One of the major issues that I encounter when reviewing sub-optimal system implementations is the lack of precision in the manner in which the system is implemented.
We live in a world in which we take precision for granted.
Our motor vehicles are precision engineered, our houses are built level and plumb and a gap between a door and frame of more than a few millimeters is cause to get the builders back in to fix the problem. We take precision for granted when it comes to nearly every aspect of our lives and get frustrated when precision is compromised.
Yet, when one looks at the implementation and application of business computer systems generally and ERP in particular, I am constantly struck by the extent to which business executives who otherwise run their businesses with high levels of precision tolerate outright sloppiness and then blame the software.
1. Computers are dumb adding machines
Computers really ARE dumb adding machines, they do exactly what we tell them to do.
The fact that a vast number of human beings have invested huge amounts of time creating sophisticated software that performs a huge diversity of specialized functions does not alter the fact that computers are extremely precise repetitive processing engines.
In fact, in order to work at all computer software has to be precise, if there are logic errors in the design or execution these will very rapidly become apparent.
Because computers are so dumb it is also so that when something goes wrong it is because some human being did something.
Computers are NOT human and they do not suddenly decide to have a bad day and make mistakes. They either work or they do not work, it is what human beings do that causes the problems.
All mainstream major brand business software products are precision machines, the end result of substantial time and intellectual investment by human beings somewhere, the question is, are you using your precision machine as a precision machine, or are you putting water in the fuel tank of your R1 million Rand motor vehicle and then blaming the manufacturer because it will not start?
2. A database is just a filing cabinet
A database really is just a filing cabinet.
A database comprises a large number of storage locations and classifications in terms of which data is stored.
Database application software is simply an automated filing clerk -- if you cannot get the information you need when you need it it is because some human being gave the filing clerk the wrong instructions and the item is incorrectly filed or it is filed in a bin with thousands of other items and no basis to locate it quickly.
If you just inserted every document into a single set of lever arch files in the order in which it was received you would struggle to find it in the absence of an index, computer databases are just the same with the added complexity that you cannot see what is where.
3. A computer keyboard is simply a fancy typewriter
So much emphasis is placed on computers as "productivity tools", we must get the latest software for maximum productivity.
Yet, have you taken the time to watch most computer users at the keyboard?
If a person who spends much of their time in front of a computer interacting using the keyboard as the principal means of input cannot type at at least sixty (60) words per minute with 99.99% accuracy then you are kidding yourself that the computer is a productivity tool.
When they make typing errors that result in the software operating incorrectly then productivity has become a total fallacy.
In fact, in terms of some of the things that I see it is debateable whether productivity has in fact DECLINED in recent years relative to the manual systems, the hidden costs of expensive professionals labouring to overcome apparent "technology" problems which are the consequence of imprecise and SLOPPY usage of computers are very substantial in many organizations.
4. A general ledger is just a large book to write numbers in
Because the general ledger is simply the expression of a large book one can put just about any sort of data in just about any form, structured or unstructured into it.
If you want to keep track of people or machines in detail, the GL is quite capable of being used for this but in the same way that if you write inappropriate things in the paper based general ledger you will cause problems, the situation is orders of magnitude MORE SEVERE in computerized general ledgers because the errors are much more difficult to spot. A good place to look is your audit fees, if an army of audit clerks spend months on your audit the chances are that there is something wrong.
A badly configured general ledger can cripple your business, recent reports indicate that a major corporation implemented a major new system with inaccurate configuration and thought they were making a profit when in fact they were making a loss and the CEO was forced to RESIGN -- badly configured ERP systems CAN cripple your business.
5. Precision strategic configuration determines value
Content NOT technology determines value.
There is not much to distinguish between the ERP products in the market today.
All are powerful, flexible and highly configurable.
Yes if you shop around you may find one which has certain modules that fit your business better but the quality of the implementation consultants will have a much bigger impact than the product you choose.
Consultants who do not exhibit a strategic (i.e. fundamental) grasp of your business and how to fit the software to your business can do huge damage and those that DO can add huge value.
