that really matter?” And I find in the world that people don’t really do that often.

Greg Brenneman, chairman of CCMP Capital, in the NYT

It’s a skill that everyone says they have, but as Brenneman notes, few truly do.

Here’s the best way to do this: step back and ask yourself, “What am I really trying to solve here?  What do I really need?”  Absorb the tasks that are a means to that end, discard the rest.

It’s not necessarily an easy exercise, but the work invested at the beginning cuts away scads of chaff that would otherwise cloudy your project.

This skill is also great demarcation line between working smart versus working hard.

(Via Signal vs. Noise)

Boredom in the 21st century

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I suppose entering a new year is generally a cause for reflection on my part, and I tend to begin the year reviewing some Stephen Covey or similar classic in the self-management field. I find it sets me on the right path for the year, and gets me thinking about what is important in the various parts of my life. This past week, I’ve been particularly interested in management styles. I ran across a couple of blogs which got me thinking about the New Management of today.

Jeffrey Philips at the Thinking Faster blog essentially advocates working the way you live—for him that means working like a channel surfer and having meetings/conversations in 90-second sound bites. Lisa Haneberg at Management Craft says that we should not pander to boredom although we should still be considerate of differences in work style.  What’s the right approach?  Is there a universal right approach?

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Now available: PeopleSoft packaged services

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Over the last six months, one of the most frequent requests we’ve been getting is for low-cost, high-yield, quick-turnaround packaged services that tackle some main technical hurdles of PeopleSoft implementations.  These aren’t standard, large-project based engagements: these are geared more towards productized services than traditional professional services.

What we’re finding is that despite the slow economy, clients still need to get their ERP projects done so their management can go back to business stakeholders and tell them progress is being made, objectives met, more intelligence added.  We get asked about several consistently, but the two that keep popping up are PeopleSoft architecture assessment services, and help with load testing for PeopleSoft apps.

So, we’re pretty thrilled to say that after talking to a good number of large PeopleSoft shops and rejiggering some of our best consultants, we’re able to offer these two packaged services as of today.

Again, the drivers behind these are relatively simple: offer pre-engineered (and for the most part, pre-scoped) services, staffed by experts, aimed at the key areas that pave the way for smooth PeopleSoft upgrades or implementations.  These don’t break the bank, won’t clog up internal resource allocations, and provide very high value quickly.

You can read more about the details here, or if you’re passionate about datasheets, you can get them below:

PeopleSoft Architecture Assessment

PeopleSoft Performance Load Testing

Comments?  We’d love to hear them.  Chime in below or contact us in a more shiny, official manner.

Related: our corresponding press release, if you’re so inclined.