December 21, 2017 Stewart Marshall

Shopping is Fun

You may or may not agree with the title with specific reference to the actual act of going out and buying something, and given some of my experiences in the UK on a busy Saturday lunch time I’d be hard pressed to disagree with you, but I think that nearly everyone appreciates the moment when they unwrap, physically or metaphorically, their latest toy.

That instant when you take something out of its wrapper and get your first proper look at it, or have your first go is a special moment. There’s something so very visceral about it. And it’s not just a human trait either. Whenever I buy a new ball for my dog, his excitement level is far greater than when he plays with what remains of the old one.

Lucky for me then that he doesn’t have the wherewithal to buy them for himself. The house would end up like one of those ball pits that kids play in.

“Ze plane, ze plane”

But, while dogs and household pets in general lack the skills to satisfy their shopping bug, the same cannot be said for those holding the purse strings in business, and to make matter worse, temptation is all around. Companies as I’ve written before are in the business of selling something, so it behoves us to ensure that we’re not sucked in by their promises of a corporate technological Utopia.

All too often we see a new software package arrive, or a new module added to an existing solution, that is touted to solve an array of issues. But, just like the folk who visited the enigmatic Fantasy Island, when it came to actually living the dream, they found to their chagrin that nothing was free.

Consider this graphic from Gartner showing how expectation and time combine to find a happy medium where we put aside disappointment and disillusionment and settle for that barely satisfying, and all too often, not overly comfortable middle ground.

We start off identifying a need, or at least a desire. This is followed by rampant enthusiasm when the slick sales machine gets in to full flow, only to be dashed by the harsh reality of implementation and collective ignorance as the users struggle with the their new found functionality. Over time, their expertise level rises and productivity returns to a level that is ideally some way above the previous systems.

“Get rich or die trying”

Of course, not all new system implementations go well and some don’t even get to the end. We need only look at the lemming like rush to implement Java around the turn of the century. I’ve encountered many companies that tried to develop their own internal applications, only to find the sheer complexity of the code and performance problems left them with failed projects that were canned after a couple of years with a bucket load of money down the gurgler.

And should that not be sufficient to frighten you a tiny bit, have a think about the resources wasted by these 6 SAP failures.

I even have a friend who wrote her degree dissertation on companies that actually went broke while implementing SAP, so the previous half dozen are just the tip of a huge, and very costly iceberg.

The Simpsons

Still, such cautionary tales are just that, cautionary tales, but forewarned is forearmed or so I’m told, so we would be well advised to try to learn from the mistakes of those who’ve gone before. We could I suppose follow Homer’s advice and “never try”, but that would defeat the purpose somewhat, and as seen, buying something new always comes at a cost, and some times a VERY BIG ONE!

So that just leaves the middle ground, which as ever is reliably boring and sensible. But that of course is as it should be. When we look at back office systems for business such as accounting, inventory, HR and orders, there’s nothing remotely fun and exciting about them, but they are the backbone of the company and without them working effectively, things will go badly very quickly.

Hidden treasure

Some systems will need replacing. It is the way of the world. But more often than not, there is enormous untapped potential in existing systems. Rather than looking for a silver bullet or the next big thing, we should look at how an organisation operates. We should ask if the staff are correctly trained and whether they’re making effective use of the software. What can we streamline? What can we modify and enhance?

In short, what can we do TODAY that will ensure that we wring every dollar of value out of our existing systems. And when we’ve done that, we can have another look to determine what we need for tomorrow.

By doing this, you’ll continue to strengthen your organisation every day and help deliver an improved profit per person.

Today’s Top Takeaway

In today’s increasingly disposable society, it’s always worth remembering the ethos behind “make do and mend”.

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