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9 Games ERP Consultants Play

January 14th, 2013 by

ERP Consultant Games

Most in the ERP industry agree that software consultants can play a major role in helping their clients successfully implement a new ERP package. While some consulting firms have more expertise than others do, at least most firms try to operate with their client’s best interest in mind.

However, there are many firms within the ERP industry that are outright thieves. They will not hesitate to take advantage of their clients in order to pad their own wallets. In fact, some firms are so good at this it has become part of their standard operating procedures.

Clients that are educated and aware of the games consulting firms play can save themselves a few headaches and a lot of money. Below are some of their tricks to watch out for.

1)      The “Bait and Switch” Routine

During the sales process, this is when certain consultants are brought in to display the expertise within the firm. They may know best practices and the software, but it might be the last time you ever see them.

2)      Resumes: Lies and Half-Truths  

Outright falsification of consultant resumes is more common than you think. In addition, many resumes presented by the firm are not really resumes, but vague “profiles” that lack detail and read like sales literature.

3)      “Lowballing” the Quote

This is the oldest trick in the book, yet surprisingly many clients continue to fall into this trap. For example, all consultants know that for time and material quotes the actual implementation costs are usually much higher.  Also, most fixed price quotes are only fixed until further notice.  When the client wants to make only minor changes in the project scope, they are hit with expensive change orders. The change order costs are usually 100% greater than the actual time for the consultants to perform the work.

4)      The “Best” Implementation Tools & Methods

Most firms claim to have the very best implementation methods and tools available. However, do not be surprised when their consultants run off and do something entirely different during the project. Maybe the tools are not so great; otherwise, their consultants would use them!

5)      The Less You Know – The More Money They Make

For some firms, a potential client that has ill-conceived project objectives, an undefined scope, or lacks basic knowledge of ERP; is considered a gold mine. The idea is to gloss over these “minor” details until after the client signs the contract.

6)      Marquee Accounts for Reference Checks

When a potential client asks for a list of the firm’s other clients for a reference check, many firms provide only their “marquee accounts”. These accounts are compensated by the firm in some form for being a reference. Therefore, do not expect these clients to mention anything bad about the firm.

7)      Not Enough Time and Talent

Most consulting firms would love to “camp out” on your ERP project. One way to do this is convince the client that the organization lacks the right employees for the project. Also, some firms too easily support the premise that the client’s best employees have other tasks to perform that are more important than an ERP project. That is, “No need to get your hands dirty. Our consultants will do the project for you.”  

8)      “Add-on” Services 

Once consultants get their foot in the door, many try to sell their clients additional services. These include more consultants for readiness assessments, change management programs, best practices, and other services you may not truly need. Also, do not be surprised when your consultants push for software functionality that was originally out-of-scope. 

9)      The Promise of Software Knowledge Transfer

Most firms state that one of their goals is to “work themselves off the project” by transferring software knowledge to the client. However, nine times out of ten, if it is going to happen, the client must force the issue. Considering their hourly rates, what incentives do consultants have to transfer software knowledge?

This guest post is by Steven Phillips, author of the Street Smart ERP blog and the new book Control Your ERP Destiny.

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Will SAP HANA Lead to a Big Data Revolution?

December 17th, 2012 by

SAP HANA – Big Data

Lots of folks focus on HANA as a competitor to Oracle, and it is.  Even if HANA adoption and sales were to completely devastate SAP’s biggest competitor (Oracle) that would not be HANA’s biggest impact–, the HANA product has the potential to disrupt entire industries in the context of Big Data.

Unlike Big Data, I’ve been skeptical about the benefits and use of social media in the enterprise, writing about it in Why Social Media Marketing Success Is Elusive for Business and Social Media Fads and the Risk to the Enterprise.  On the other hand, Big Data hasn’t gotten anywhere near the attention even though it has a fairly clear business case.  Big Data has the capability to transform enterprises, organizations, and even entire industries.  We are not talking about abstract “build it and they will come” theories here either.  We are talking about a revolution in the way business is done.

Big Data will have huge impacts on customers, products, even whole regions of the world.  What do I mean when I refer to Big Data?

BIG DATA:  The ability to analyze large volumes of both structured data (like transactional data streams) AND unstructured data (social media, industry information, news trends, etc.) leading to market makers and market losers across virtually all industries.

This ability to synthesize structured and unstructured data streams with technology advances WILL transform companies and industries.
 
Over the next 5 – 10 years:

  • Computing power will continue to grow.
  • High speed memory processing (like in SSD drives) will improve.
  • Massive memory storage will come down in price.
  • In-memory database technologies will mature.

This “perfect storm” of Big Data know-how and technology advances will lead to the ability to identify:

  •  Subtle and even unknown market segments.
  •  Market and sales trends.
  •  Customer sentiments, needs, and wants.
    • Leading to new product or service opportunities.
  • Competitor strengths or weaknesses.
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Big Data will be part of the ERP iii [FN1] technology innovation driving customer focus related to customer acquisition, customer retention, and marketplace performance.  Big Data represents a business transformation shift in how business will be done in the future–, it represents a potential seismic shift in business performance in the marketplace.

The Big Data Revolution

The struggles are the semantics in how to synthesize the information and filter the nuggets from the noise.  Big Data allows you to understand what the keys are in terms of words, concepts, and ideas.  It then allows you to synthesize those keys with the various data sources.
 
