An overview of a robust business information systems procurement method designed to ensure that a robust and enforceable contract is entered into before a project commences
Links to previous articles at the end
of this article
The parallel "Real Issues" series of articles will discuss the factors
that give rise to the problems experienced and specific measures to
prevent the problems. The series commencing with this article will
address the question of how to go about procuring systems and
initiating the implementation of new systems in a way that takes account
of the Real Issues principles.
This article is directed at informing executives and senior managers
with regard to methods that are really important in order to be able to
manage the procurement and implementation of new systems
effectively. These same methods have application in the
procurement of general business improvement services as well, and some
of them can be applied to contract renewal with regard to ongoing
In this series of articles I will set out to explain a robust business
systems procurement approach, which is directed at achieving robust and
enforceable contracted outcomes for a truly fixed price. This
approach is based on the manner in which large construction projects are
contracted, something that I term "the engineering approach".
Inherent in this approach is a requirement that the entire procurement,
configuration, customization, testing and commissioning process is
undertaken to standards that permit effective litigation by the client
in the event of non-performance.
Fundamental to the engineering
approach is the reality that engineering construction
takes place within the framework of tried and tested
procurement methods with tough, enforceable
contracts. There is also a clear understanding by
all parties that litigation will follow negligence,
non-compliance or default. Because litigation is
entirely practical in such situations litigation is
approach to business systems procurement outlined in
this article is directed at achieving this same level of
robust contracting such that successful litigation is
entirely possible and therefore
required. This will be discussed in more detail in subsequent
Fundamental to this engineering approach to business systems
procurement is an emphasis on requiring the implementation contractor to
accept responsibility as the expert in the implementation of their
software. This is done in such a way as to transfer all
appropriate risk to the contractor while clearly delineating the
responsibilities of the client organization. This is achieved
through a robust procurement process with clearly defined governance and
results in a tough and robust contract, leading to an effective
implementation (configure, customize, test, deploy, commission) which
delivers the agreed realistic business outcome.
The approach comprises the following major components, which will be
discussed in more detail in subsequent articles. The discussion
focuses on major projects but can be down-scaled to even the most basic
business systems or even business services procurement:
1. Strategic Facilitation and Executive Governance
For large projects which operate across operational divisions in the
organization, the Executive Sponsor of the project must be the Chief
Executive. The Chief Executive is the custodian of the integrated
view and function of the business and is therefore the only person with
the perspective and authority to perform this role.
In order to ensure that the Chief Executive can perform this role
effectively and with limited time commitment there are a number of other
roles that are critical:
a. Strategic Advisor to the CEO and Strategic Project Facilitator
An expert in the field of business systems procurement and
implementation, with the ability to serve as an advisor to the
sponsoring executive and guide the project. NO alliances or
allegiance to any product or contractor organization. This person
must be able to operate at the executive level.
Analogous to the senior architect on a prestige building construction
project. This person must interpret the requirements of the
business, express these with a far-reaching long term view of where the
business is going and ensure that the new business solution is geared to
this future" view. This person should not have any line
responsibility in the business. They should monitor the "Factors
Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" that are
discussed in the separate series of articles on "The Real Issues in
This will generally be an independent specialist advisor. It is
sometimes challenging to plan their time since they are largely
dependent on the rest of the people working on the project for day to
day workload. It is therefore generally best on larger projects to
appoint them on a full time basis for a fixed monthly fee for the
duration of the project.
It is generally not practical for the CIO to play this role, they are too caught up in the day to day pressures of the business.
b. Business Team Leader
A member of the executive team who is responsible for ensuring that the
right people in the business are consulted at the right time.
Also ensures that the right people are in the room for workshops,
testing sessions, etc. This person carries the ultimate
responsibility for ensuring that the business is fully consulted and
engaged in all stages of the project.
c. Contract Manager
Also an executive or at least a senior manager one level down from the
executive suite. Responsible for all the logistical and
contractual arrangements with regard to the procurement, assisted by the
procurement department as necessary. Also responsible for all
contractual matters during the implementation.
This can be the CIO.
Note that there is nobody on the client side who carries the
title "Project Manager" or "Project Leader" -- there should be one Project
Leader and they should be supplied by the successful contractor as part
of the package of services.
2. Robust Request for Proposal (RFP)
The Request for Proposal document is the heart of the procurement
process. It should be a well proven document that contains all
necessary clauses to manage both the procurement process and lay the
foundation for the project.
It should set out the stages of the procurement process and the
specific contractual requirements for the configuration, customization,
testing, deployment and commissioning of the system. The RFP
should form the basis of the final contract.
Note that it is pre-requisite that the Client will define the contract
with amendments to accommodate the contractor, using the contractor's
preferred contract is not an option.
One of the objectives of the RFP is to scare off fly-by-night
operators. Another is to allow as many different bidders as
possible in the first stage of the tender process in order to ensure
that the best possible combination of software and Implementer is
way of example, the RFP document that I typically use
runs to over 60 pages. This is available as a template
to purchase together with templates and instructions for
the full set of documents referred to in this
me for information
A key objective of the RFP is to make it clear that the client is
purchasing services from the successful bidder on the basis that they
are experts in implementing their software and will be held fully
accountable for the project outcome.
