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Storms Coming on the Salesforce.com Cloud Front

November 19th, 2012 by
Salesforce.com Cloudy Vision

Salesforce.com financial clouds

 

I recently ran into a post from a pretty well respected investor blog over at “Seeking Alpha.”  The basic takeaway is that the Salesforce.com cloud business is not all it is hyped up to be and that shareholders may be in for a seriously rude awakening [FN1].

——————–

The way it is described there sounds a LOT like Enron accounting.  They called it a Ponzi Scheme and here is how it works:

  • Employees receive stock options INSTEAD OF cash compensation for various raises, bonuses, etc.
  • Salesforce.com takes the DIFFERENCE in stock value that they gave to their employees (an expense under GAAP and IFRS) verses what it WOULD HAVE COST in cash and books THAT DEFERRED COST as actual cash flow.  Viola! Magical cash flow appears!
  • THEN they add the “saved cash flow” (deferred cost, i.e. Expense) to non-GAAP earnings as “profit” thereby doing a complete Enron to convert an expense into profit.

So, let’s sum this all up.  They issue more stock certificates, they provide them to internal employees, then they simply count the stock certificates as profit.  WOW!  That is some creative accounting. 

The post goes on to explain the shareholders have their share value diluted, not necessarily in dollar terms in the SHORT TERM, but most definitely in quantity terms in the short term.  It is only a matter of time before it all catches up with them however.  Their whole premise is the Salesforce.com Cloud sales model is unsustainable in the mid to long term.

An added expense to the shareholder is the dilution that these increasing stock-based compensations are causing. Every quarter, the share count is rising. So the shareholder is fooled in a double manner. By dilution and representing costs as profits.

They go on to add that while some investors may be fooled in the short term on the non-GAAP claims the GAAP numbers tell a story that the company may have some very serious storm clouds ahead.

Without deeper insight, instinct would tell you there must be a catch, simply by asking the following question: How can you raise cash by spending more than you earn? Spending more than earning is exactly what Salesforce.com is doing, as evidenced by the company’s increasing GAAP losses.

The summary is that Salesforce.com excludes the huge expense of stock based compensation to present NON GAAP profits (masking that this expense results in GAAP losses), but on the other hand they include it in their cash flow statement to present rising cash flow (masking that true cash flow from operations is falling).

Consequences of a Salesforce.com Stock Fall

A Salesforce.com stock slide would have significant ripple effects across all of the software space, but most aggressively on any of the cloud vendors.  Because it is such a high profile cloud vendor, and a high profile CRM software company, the effects would likely have at least some short term impact even on companies like SAP.  

 


 

[FN1] Salesforce.com Accounting Shenanigans Explained

http://seekingalpha.com/article/857361-salesforce-com-accounting-shenanigans-explained




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SAP Change Management Program Success

July 30th, 2012 by
SAP Change Management

SAP Change Management

Lots of literature, information, and resources focus on change management for successful enterprise application projects.  To help address SAP change management the SAP ASAP Methodology provides lots of resources, tools, and templates along with guidance for Change Management during your SAP project.  This is one of the key reasons for Why to Use the SAP ASAP Methodology?

Even though the ASAP methodology and various other resource provide some great sources the high level guiding framework always seems to be a little vague.  For example, there is a constant message that people resist change and that it is so hard.  That is not true.  As I have often said, if people resisted change no new product or service would ever be sold.  No new invention, gadget, method, or anything else would ever be developed.  There would be NO innovation in anything.

People do NOT simply resist change–, they resist change they do not understand and change they perceive is a threat.

Applying Sales and Marketing Principles to SAP Change Management

If sales and marketing departments for every type of organization in the world manage to sell new products or services maybe we should look to them for what works.  For both marketing and sales there are four key phases for customers considering a purchase:

  • Awareness (Marketing)
  • Consideration (Marketing, sales)
  • Evaluation (Sales, marketing)
  • Purchase (Sales)

These four general stages or phases of buyer behavior correlate well to a solid change management program–, messaging, engagement, credibility, and commitment.  To be successful you must be committed to Leading Change (and Change Management).

