April 2009 was definitely the month in which South Africans did not get much work done. In every week this month there has been a public holiday – all but one planned well in advance; the unplanned holiday was the election day on 22nd. That means we have not had a 5-day working week for 4 weeks. The last week is the shortest, with only 3 working days.
A Harvard Business Review article The Truths About IT Costs lists seven ‘truths’ about IT costs. These are:
- Enhancements often don’t deliver results commensurate with their costs.
- Projects are often too big and take too long, partly because unnecessary functionality is built into applications.
- Previously purchased applications and infrastructure technology are often underutilized.
- Project failure rates are too high.
- Tech teams do not have sufficient incentive to achieve high quality, and quality is often not measured.
- Managers don’t know enough about the systems that support their areas.
- IT is too risk averse: “No one ever got fired for buying IBM or Microsoft.”
The article reads like some consultants’ reports – addressing problems at a high-level, with a few key recommendations; but when you think about it for a while you wonder how to practically implement the recommendations.
Update: see also Michael Krigsman’s critical blog
Reading bloggers and analysts reviews on ERP solutions sometimes makes me cringe. Often, these writers are US-based, and they seem to think that their experiences in the ERP industry, especially in the mid-market, can be extrapolated elsewhere in the world. I beg to differ.
An example of regional differences comes from a report by the Panorama Consulting Group, which shows that US and European mid-market companies are comfortable with an implementation period for, and an investment on an ERP system which, from this South African’s view, is extravagant.
One of the reasons that mid-market ERP vendors are regionally strong is because, for the mid-market, relevant customer references and industry knowledge in their specific area is important. A recent set of articles about Mistakes Sales People Make points out that creating credibility and lowering the customer’s view of your riskiness is a critical issue.
Another reason why I believe the ERP mid-market is regionalised is because of the markets and the requirements are different. It’s no point a big US software maker talking about their US or European sites to a South African or Indian business, because the worlds and the cultures are so different. This is where I think the ERP vendors should be taking lessons from the consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies.
The CPG companies often have the same product sold in different countries, but the branding, packaging and marketing is specific for those countries. A CPG company in a region will have its own marketing program – from research through to campaign – which could be quite different to the same company in another region. I have not seen that approach adopted yet by any ERP company – where the marketing plan and decision-making is centralised in one developed country.
In my un-researched opinion, based on personal information, these might be some major regional ERP dominances:
UK - Dynamics GP, Sage
Northern and Eastern Europe – Dynamics NAV
Sub-Saharan Africa – SYSPRO, Sage
Middle East – Oracle
I am not familiar with India, Asia or Australia, but would be interested to hear what others think are the situations for those regions.
So, my recommendation to:
- the northern analyst organisations – by all means keep up what you are doing but be more explicit about regional differences,
- the major ERP vendors – break out of your centralised marketing mentality and create teams in separate countries/regions who are allowed their own discretion on what to market, how to package (modularise) it, and how to sell and price it.
Brian Sommer commented on reports that organisations should really start looking at project portfolio management (PPM) – PPM & IT Management – is now finally the time?
Many organisations have some rudimentary project management capability – such as an enterprise licence for Microsoft Project – but have no idea how to really benefit from a project-oriented to their business.
The work that I have been doing at my company in the last 2 years has shown me that simply implementing a technology solution is most unlikely to make an organisation project-prepared. The problem is that the project software vendors like to promote their software as the first step. Working with consultants like the X-Pert Group have shown me that to become project-oriented, an organisation has to go through a cultural change, starting at the executive level, and has to be prepared for a long learning curve and a number of struggles on the way.
So while I would love more people to come to us for project technology, I would recommend that they put their houses in order first.
Earlier this year I attended a Boy Scouts camp fire evening. The event was the culmination of my younger daughter’s PLTU (Patrol Leaders Training Unit) course, which is an rigorous outward bound course over 10 days.
Scout camp fires consist of songs and stories, all done around a large camp fire with lots of audience participation. For kids and adults alike it was a thoroughly entertaining evening, and it got me thinking how our western-based society has lost this old-style form of entertainment. Events like this bring people together in a way that modern TV-oriented entertainment can never do, and it’s sad that people seem to be losing the old ways of entertainment.
In early 2008, many South Africans had to re-learn how to amuse themselves when the country went through a few months of “load shedding” (power cuts by Eskom, our one and only electricity supplier) necessitated by a lack of power generating capacity. At first I considered evening black-outs a problem, but it became quite pleasant as we discovered how to entertain ourselves as a family – reading, studying or playing games around one table in our candle-lit kitchen.
As a proud father, I have to announce that this PLTU was for girl scouts only, and there were 32 girls on this course; and my daughter was awarded the best scout of the course.