3. Strategic Essence based Business Requirement Specification
Refer the separate thread on "Strategic
Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information
" for more information on this point.
The Business Requirement Specification should be drawn up by the
Strategic Advisor to the CEO (Strategic Project Facilitator) in close
consultation with the executive team and operational management.
This strategically focused requirements document focusses on documenting the essence of the business, the "right things done well"
that have caused the organization to prosper. This should be done
within the context of clearly stating a twenty year view of what is
required from the system in terms of business outcome.
Components of the requirement should be prioritized on a percentage
weight basis over not more than about nine primary categories.
This is not a technology document, it is a strategic business
outcome orientated document -- based on what is required from the investment in
order for the organization to prosper. This document is the heart
and the art of the final outcome.
It must be worded in such a way that the onus for the outcome rests
with the contractor (Implementer), subject to close cooperation by the
In this regard it is vital to understand that operational business
personnel lack the long term perspective to define a long term
solution. They must be consulted but they must not dictate the
4. Detailed Bill of Services
5. Precision Configuration
6. Business Simulation Laboratory
7. Formal "Go-Live" Certification
8. Prescribed Certificates
9. Client Compact
10. Executive Engagement
11. Facilitation of Change
12. Bid Compliance Checklist
13. Bid Adjudication Schedule
14. Prescribed Bid Table of Contents
15. Comprehensive Pack of Reference Documents
16. Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence
17. Three Stage Procurement Process
a. Stage 1: Narrowing the Field
b. Stage 2: Select Preferred Bidder
c. Stage 3: Detailed Discovery, Finalization of Project Plan and Contracting
d. Configuration, Customization, Testing and Commissioning
I have used this approach successfully to conduct fixed price fixed
business outcome projects, and hope that you will find it of value.
If you are embarking on any form of business systems procurement, large
or small, this approach can be adapted appropriately. It also has
application to procurement of other soft business improvement
services. Some of these principles can also be applied when
entering into negotiations to renew contracts with existing suppliers.
I offer advisory services with regard to the application of these
principles and would be delighted to discuss how I might be of
also offer sets of electronic template documents for the
above, one set suitable for small to medium size
projects and another suited to larger projects, these
are available for purchase, email
me for details
Dr James Robertson PrEng
James A Robertson and Associates Limited
Assisting clients to thrive through effective and efficient application of Business Information Systems
Mobile: +44 (0) 776-862-2875
Landline: +44 (0) 207-059-0007
Strategic Essence -- The Missing Link in Business Information Systems
1: Strategy Defined
The Real Issues in Business Systems
Strategically Enriching your Business Systems
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Business Systems NOT delivering?
Call the Business Systems Specialist
Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.
Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.
He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.
If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist
Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.
Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.
All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.
There HAS to be a better way!
This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control
We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website
We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues
By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT
This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.
In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.
Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:
James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.
You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor
James has an open networking profile -- click on "Connect" and use email address James@LinkedIn-at-JARA.com.
You can contact us on
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Mobile: +44 (0) 776-862-2875
Landline: +44 (0) 207-059-0007
Fax: +44 (0) 844 774 4580
There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website
Please click here to visit the detailed listing of articles
About Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- The Business Systems Doctor -- and Other Topics
Catalogue of Major Business Information System Failures
About the Engineering Approach
James Robertson's Value Add
Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution
Recognizing Business System Failure
The Critical Human Foundation
Old Software IS Viable
From South Africa
Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng
About Professor Malcolm McDonald
Table of Contents
About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing
Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics
Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson
List of Articles
Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes
Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?
The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody
Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration
Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
IT Project Management
CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement
No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes
Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™
The Pulse Measurement Workflow
The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement
Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations
What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?
Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years
Sample Pulse Measurement Reports
Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems
Strategic Essence: Overview
Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined
Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation
Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different
Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure
Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence
Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?
Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment
Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual
A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting
Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works
Robust Business Systems Procurement
Part 1 -- Introduction
Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc
Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters
Guidance and Advisory Services
The Art of Project Leadership
Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital
The Business Simulation Laboratory
Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture
Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies
The JAR&A Cubic Business Model
Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal
The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration
Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask
Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration
092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013
088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa
026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf
018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf
011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng
Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems
Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering
Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations
Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment
The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual
Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples
Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software
Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References
Example General Ledger Manual
Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous
The RIGHT Approach
Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction
Standards for Custom Software Specification
What IS Software?
Critical Factors for I.T. Success
A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail
Case Studies examining Business Information System failures
The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle
The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict
Speaking and Training
Showcase of Conference Presentations
Most Viewed Presentations
Briefings and Seminars
Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results
The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success
Conferences and Public Presentations
Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present
Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009
Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005
Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996
Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994
On-Line Seminars (Webinars)
Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars
Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited