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

__________________

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

It’s All About ME: Managing Expectations 

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

It’s All About ME:  Managing Expectations

My 5 year old lost her first tooth. As per standard tooth fairy protocol, we placed the tooth under her pillow with a note. The next morning when she woke up to find that HER tooth was gone and was replaced by coins, she was devastated. “What do you mean the tooth fairy TOOK my tooth! I wanted to keep my first tooth!”. After the meltdown, we knew immediately where we went wrong. We had performed successfully on all three deliverables – the timing, the letter and a prize, however, we realized we had had not clearly stated that the prize replaces the tooth. As a result, we had not appropriately managed her expectations.

The most critical success factor for any project is setting clear and realistic expectations and managing them throughout the entire process.

The project manager must ensure that the expectations of all stakeholders are clearly identified at the outset of the project, and that they are reflected in the business case and project deliverables. Given that expectations are not static, they must be monitored to confirm the goals of the team have not changed during the project.

People are more effective when they are working towards a specific goal and are more satisfied by the outcome if they perceive their goal has been met. 

Goals must be clearly stated without ambiguity, and all parties involved must be in agreement on the engagement’s expectations. Use a methodology such as the SMART rule of goal setting, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound, and translate your goals into an action plan. As the project progresses, reference the initial goals to remain focussed on results, and celebrate achievements of goal-related milestones. On a numeric level this can be accomplished via project reporting tools such as GAANT chart, actual to budget and percentage complete; and on a more intrinsic level you can gauge progress via formal interview, survey or even casual conversation.

In order to effectively set, manage or influence expectations, you have to first earn the trust of your client.  

By honestly sharing your knowledge and experiences and showing empathy for their concerns, you can connect with the client and gain the credibility required to execute the change initiative. Second, encourage two way communication throughout the process. Involving stakeholders in goals setting and establishing regular check points will highlight collective small wins and build confidence as the project progresses. Finally, consider both tangible and intangible criteria when managing expectations. Address the obvious project success factors such as functional requirements, realistic budget and a strong team with executive level support; but do not forget the motivations of the affected stakeholders and the importance of their perception of value.

Expectations are deeper and broader than requirements and, in your client’s mind, are the critical measure of the project’s success.  

When you deliver a solution, the key success factor is not the actual outcome in relation to scope, schedule or budget, but how close the client’s perception of received value matched their expectations. Let’s assume a business case was established for a new CRM system which evaluated the software’s capabilities, negotiated a fair price, and identified the implementation team, timeline and budget. Fast forward to the end of the engagement, where you have met all of this criteria on paper, but your client is not happy with the result. “The new system did not increase sales….”. At this point, responding with “That was an unrealistic expectation” or “You did not tell me that’s what you wanted”, are not going to help your cause. Had this been addressed up front you would have explained that while increasing sales is a reasonable business objective, it is an unreasonable project goal because it is extremely difficult to correlate new sales to the implementation of the new system. A more effective goal would have been to reduce order processing time, streamline back office administration or give salespeople mobile access to customer information. These goals are measurable and achieving these objectives with the new system could add value to the selling process (an indirect by-product of which could be increased sales). If expectations had been established up front, with the results being measured against achievable objectives, the system implementation would more likely have been perceived a success.

Setting expectations is a very egocentric exercise.

The stakeholders involved in the project will wonder: What’s going to happen to ME? How is this going to affect my job? Is this money coming from my budget? Who is going to do all this extra work? If you set clear direction in terms of functionality, money, roles and responsibilities, with clear expectations of project results, the other human factors associated with the project such as communication, collaboration and change become easier to manage throughout.  Avoid the meltdown

__________________

Expectation Management is a key success factor for any project. The topic is the #1 spot on Plan in Motion Inc’s Top 10 Software Selection and Deployment Methodology.

The next installment…

At the end of the day, I care about successful outcomes and doing what’s best for my clients. That is another reason why Plan in Motion, Inc. assists customers with software selection. An ERP system, is a long term investment, therefore, a thorough evaluation of your options under the guidance of a process expert is required; (1) a solid business case for the acquisition, (2) an effective business process in place, and (3) a realistic plan of execution established up front. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blog reviews the next step 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

Are You Ready For Change? 

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

Are You Ready For Change? 

We are surrounded by change. Songs have been written. Books and articles published. Seminars presented. Clichés ingrained in our brains. We are faced with change at every point in our lives. We all know that change is necessary. Well then, why is it so hard?

I read an HBR article about taking big risks and making changes in order to achieve big rewards: http://lnkd.in/AT8VSF. They suggested personal risk invokes vulnerability, but this temporary vulnerability is a positive catalyst for change. I liked it, and it got me thinking. Taking a calculated risk makes us do something we normally would not. Making a change takes us out of our proverbial comfort zone and exposes new perspective.

