INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS

 

Volume IX, Number 3                                                                                                                    July, 2007

 

A newsletter for clients and friends of Chenault Systems

Copyright © 2007 Chenault Systems, Inc.  All rights reserved.

 


Systems Development and Success

By Tom Chenault

Everyone likes to keep a project as straightforward and simple as possible.  Perhaps the best way to achieve this is to avoid the traditional consulting approach of defining a project in terms of the subject to be studied and define the project in terms of what the client is truly ready to do.

This form of systems development means achieving rapid return-on-investment successes without relatively large costs to the clients in terms of sizeable studies or over-done systems development.  Automation and streamlining is done in select areas one at a time, keeping the overall goals in mind.

In our past newsletters we have tried to emphasize the importance of building flexible systems and staying away from a single solution from just one vendor.  The concept of enterprise resource planning (ERP) is fine as long as it is done on an incremental basis with the users and consultants working together. Never do ERP all at once.

However, time and time again we have seen organizations settle for the one big solution with no regard to future business changes.  In addition, there is growing recoil with the large, packaged systems (SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft, etc.) which were way oversold and in some cases have proven too costly, inflexible, and poorly matched to changing needs.

At Chenault Systems, we have been using what we call the “prototype method” for over fifteen years.  With this method, a system is developed incrementally, with prototypes heavily reviewed by the client (weekly scheduled meetings) until the final product is produced.  This process allows smaller teams of experienced consultants with the right tools to do more than legions of conventional consultants using the conventional approach.  This saves time and money by eliminating the extra layers of management and middle people in the form of liaison or business analysts.

Client and developer take the time to work out mutual responsibilities, including estimates and proposals, before any work begins.  This is the best way to determine up-front if the project will succeed or not.  After all, there is no reason to proceed if there is no agreement about how consultant and client will work together.  Therefore, there must be a plan on what needs to be achieved together as the external consultants team up with client employees having mutual respect for each other.  The only goal is to enhance company performance.

Another approach we prefer, since we are a smaller, less-known firm, is to ask the prospective client to "carve out" a small project for us.  This gives us a chance to prove ourselves, develop a relationship, and show good results at a relatively small cost to the client.

Planning must always be there, recognizing that systems will evolve; seldom can complete change happen all at once.  One must take this into account and respect the human aspect.  The organization must absorb the new processes at a reasonable pace or disruptive human side effects may result, which usually means higher costs.  People do not like change in their lives.

From our point of view, this process is more fun.  Why?  Being small and privately owned, the pressure to generate huge revenues and margins to support large salaries and Wall Street projections is not there.  Our overhead is lower and we can charge more reasonable rates.

In summary, smaller firms have lower overhead and do not have to resort to shifting development overseas in an attempt to lower costs.  Smaller firms tend to use the more personable face-to-face prototype approach to application development, which involves the client in the project through initiation, planning, implementation and closing.

Finally, good communications, without outside distractions, are the key to good systems development.

 

Let's Outlaw Fluffy Business Clichés

By Barry Moltz

The thing I despise most in business is when people use sophisticated clichés.  Instead of real words to make their actions seem more important or have extended meanings.

I have listed words I believe need to be outlawed for use in business.  I have dug into the ePrairie archives to show how these words have been used in the past.

"Sweet Spot"

“The sweet spot will be those situations where not only do we inject cash into the company but we may provide service to the company to help them,” said Joel Friedman, a managing partner at Accenture Technology Ventures (3/15/01).

In the 1990s, it seemed like we were all so good at so many things and we had to boast to people about where we were the best.  Three years later, unless you are chewing a jelly doughnut in a meeting, this phrase has no place in business.

Why can't people say “this is what we are good at” and then let their successful work with other clients speak for it?

"Clicks and Mortars" (updated from "Bricks and Clicks")

Stop!  These words no longer have meaning.  It is no longer interesting to talk about how companies like Grainger and Sears are using the Web.

Every company that has a retail operation and wants to sell on the Web now does.  The Web represents an important complementary part of a company's business.  Period. I hope I never have to see another business story on this again.

"Domain Expertise"

“Neogration will initially focus our direct sales efforts with its domain expertise at financial institutions and rely on system integrators and other software providers as partners into additional industries,” said Michael Qualley, president of Neogration (1/21/02).

Since there are few jobs at many Web-only companies, can we just talk about people's experience?  Domains were a fancy word we used to extend our experience to other "kingdoms" or "dominions."  Today, we need to be very focused and do it well in order to be successful.

"Let's Take That Offline"

This was the first business lingo I learned when I was at IBM more than 20 years ago.  I suggest we just “talk about it later.”  I can't think of the last time my cell phone or computer was turned off and I was offline when I wasn't sleeping.  We are always online.

"Win-Win"

“The seminars are a win-win for us and the technology community,” said Charlie Green of digitalEquation (12/15/02).

Let's face it:  This is just a myth.  Typically, no situation yields a solution in which both sides win equally.  This is just a way for the winner to make the loser feel better.  Usually, one side wins and one side loses.  This is OK in business. Let's just hope you can win the ones that count the most for your business.

"Full Pipeline"

This term was used when companies were flooded with lots of sales prospects.  Remember when you could just sit by your phone and prospects would call?  I can’t find many people talking about this these days.  By the way, what do we call it when there are few sales prospects?  An “empty aqueduct?”

"Best of Breed"

In the 1990s, people were always combining different ways to do things for coming up with the best solution to a customer's problem.  Unfortunately, this strategy didn't serve Chicago companies like Epigraph well because these solutions were so expensive.

As you know, times are tight.  I don't think companies are currently willing to pay for the best.  Companies want what is “good enough for now.”  We should find a way that works and stick with it until the economy improves.

"The Big Picture"

I am tired of seeing the big picture!  Let's find a solution that solves a customer’s problem and have him or her pay for it so we can meet payroll.  By the way, I think we should all try to “think inside the box” (if we can make a profit doing it).

"Push the Envelope"

“I believe broadband telecommunications has demonstrated that it can push the envelope by addressing technology development on all three fronts at once,” said Gregg Kamper, senior vice president and general manager at Glen Allen, Va.-based Dominion Telecom (8/2/02).

Newfangled ways of doing things are expensive.  So are paradigm shifts.  I suggest we spend less time pushing envelopes and more time licking stamps for contacting prospective customers.

"Smart Money"

Entrepreneurs used to say they only wanted money from people who would help their business.  Things are so tight right now that I would take “dumb as a rock money” for my business.

There is a great Web lingo generator at Dack.com.  The next time you need to “strategize enterprise initiatives” so you can “empower frictionless communities” and “envisioneer out-of-the-box e-markets” to “facilitate extensible users,” this tool will come in handy for you.

Barry J. Moltz has been running small businesses with a great deal of success and failure for 15 years.  His book, “You Need to Be A Little Crazy: The Truth about Starting and Growing Your Business” describes the crazy ups and downs and emotional trials of running a business.  The book invites readers to fully experience the personal journey and to let go of myths and expectations that can hamstring them.  He can be found at www.barrymoltz.com.

Quotes Worth Noting

“They tell me a rattlesnake, if cornered, will become so angry it will bite itself.  That is exactly what the harboring of hate and resentment against others is – a biting of oneself.  We think we are harming others in holding these spites and hates, but the deeper harm is to ourselves.” – Eli Stanley Jones

“In theory, there’s no difference between theory and practice – in practice, there is.” -- Yogi Berra