Rather choose an implementer who can evidence robust understanding of the fundamentals of your business and then find out what product they implement than spend large amounts of effort selecting a product and then take the first implementer that comes your way.
Structured hierarchical taxonomies (classification schemes) that accurately reflect the REAL world in your business will make the difference between an exceptional high value implementation of a mediocre product and a mediocre implementation of an exceptional product. Such taxonomies are truly "THE MISSING LINK" in successful ERP implementation.
I will be running a course on "Strategic Taxonomies -- the ERP Missing Link" on Thursday 10 June 2010" please email me for more information and forward this to anyone you think will be interested.
The taxonomies define the layer of logical modelling of the business that sits BETWEEN the business and the ERP although the data itself resides in the ERP -- a truly strategically sound chart of accounts is fundamentally the same irrespective of which ERP you implement on top of it, ditto the materials master, item master, product master, etc, etc.
This same logical layer must exist between the business and the so called "business intelligence" tool.
Fact is, a BI tool is only as intelligent as the intelligence in the data and if there is no intelligence in the data you will spend a fortune on expensive consultants and not make better decisions -- Gartner reported a few years ago that in a survey of 1,300 major corporations in Europe which had spent large sums on BI they were not making better decisions that five years earlier.
6. Executive decision support information out requires executive thinking in
One of the major complaints I hear from executives is "we have spent millions on this system but every time I ask for information I am told it is not available even though I know the transactions are being processed".
Something else I hear frequently from executives is "Dr Robertson, I do not understand IT" -- this sort of abdication is a fundamental contributor to the first problem.
Executives do NOT need to understand IT in detail BUT they DO need to have enough insight to manage IT just like every other area of their business and to ensure that there is executive direction given to the implementation and operation of the system.
If you are an executive or manager and not sure you know how to manage IT then my upcoming briefing on Thursday 27 May "Why your ERP is not delivering and how to fix it" is a MUST.
This briefing will equip you to manage IT at an executive level and know when to call in specialists to advise you. Email me for more information and please forward to anyone you think might benefit.
7. Lack of precision in configuration and operation is the number one cause of sloppy ERP outcomes
If the configuration of your ERP is sloppy and imprecise, which it almost certainly is, and the typing of the operators is sloppy and imprecise why are people surprised when the outputs are unreliable and people resort to spreadsheets and other manual resources because they do not trust "the system".
I recently advised a client to trash a very substantial investment in a big brand ERP that had been shockingly implemented and it turned out that they were actually running the business on data in spreadsheets and not relying on the ERP at all!
Precision configuration and operation are necessary prerequisites for effective ERP operation. They are NOT a luxury and they do NOT cost more than the conventional approach, as with all things in life, quality is NOT free, it is just cheaper than the alternative.
If you have an ERP implementation that lacks precision and you truly analyse the FULL cost of that lack of precision you will see that you cannot afford to continue that way.
If you are debating whether to trash your current ERP and buy a new one, look first at the possibility of reimplementing what you have with precision configuration.
I can assist you to assess the merits of alternative scenarios, express a robust opinion on the health of your current system and advise you on how to approach the implementation or reimplementation of your existing system or a new system. Please email me for more information and pass on to anyone who you think would benefit.
The ERP industry is at a watershed.
A radical change in approach is called for.
Precision strategic (the essence of the business and how it thrives) configuration is THE way of the future.
A simple confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement which you can tailor and elaborate on as you see fit and which may vary depending on your legal jurisdiction and your attorney. I recommend that this initial document is kept simple as you want ALL persons attending the initial tender briefings to sign this
You would possibly have a much more comprehensive agreement for your short list bidders and possibly more comprehensive still for your final choice although I personally hold that very detailed documents of this sort tend to be excessive
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Business Systems NOT delivering?
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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
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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
A rigorous (engineering approach) to strategic planning using critical issues based analysis techniques and structured gap analysis techniques to develop a comprehensive and rigorous multi-year plan that is measurable and actionable and traceable back to the original analysis in order to produced high value outcomes, requires effective strategic facilitation
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