Not so fast! All is not fair in change management.

There have been many discussions surrounding “change for the sake of change” or “if it ain’t broke, break it”. This is risky ground, not to be undertaken by the amateur or faint of heart. The only reason to change something that is not broken today is because the environment in which you are in will be changing or you are looking for bigger and better things that cannot be achieved under the current model. Being the messenger of change to those that do not realize immediate gains, though the intention is for the greater good, is not an easy undertaking. Dealing with people, particularly those who are vulnerable and risk-averse, requires careful handling.

“There is nothing more difficult to execute, more dubious of success, nor more dangerous to administer than to introduce a new system of things; for he who introduces it has all those who profit from the old system as his enemies, and he has only lukewarm allies in those who might profit from the new system.” Machiavelli “The Prince” 1513

Manage! Maintain! Move! When change is involved, there will be a small group within the organization that may never come on board. The job of the change agent is to manage these people throughout the process so as to not adversely influence the rest of the group. The second small group are the early adopters. Though, they are initially on board, we need to maintain their support throughout the process. The project cannot afford the risk of losing them. The largest opportunity lies with the generally neutral individuals that, with some work, we can move to change. Depending on the peripheral influences, this group can move collectively, individually, dramatically or gradually. The bottom line is in order for the project to be successful we need to win over this group.

Without group acceptance, a project is doomed. Even though we know change management is the single most important factor in a project’s success, generally the least amount of time in any initiative is spent managing it. 

In any change management initiative, there must be a definitive beginning, middle and end. At the beginning of a well planned project, goals and expectations are set to ensure people clearly understand the objective. The beginning of any adventure is the fun part; there is excitement and hope. The end of the project is obviously rewarding; there is closure and the satisfaction of having completed the endeavour. The middle is always the hard bit. The change agent should expect obstacles and challenges throughout, and be flexible enough to adapt to changing needs while staying true to the initial goals. They must constantly check in and communicate with stakeholders. The most successful deployments will recognize that there will be struggles in the middle and will take steps to manage change accordingly.

Change is a process, not a static event or an ever-ongoing initiative. Like any project, we first identify a need for a change. Once we have done our consultants’ due diligence, we take the necessary steps to systematically implement the initiative while remaining focussed on the goals and culture of the organization. When the initiative is completed we embed the new principles and facilitate the adoption of the new normal within the organization. Then, and only then, will your project be fully successful.

__________________

Change Management is the single best thing you can do for your team when embarking on any major transformation. The topic is in the #2 spot on Plan in Motion Inc’s Top 10 Software Selection and Deployment Methodology.

The next installment…

I understand the importance of managing change. That is why Plan in Motion, Inc. follows a software selection methodology but tailors the implementation to each client’s needs. Deployment of an ERP system is an ongoing endeavour, therefore, a thorough evaluation of your options under the guidance of a process expert is required; (1) a solid business case for the acquisition, (2) an effective business process in place, and (3) a realistic plan of execution established up front. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blog reviews the next step 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

Results! Not Reports! Hire the Right Consultant   

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

 

Results! Not Reports! Hire the Right Consultant 

As I write this title, I am envisioning a mob of angry SME business owners waving placards and chanting: “Results, Not Reports! Results, Not Reports!”.

Consulting assignments are often negatively portrayed as bottomless pits which ooze complexity, exceed budget and scope, and do not produce immediate or obvious results. I can understand the trepidation; however, in most cases SME’s just do not have the time or expertise in house to single-handedly tackle projects such as software selection and deployment. An ERP system is a long term investment; you cannot afford any missteps when it comes to choosing software to support a core business function. So how do you ensure you hire the right consultant and effectively manage the consulting engagement throughout?

Choose a professional with appropriate credentials and a deep understanding of the subject matter, who also has hands on experience dealing with complex issues and multiple stakeholders.

Software vendor’s are not necessarily invested in understanding your unique business process if their compensation is not tied to the eventual project outcome. Further, simply browsing product features and ticking off boxes on an RFP checklist will most certainly not get you the right solution. An experienced consultant with a proven methodology is better equipped to organize external vendor proposals and work with internal managers to create an effective business case. And, he or she is also used to managing the human elements of the process – trust, change and expectations.

Engage the consultant to solve a specific problem for a clearly defined period of time, and when the contract has come to an end, measure provided results against established goals. 

Results are very difficult to measure if your engagement goals are not clearly defined. The SMART method of goal setting applies and is discussed in detail in the post “It’s All About ME: Managing Expectations”. Your consulting engagement letter must identify the specific problem to be solved and what tasks shall be undertaken to accomplish it. When results are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound, you will know if your consultant has achieved the desired outcome.