In other words, how do you take the product sales information (transactional data), customer demographics (transactional), corporate market knowledge (unstructured internal), key word search (semi-structured internal and external such as with Google or Bing), with marketplace intelligence (unstructured external, including external social media), and innovate new or existing products and services?  That is the challenge that some folks are beginning to work on today.  That is the challenge that SAP’s HANA product enables for the future enterprise. 

Big Data means “Business Intelligence” will finally become, well, intelligent!

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[FN1]  For more information on ERP 3 see this comprehensive ERP treatise ERP vs. ERP II vs. ERP III Future Enterprise Applications.

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SAP Third Party – Indirect Usage Licensing Part 2

December 3rd, 2012 by
SAP Indirect Usage Licensing

SAP Software License

For those who may not be aware, SAP is not the first company to require user licenses for third party or “indirect usage.”  It is becoming more commonplace and some companies are quite aggressive with it.  This follow up to last week’s post on SAP Third Party – Indirect Usage Licensing Part 1 will address real opportunities here.

Over the years SAP has set itself apart by aggressively pursuing sales while generally maintaining good customer relations.  It is a balancing act that has served SAP well.  Over the years SAP has avoided the market perception of a ruthless, do anything to get the sale, software vendor. 

This whole third party, indirect software usage can undermine that. 

But there IS an answer!

SAP Are You Listening?  There IS a Third Party / Indirect Usage WIN-WIN Here!

Like any other company, revenue growth is a primary focus.  For software companies, directly related to revenue growth there is also expanding the software footprint within the customer base. 

SAP as a company wants to grow revenue and expand their software footprint. What if there IS a way to achieve this AND satisfy your customers too. 

Would you agree this would be a WIN-WIN?

Customer Perception of the SAP Third Party Indirect Usage Licensing

Purchasing licenses for “indirect usage” feels to a customer like they are paying for something and not receiving any benefit.  There is no “value” in this approach from a customer perspective.  Yes SAP, you have your Intellectual Property (“IP”) to protect, and yes, you developed that IP. 

I am not talking about a legal issue with your IP, instead I am referring to a sales, marketing, and customer relations issue.

Add a customer’s lack of awareness to the perception of “no value” and you have a recipe for difficult customer relationships.  SAP third party or indirect software usage presents an unbudgeted “pure expense” from a customer viewpoint.  Most customers really are not aware of the indirect usage requirement so they don’t budget for it

SAP, Your Third Party or Indirect Usage Answer

Provide your customers a value added alternative to indirect usage or third party compliance issues.  Give them an option to substitute the third party or indirect usage cost they would have incurred in the form of other SAP applications or solutions.  In this way your customers are receiving something of value, you are expanding your software footprint, and you are still gaining the revenue you were looking for without the nasty reputation.  If necessary, give them a deferred payment window so they can plan for and budget the change.

Provide your customers a value added alternative to indirect usage or third party compliance issues.

You can gain a HUGE advantage by targeting certain application deployments–, for example if you want to expand your Cloud sales, HANA, or mobile, you could pick the various products you will allow as a substitute for the indirect usage fees.  This in turn boosts your sales of these newer products and provides your customers with something that is meaningful.  This has huge strategic benefits, for example, each HANA sale potentially displaces Oracle.  Each CRM sale substitute (for the indirect usage) potentially displaces Salesforce. 

Expand Application Footprint and Increase Revenue

ALWAYS be ready to trade the 3rd party integration for a deeper footprint which keeps a competitor out of the client.  Clients benefit from new software capabilities and SAP benefits from a revenue stream WITHOUT the negative relationship consequences of “forcing” the 3rd party maintenance issue.  This also becomes a differentiator with Oracle and other vendors who will push the 3rd party issue.  SAP STILL gains the additional revenue.

ALWAYS be ready to trade the 3rd party integration for a deeper footprint which keeps a competitor out of the client

You could structure contracts to defer 3rd party usage fees by adding some tradeoff in contracts like “as long as annual license revenue is at least ‘x’ no 3rd party licenses.” By doing this you are taking a “gentler” approach in preparing customers for a possible future license event.  This takes the surprise, frustration, and shock out of the equation while keeping your revenue stream more predictable and giving them a chance to budget for the spend.

Conclusion on SAP Indirect Usage or Third Party Usage Sales and Marketing Options

Seriously SAP, you have a LOT of options here.  You can be less adversarial and note that you will defer indirect usage or third party fees as long as a customer’s annual, net new license spend is “X” amount a year.  If they need new licenses for additional users the customer perceives this as a benefit and they can gain additional time to budget for an eventual indirect usage fee.  You are still satisfying your CORE requirement to grow revenue while increasing your solution footprint within your customer base AND in a way that is less offensive than the customer perception of a cost for no benefit.  Many customers look at this as a penalty for choosing SAP solutions.  While the IP is yours SAP, it is offensive to a customer because the data and business are theirs.

This creates a more open environment and many more customers may be willing to “come clean” about indirect usage.  By providing some kind of perceived benefit they are more likely to address the compliance (rather than hiding it) AND the customer AND SAP gain something of value.  Talk about a “Win-Win”!

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