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Articles by James A Robertson and Associates

SNw 036 The Tension Between Strategic Executives and Operational Personnel
Created by James on 6/18/2013 3:51:34 PM


Recently I was giving a talk to a group of ERP Consultants and Sales Personnel regarding my experiences with regard to ERP

At a point I stressed the importance of Executive involvement and Executive Custody and asserted that the CEO should ALWAYS be the custodian of the ERP

One of the delegates volubly disagreed with me and asserted that Executives did NOT know how the business operated and that the ONLY way to undertake an ERP project was to work with the operational personnel because "they know how we do things round here"

I responded a couple of times to try and show why his position was flawed but he was LOCKED into his paradigm

This triggered me to revisit some thoughts that I had been having over several years relating to the TENSION that exists between the Strategic Executive view of the business and the Tactical Operational view

Subsequently I have encountered a number of situations where this tension is evident so I thought it appropriate to write about it

Note that these comments apply to the tension between the Strategic and Operational views in ALL ELEMENTS OF THE BUSINESS

 

1.      I cannot get the information I need when I need it

I constantly encounter executives who complain that they cannot get the information they need when they need it

 

The principal factors driving this situation relate to a lack of Executive Custody -- the subject of my Webinar on Friday -- and lack of Strategic Alignment -- to be discussed later in the year

 

This manifests in Executives leaving mid-level managers and supervisors to specify the configuration of the ERP, which is a FATAL flaw

 

The consequence of this is that the implementation takes place within operational parameters based on how things are done on the ground -- reality is that the way things are done on the ground seldom reflects the executive view and, in the day to day hurly burly of business, this is NOT a major issue -- things get done BUT they get done WITHOUT a strategic framework so that, when the data is aggregated, it makes NO sense from an Executive perspective without massive massaging -- generally in Excel outside of the ERP

 

2.      "Management do NOT understand how the business runs"

There is a widely held belief amongst operational people that "management do NOT understand the business" and that it is operations that makes the money.

 

This is a widely held misconception in society generally -- it is the intuitive wisdom of experienced leaders that generates commercially viable business operations -- YES they DO need the operational people to make things work and it IS so that Executives MAY, sometimes, have a bit of a theoretical view

 

HOWEVER, in my considerable experience of advising executives over more than thirty years I find Executives to be practical, down to earth, know how the business SHOULD run people

 

In fact, generally, I find that Executives have a BETTER idea of how the business should run than the operational people -- after all most executives WERE operational people once upon a time

 

The problem arises because of limited communication between the Strategic component and the Operational component and Operational people who "hack it" to get the job done, frequently in a sub-optimal way

 

I consistently find that, correctly facilitated, Executives have very clear ideas as to what IS required at the operational level subject to harmonization with practical constraints and considerations that they overlook because that is NOT their focus and NOT their responsibility UNTIL they choose to engage at that level in which case my experience consistently indicates a practical and workable outcome

 

3.     The Strategic BIG picture

The Strategic / big / long term picture is abstract, based on intuition and informed gut feel, not obvious, developed by experienced executives with a holistic world view

 

Operational people are NOT required to operate at this level and are NOT equipped to operate at this level (if they were they would be executives NOT workers)

 

It takes a VERY different skills set to operate at the strategic level, skills which a very small number of people have, this is why Executives are a scarce resource

 

A distinct "change of pace" is required for an Executive to drop down back to the Operational level and engage constructively with Operational personnel in THEIR domain -- again, suitable facilitation can be important

 

There is a need to translate the Strategic requirement into an Operational action plan, a skill which Executives posses to varying degrees -- the absence of this translation capability is where many problems arise

 

4.      The Operational World View

While the Strategic view relates to "doing the right things" (Malcolm McDonald), the Operational view relates to "doing things right" -- the nitty gritty of production cycles, deadlines, standard procedures, etc -- there is LIMITED room for intuition and initiative, the essence of the role is to keep things running smoothly to high standards consistently -- the way we do things round here

 