Here are 6 ways to choose the right consultant for your project:

(1) Credentials: Many consultants are backed by very reputable associations, eg. CA, CMA, CMC, and therefore must abide by their respective charters. They have proven academic and professional profiles, hold liability insurance and are accountable to their governing bodies for their representation to the public. Do not settle for less.

(2) Experience: It is very important to find a consultant with hands-on subject matter expertise. A consultant who has undertaken many diverse projects will have learned lessons first hand and has established methodologies; they anticipate risk and expect to be held accountable for the outcome. Don’t be afraid to ask for references, profiles or sample engagements.

(3) Active Listening: Ensure the consultant is asking questions and really listening to your unique business issues. They must fully asses the situation and use their broad-based experience and methodologies to systematically influence action and provide relevant recommendations. It is a consultant’s role to facilitate the process toward the end result, not simply check items off a spreadsheet.

(4) Established Boundaries: The consultant’s proposal must be very specific; clearly communicating inclusions and exclusions, roles, responsibilities and timelines. Understand that the engagement must allow for active stakeholder involvement and promote a culture of mutual trust. The consultant is there to lend you their knowledge and experiences and make recommendations, but ultimately you own the project and make the final decision. Do not accept vague. Get it in writing.

(5) Be Reasonable: High price does not always guarantee high value, and low price does not always equate to cost savings. You must assess total value (justified fee structure, competitive terms, clear deliverables and milestones, realistic budget and timeline, etc.) and address risk factors (technical complexity, change management, scheduling challenges, etc). Beware of those trying to be everything to everyone; a good consultant specializes in the core subject matter and asks for help where required.

(6) It ‘Feels Right’: At the end of the day you have to be comfortable with the consultant’s values, ethics, confidentiality and transparency. The right consultant is respectful of your unique situation, empathetic towards stakeholders, and passionate about achieving a successful outcome. Trust your gut.

Technology is ever-changing, the market is inundated with choice, and software systems are much more sophisticated. As a result, software selection and deployment has become a complex process involving all aspects of your business. The right solution provides an opportunity to enhance your business results, while the alternative will undermine productivity. Investing in the right software specialist to assist you with this process will undoubtedly save your company time and money.

It is the consultant’s role to facilitate, educate and have pointed discussions from the top down; and should not be a function to keep internal management away from external vendors. If you clearly define goals and hold each party accountable for their respective outcomes, you will get the result you deserve!

__________________

The next installment

Your consultant is ultimately a trusted advisor, whatever the engagement. At Plan in Motion, Inc., we focus on business transformation, in addition to technology, when assisting customers with software selection. A successful outcome requires an assessment of your business and thorough evaluation of options, under the guidance of a process expert. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blogs review 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

Waste Not, Want Not 

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

I am a fairly early adopter. However, I am not an early departer…. I essentially like to use electronics until they die.

I was one of the first people I knew to get a mobile phone. The cell phone was game changer. There was convenience as well as security in being able to call when not near a landline or phone booth. I kept that brick around for a long time. It actually become a kind of game, as I slowly upgraded my mobile phones through the various iterations of flip and slide, as to how long I could keep them around.

The next game changer for me was the smart phone. When I got my hands on a used Blackberry and got a taste of being able to email on the go with a proper QWERY keyboard on such a little device, that was the beginning of the end. I was no longer chained to my desk to reply to email nor did I have to rely on spotty wireless on the go. I got a lot of satisfaction out of essentially wearing the thing out.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts.

I eventually converted to iPhone. This device has replaced a multitude of other items that I would have carried around in my purse (paper calendar, daily agenda, calculator, music player, mobile phone, camera, video camera, sudoko puzzle, paperback novel, small photo album, notebook and even a pen… I could go on). In fact if they came out with iLipstick, I would no longer need a purse!

One device multi-tasking like that, thereby using less raw materials and less energy is, in my opinion, good for the environment. The whole of this virtually limitless device is far more effective then the sum of its individual parts… even if it is the 5S model.

Being an informed and conscientious consumer and not getting caught up in technology hype is key. 

I work in the I.T. industry, so I have to keep up with trends and understand new technologies. I carefully examine the release notes and features list and generally do not toss my 2 or 3 generations old smart phone for the newest model on Day 1 of rollout. My rule of thumb about technology replacement: to obtain a mission critical feature or component that the old one cannot accommodate or if said device is obsolete.

Technology companies and advertisers are great at showing us that we cannot live without something, and it has often been said that consumers do not actually know what they need. ButI think the tech-savvy consumer can do better by asking these questions: Are these new features critical – ie will they dramatically improve my business capabilities or will the new features significantly enhance the quality of my daily experiences. Will I use these new features or will I shelf it? Can I wait?

I truly believe that some companies are doing technology right. Apple, for example, is a company of innovators and forward thinkers, and one of the only suppliers making technology that actually lasts. Their multi-functional platform is essentially replacing a mound of separate devices and infrastructures which I believe in the long run promotes sustainability. The challenge is they are forcing other technology companies to attempt the same; and what these other providers lack in innovation, they make up for by offering inferior devices. A disposable mentality forces folks to plow through a multitude of devices throwing away their old ones without regard for the implications; thereby creating unnecessary waste.

We live in a world of instantaneous gratification but we also live in a society that is accepting of waste. 

Disposable smart phones and electronics which are easier to throw away rather than fix…. Software and hardware being bought because it’s cheap and shelved because it’s not valued…. Ridiculously large and complex packaging encompassing the tiniest component….

I pass by the local electronics repair place and wonder, in this age of ‘designed for the dump’, how they stay in business. The fact is it is almost always cheaper to buy a new TV than it is to pay for the labour to replace a tiny failed part within it. It may not look like it (and he may not even know it), but he is one of the few electronics businesses still making a positive environmental difference. But how can they possibly compete with cheaper, newer and cooler? The Story of Stuff Project does a great job explaining the direction in which the electronics industry needs to head http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-electronics/

There is no doubt that technology has improved business and individual productivity, and that continued technological advances are necessary as society evolves. But what we all need to understand is that the life of a device does not end when the consumer is finished using its technological capabilities. Electronics producers, businesses and consumers alike should have an appropriate plan to address their contribution to e-waste.

Waste Not, Want Not. 

The simple definition: if we don’t waste what we have, we’ll still have it in the future and therefore will not lack it.

_________________
The next installment

It is clear that I do not agree with replacing hardware and software just because it is trendy to do so. That is why one of our objectives at Plan in Motion Inc. is to assist customers with software selection. When you make an investment in a system, you should be making that decision for the long term and therefore invest in the process of evaluating your options: (1) there has to be a solid business case for the acquisition, (2) an effective business process must be in place and (3) a realistic plan of execution is established up front. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blogs review the software selection process and managing expectations.

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

Channel Your Inner Entrepreneur

by Suanne McGrath Kelly @PlanInMotion

I am an avid reader. When I come across a good story, I am also drawn into the television or movie depiction of the book. It’s often not as good as the original. But it is always exciting to see the characters visualized on paper come to life on screen. Such was the case when I watched the recent HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce, based on the novel by James M. Cain.

I am not critiquing the television rendition or writing a book review. As an independent consultant who has just completed her first year in business, I don’t have time for that. A valuable exercise, however, was to reflect on this past year with my own company, Plan in Motion, Inc, and incorporate inspiration from this fictitious 1930’s female entrepreneur.

Here are 15 practical lessons that still ring true for small business owners today:

1. Always keep your eyes open for opportunity. A business has to fill a need, and who better to identify that need than yourself. You never know where and when you will find this inspiration.

2. Find your “why” (what you’re good at and what makes you tick) and make it your business. You have a better chance of success doing something that matters to you.

3. Read, watch and listen. Once you find your niche, learn everything you can about it and never stop discovering.

4. Anything is possible if you plan and execute properly, and prioritize accordingly. There will always be too much to do so stick to your plan and focus efforts appropriately.

5. Your brand is everything, and everything is your brand. Reflect a positive brand image and ensure your message is clear, concise and consistent.

6. Not every problem is yours to solve. Seek help and expertise when you need it and it will eventually pay off.

7. Leverage your network. Always look for opportunities to network, partner and build alliances.

8. Keep looking for ways to streamline operations and improve efficiency. If you can identify sources of backlog and cut costs in innovative ways, you could gain competitive advantage.

9. Learn from your mistakes, be persistent and keep trying. Figure out how to do it better.

10. Have other things in your life outside of your work. Family, a hobby, time off, whatever… You may love your work but your work won’t love you back.

11. Listen to your children. They often speak the truth even if it is hard to hear or easy to dismiss.

12. Protect yourself and your personal assets.

13. Manage your debt and savings, do not live beyond your means particularly in tough economic and political times. Be practical.

14. Competition is not the end of your business, in fact, it can be healthy for business. It keeps everyone agile and innovating.

15. Stick to your core competency. Growth is good, but make sure you stay true to who you are and what you are good at.

In the story, Mildred comes full circle with business, finances and marriage, learning a lot of tough lessons along the way. Staying focused on your goals and believing in yourself are two qualities that get you through. That, and, recognizing delayed success. A project or initiative may not realize success straight away, but that does not mean it has failed. Give it some time.

_________________

The next installment

Running a small to medium sized business with limited resources is tough enough. When it comes to making decisions related to business process improvement or software selection and deployment, it helps to have an experienced management consultant assess your needs. Plan in Motion, Inc. works with you to realize the benefits a new system can bring, ensuring your people, process and technology strategy is aligned with your overall company goals. Suanne McGrath Kelly’s upcoming blogs review the various stages 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.

_________________

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