1.  Messaging – This is the beginning of the stakeholder analysis process.  Exploration, active listening, and facilitation are critical.  At this stage messaging is outbound.

Product or Service Sales Phase

Awareness

Customers understand and can communicate their desire or problem or need.  What are your constituents facing?  What are their struggles and what will help them do what they need to do better?  If the change will add more burden to them then why is the change necessary? 

Enterprise Change Phase

Discovery and blueprinting

A good SAP or enterprise application change program must start right from the beginning of the project.  First the identification of the key stakeholders at all levels of the organization must be made.  Afterward a clear effort must focus on the benefits to the affected users.  You must focus on the WHY of Achieving Business Value from SAP Investment.

A system-centric blueprint which does not connect to user needs will only breed mistrust and fear.

Analysis

Surveys are distributed and results tabulated.

2.  Engagement – Deeper determination of the issues, active communication, and targeted messaging.  Stakeholders at all levels must be encouraged to participate and be heard.  At this stage communications and messaging just start to go both ways (inbound and outbound).

Product or Service Sales Phase

Consideration

Marketing and communications are directed at addressing customer desires, problems, or needs.  Assurances are provided that the product or service will meet those issues.  The customer begins to solidify whether or not to explore a purchase decision.

Enterprise Change Phase

System functionality demonstrations and stakeholder feedback

Key stakeholders have the first part of their issues addressed.  There are 4 key types of change categories each user fits into here.  They are:

  • Opposed
  • Unsure, anxious, or fearful
  • Accepting or willing
  • Promoting

This phase of the change process is designed to aggressively uncover and then address those who are opposed or anxious about the upcoming changes.  These key stakeholders must be heard and their concerns answered.  It is also where the key message around SAP Service Delivery versus Value Delivery is promoted.

Analysis

Survey results are synthesized, reviewed, and then communicated to the broader enterprise.  Action plans to address the survey results are developed.  Any evaluation metrics are defined.

3.  Credibility  - benefits messages, demonstrations, insight, and information.  Change activities must promote openness and clearer understanding of the reasons for change.  More of an inbound and outbound dialog begins to occur.  Communications are actively going both ways.

Product or Service Sales Phase

Evaluation

Understanding of key features of a product or service and how they are different or better than competitors occurs.  Price considerations are also important.

Enterprise Change Phase

Aggressive information sharing and open dialog

One way you can Achieve Business Benefit is Through SAP Prototype Demonstrations.  Part of the communication and benefits program involves live system demonstrations (demo days), active engagement of super users, subject matter experts, and key change agents throughout the organization.  Messaging would also include external web resources, links, presentations, and other information to help “sell” the organization on the coming changes.

The goal of this phase is to overcome objections, fear, and anxiety.

Analysis

Action plans from the surveys are communicated to the organization and execution activities are carried out.   Evaluation metrics are refined, communicated, and adjusted to the organizational requirements.

4.  Commitment  - full user participation is critical at this stage.  If they are not involved in the process all of the previous effort falls apart here.

Product or Service Sales Phase

Purchase

For the purchase of a car this is the test drive and price negotiation.  For services or other items it is the understanding of key differentiators and how the service will help or enhance the customer’s issue, customer references, and possibly case studies.

Whether it is a test drive, understanding differentiators, price negotiations, or the benefits of a product or service these are all directly related to building a level of trust which in turn produces commitment.

Enterprise Change Phase

Acceptance, Adoption, and Promotion

More user demonstrations, training, super user network, subject matter experts, and pilot processes are all important here.  This is where everything starts to come together. 

This is also where any changes to originally expected benefits or reductions in scope must be carefully managed.  Another key area is the Organizational Change Management Inside the SAP IT Support Organization.  A key component at this phase involves Change Management Strategies and Knowledge Transfer Processes for a Successful SAP Project 1 (and Part 2).

The goal of this phase is to produce acceptance and even promotion of the changes.  However acceptance, adoption and promotion are not possible if the stakeholders have not established trust in the coming change. 