Frequently the exact way these things are done is AT ODDS with the Strategic view because there was NEVER any strategic facilitation to tie things together with the result that poorly communicated Strategic decisions and Strategic decisions that are made sub-optimally filter down to Operations with a degree of "broken telephone" such that what the Executive envisaged and what Operations are told to do seldom coincide -- NOT because the Executives do NOT know what to do -- at a headline level they do -- BUT because the message got corrupted

 

The consequence of this is HIGHLY sub-optimal ERP configurations that get the job done but constantly get in the way of Strategic goals and hamper or prevent Strategic information acquisition

 

5.     BPM is completely IRRELEVANT and very Important

BPM is a buzz word that has almost entirely become disconnected from the underlying concept of "Business Process Mapping", which REALLY means "workflow mapping"

 

In fact, BPM has, like ERP, developed a life of its own -- I spoke last year at a BPM conference and the speakers spoke about EVERYTHING EXCEPT workflow mapping -- to listen to the speakers Business Process has a breadth of interpretation that embraces everything, just like, for the ERP salesman, ERP embraces every possible system even though the strict interpretation of "Enterprise Resource Planning" occurs in only a SMALL number of ERP installations

 

Thus, at one level, BPM as a buzz word is, in my view, completely irrelevant -- focus on the fundamental building blocks, Strategy, Strategy Discovery, etc, etc

 

On the other hand, optimization of workflows, as an OUTPUT of an ERP project, NOT an imput, IS very important

 

BUT asking Operational staff to participate in "brown paper" exercises to "map processes" is a total waste of time -- processes should be dictated top down on a basis of what will work best for the business

 

6.      Impact on ERP Implementation

This tension between the Strategic view and the Operational view must be effectively managed for a successful ERP implementation or remediation and, in fact, for successful ERP operation

 

The Strategic Solution Architecture of the system configuration should be developed TOP DOWN starting with the Executive view and cascaded progressively down the organization with progressive elaboration and refinement as it is taken on-board by Operational staff

 

In this process practical contraints must be taken into account and the standards, policies, practices and methods optimized for the real world of Operations WITHOUT losing the Strategic intent

 

For example, at the Executive level, it may be decided that there is a need to track mechanic hours per machine

 

The initial solution may be envisaged as manual time sheets but, in practice, these are NOT well accepted by mechanics and result in unreliable data -- conclusion?  Do NOT track mechanic hours AND, "you see the Executives are impractical" BUT there are alternative solutions available using electronic devices which may be practical IF the Executives consider the investment justified -- thus the design now iterates Bottom Up to the Executive suite for refinement of the solution

 

Implementations should proceed Bottom Up, informed by the strategic framework derived from the Top Down design -- this is the SAME way we build buildings -- Top Down visualization of the final structure followed by Bottom Up construction

 

7.      How Operationally focussed consultants MISS it!

In my experience the vast majority of ERP implementation consultants and, in fact, the vast majority of of Management Consultants generally, are operationally focussed -- doing things right and are committed to helping clients spend considerable sums keeping those consultants busy day in and day out with low value tasks that deliver little or NO lasting benefit

 

What is called for in any team is at LEAST one strategically adept Strategic Solution Architect who can assist with the conceptualization of the Strategic solution and the translation of that concept into a practical OPERATIONAL solution

 

The lack of a gray haired Strategic Advisor on an ERP project can cost the business dearly in terms of denying it a long term high value solution

 

It is vital to take account of these factors in designing and operating ERP solutions and, in fact, any Business Optimization initiative...

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Dr James A Robertson PrEng The ERP Doctor

Business Systems NOT delivering?

Call the Business Systems Specialist

Dr. James Robinson

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.

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Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.

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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!

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We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues

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Table of Contents

Home

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

Reference Articles

List of Articles

Article Catalogue

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

Pulse Measurement

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

Strategy

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

Procurement Documents

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 1 -- Introduction

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?

IT Effectiveness

Organizing Outlook

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

Other Seminars

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