Are You Listening, or Just Waiting To Talk

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

Are you listening, or just waiting to talk?

Think about it for a couple of seconds….

It was eye opening for me when I realized the depth of that question and its applicability in my industry. Consulting and sales professionals are essentially hired to voice our views and share expertise, and, there is no doubt that we are all good at the talking bit. The trick, however, is to engage in effective two-way communication and really hear what is being said.

The role of an advisor is to listen first and then talk, or better still, facilitate conversation. Effective listening creates a culture of meaningful engagement, which is the best kind of communication for consultant-client relationships. 

When you have the opportunity to speak, is your message is coming across effectively?

The abundance of acronyms, abstract terms and meaningless expressions, have created conversations that just don’t make sense anymore. Further complicating matters are the many diverse mediums available and the diminished attention span of recipients, requiring a sender to communicate their message in 140 characters or less. Because people are so inundated with both online and offline messaging we have to cleverly deliver complex solutions in the most efficient means possible.

Once we recognize how obtuse business discussions have become, we can take measures to reduce their complexity and ambiguity. Focus on delivering clear, concise and respectful communications, to the applicable audience, within the appropriate forum.

Consider the following elements of communication in your next business or social engagement:

Concentrate on Active Listening 
No communication technique is more effective than making someone feel like they have been heard. Open dialogue promotes a cooperative environment which builds trust, engagement and mutual understanding. Through listening and observation, we pick up on non-verbal cues and do not miss underlying messages. This mutual understanding also is helpful when addressing tough issues and building the necessary support.

Ensure Information is Applicable and Unambiguous
The ability to interpret complex information and relay it to a diverse audience is a critical skill. Ambiguity is unsettling, so it is tempting to reach for a fast, or safe, solution. A good communicator holds steady, synthesizing information from many sources before developing a viewpoint. And when the information is delivered, it is provided in such a way that is meaningful and impactful to the intended audience.

Know when to hold Conversations instead of Meetings 
This all boils down to knowing your audience. In every day communication, it is as simple as asking yourself if you should send that email or pick up the phone. When you do have to discuss in person, focus on the outcome of the exchange. Meetings are results driven, addressing specific content. Conversations are information driven, not outcome driven, and work best for interviewing, information gathering and idea generating.

Understand the implications of Virtual Communication 
In an era of telecommuting, virtual meetings and social networking, it is generally relationships that suffer. We have all heard about the significance of body language and eye contact in interpersonal communication. However, words lay flat on a page without emotion. Your online voice (including your tone and attitude) matter and the rules of business etiquette still apply.

Don’t Forget the Feedback 
Who doesn’t want to know where they stand? In addition to providing a comfort level, feedback promotes an open team culture. Continuous monitoring and regular communication ensures your group is on the same page and allows you to shift course if you’re off track. And at the end of the assignment, celebrate successes that provide insight and debrief failures to extract lessons.

Everything in Moderation 
“Moderation is the process of eliminating or lessening extremes…to ensure normality throughout the medium.” Consider moderating, rather than teaching; it creates a level playing field by encouraging independent thinking, innovation and teamwork. The ability to assess group dynamics, so you can ask the right questions, understand risk and change tolerance and resolve conflicts, are essential consulting skills

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Communication is at the core of everything we do. It’s why I am writing this blog. And, why the topic is integral to Plan in Motion, Inc’s Top 10 Software Selection and Deployment Methodology.

The next installment…

I understand the importance of communication at every stage in your software selection and deployment project. That is why Plan in Motion, Inc. follows a methodology focused on stakeholder involvement. A successful outcome requires a thorough business evaluation and continuous monitoring throughout the process to ensure that the project is always on the right track. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blogs review the various steps in the software selection process.

Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. and currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is actively engaged in the business and social community. She loves design, writing, cooking, pilates, and playing golf. Suanne can be contacted via suanne@planinmotion.ca and LinkedIn® www.linkedin.com/in/suannemkelly; or you can follow her via Facebook® www.facebook.com/planinmotion and Twitter® @planinmotion

The End of ERP…. Again? 

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

The End of ERP…. Again?

There have been some lively discussions recently about the demise of ERP. The concept is not new and, no, ERP is not dead this time either. Though there has been a dramatic shift in the applicability and deployment of enterprise applications for SMBs.

What ERP has learned 

Having been involved in mid-market ERP sales and consulting for many years, what I do know is that professional services and recurrent maintenance were always more important than the initial software sale. A discounted product price could almost always be negotiated, but there was very little wavering on the contingent implementation and support contracts. The buyer feels like they are getting a deal at the outset, the seller gives a concession but profits in the longer term. But is this really a win-win?

The jig was up and in stepped subscription and cloud-based options. For many small to medium sized businesses, a predictable and recurring use-fee without concern for in-house infrastructure is a more attractive alternative. Essentially SAAS has stripped away the lump sum outlay of cash and worked the total cost into the subscription price, and simplified system deployment by removing installation, updating and upgrade costs.

That said, companies are still spending huge dollars on on-premises enterprise applications. The platform is working quite well for industries with huge transactional volume and multiple integrations, where decision makers are more comfortable having their applications in house for them to do with what they wish.

The bottom line is there is a time and a place for each type of ERP offering, on-premises and software-as-a-service, though I suspect as SME’s do the math on the former and as the technologies become more mainstream, we will see even more of a shift towards subscriptions. Whether deployed via cloud, hosted, in-house or a hybrid scenario.

How ERP is using this knowledge 

It is clear that the way enterprise applications are used is undergoing a rapid change. It is all about innovation at the point of business impact and offering deployment options to suit different needs: what you need to know, delivered where you need it, when you need it.

The new ERP buyer and seller watch list:

1. Focus on Recurring Relationships 

“Success is no longer gauged by counting how many units of your product you have sold. Rather, success is measuring how many customers are using your service on a recurring basis and how successful you are monetizing those recurring relationships.” ERP vendors who embrace this concept are the most successful.

2. Application Specialization 

“Traditional ERP with its heavy requirement for customization and consultants is going the way of the mainframe computer, purpose-built ERP that meets the specific business requirements of a particular industry will be more important than ever in the coming years.” ERP buyers’ businesses are changing. While there is still a place for traditional ERP in traditional industries, there is no place for rigid systems in a services-based knowledge economy.

3. Holistic Organizational View 

ERP is a business transformation which involves the entire organization from end to end. As software installation and infrastructure becomes more standardized, more consulting time can be spent focussing on the critical success factors. It is necessary to follow a proven Software Project Methodology to ensure that people, process and technology are in line with the goals of the organization.

4. Provide Meaningful Information 

Decision makers want information systems to proactively answer their business questions, not simply provide data after the fact. And they want to access this information anywhere. Business Intelligence has provided the tools to analyze data in meaningful ways, but we also see ERP trending towards mobility and collaboration. Modularized data silos are ineffective, information must be integrated and available across all areas of the organization.

5. Be Process Oriented 

ERP provides a controlled and systematic way of entering data from multiple sources, so we can report results to business stakeholders and make informed decisions about the business. However, service driven organizations think in terms of workflow and not in terms of data entry. Many of today’s ERP systems connect disparate systems and business processes via workflow, thereby providing meaningful input for the end user.

6. Promote Sustainability 

Hardware producers are getting pressure to create longer lasting devices and provides means for proper disposal (Waste Not, Want Not explores the concept of e-waste and extended producer responsibility). Many software companies are now heading towards a more sustainable model providing shared resource and shared infrastructure options. The premise is to tap the excess of someone else’s unused resources and share yours, promoting a more collaborative and efficient way to work.

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The next installment

There are so many ERP options available today, and it is not always clear which is the right system for your business. A successful outcome requires an assessment of your business and thorough evaluation of options, under the guidance of a process expert. Plan in Motion, Inc., helps you focus on key business requirements, in addition to technology, when selecting and deploying ERP software. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blogs review the next steps in the software selection process.

Suanne McGrath-Kelly is President of Plan in Motion Inc. and currently resides in Toronto, Canada, where she is actively engaged in the business and social community. She loves design, writing, cooking, pilates, and playing golf. Suanne can be contacted via suanne@planinmotion.ca and LinkedIn® www.linkedin.com/in/suannemkelly; or you can follow her via Facebook® www.facebook.com/planinmotion and Twitter® @planinmotion