Analysis

Execution activities are carried out and nearing completion.  Reviewing, analyzing, and then distributing the results of the previously defined metrics results occur.  Lessons learned are captured and communicated.

Conclusion on SAP Change Management for Business Application Project Success

Every phase of your SAP or enterprise application project must be wrapped in the appropriate change management processes.  Just as with sales and marketing people do not resist change as much as they resist change which they perceive as a threat or do not understand.  So the key is to learn to sell the change and its benefits so that the perception of a threat is removed.  In doing so you will help to transform your project and company into a winner, both now and in the future.




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Investigative Report: Enterprise Application Guest Worker Fraud in America

June 18th, 2012 by
H1-B Visa Fraud

Guest Worker Fraud

Last week’s post on why Guest Worker IT Firms Crash Then Burn When Investigating Visa Fraud provided a little background on guest worker fraud being investigated now. Much of the spark to light this match was the whistle-blowing activity of a Jack Palmer about Infosys. However Infosys should NOT be considered an isolated incident.

As Jack Palmer’s case demonstrates there are options for consultants who are tired of the fraud. What Mr. Palmer’s conviction and dedication indicates is that you must be willing to stand up and be counted. No one said being a whistle-blower would be easy, but there are protections. Another interesting feature of Mr. Palmer’s case involves the various government agencies and channels conducting several of the ongoing investigations.

United States Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa has taken a strong interest in meaningful visa reform and ending the fraud for some time. As a regular crusader against H1-B visa fraud he has often introduced legislation and taken a stand against fraudulent practices. As one example in a February 10, 2012 Grassley Weekly Video Address: H-1B Reform was the topic.

While some Guest Worker IT Firms Crash Then Burn When Investigating Visa Fraud there are still too many customers who are ripped off while their SAP or other enterprise projects crash and burn. Even though there are Hidden SAP Offshore Development Costs, those costs and the negative consequences go much higher when dealing with fake experience from onshore resources. There is a measure of customer trust that workers who are on site, employed by system integrators, had to go through some type of screening and background verifications for experience. Enterprise application customers almost expect that the hiring practices at some of these IT firms mirror their own internal processes. NOTHING could be further from the truth. See this excerpt from Mr. Palmer’s insight (noted last week in Guest Worker IT Firms Crash Then Burn When Investigating Visa Fraud):

When asked if all the people had some special expertise that couldn’t be found in the U.S., Palmer said, “Absolutely not. Not even close. Many of them [are] what we call freshers. People that would just come over, whoever they could get to come over. Whoever got accepted for a visa.”

Many of the people brought in, in fact, didn’t know what they were doing at all, Palmer said. “There was not a project or program that I was involved in that we did not remove somebody because they had no knowledge of what they were doing,” he said.

As noted by Mr. Palmer’s attorney Ken Mendelsohn, “Senator Grassley has taken an interest in this situation and actually wrote Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napoliatano.” The letter and responses are attached here and are interesting from the perspective that there are still MASSIVE numbers of B-1 and other visas being issued (primarily to Indian IT firms).

Letter from Grassley

Response from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Conclusion on Helping to Clean Up VISA FRAUD in the Enterprise Application Space

Sadly for those with real experience, whether foreign born or citizen, it is not just the system integrators who are the problem–, often some of the recruiting firms help to continue perpetuating the visa fraud. I’ve heard of many cases where unscrupulous recruiters will provide candidates with resumes the recruiters rewrote to add “experience” and background “employment” that the individual does not have.

Mr. Palmer’s case together with several criminal investigations are underway (with still more to come) but you can do your part to stop the fraud in the visa program by reporting any incidents you encounter.

If the fraud were stopped I personally wouldn’t care if the caps on visas related to high tech were significantly increased or eliminated. Unfortunately I don’t think a real cleanup will happen until some people end up in jail.

As I have long said, I personally have no issue competing with the very best there is anywhere in the world but it gets old cleaning up and working around so many messes left behind in the SAP world. I’m not interested in that kind of “job security.” I want to make the highest and best use of my skills by helping businesses gain real benefit from their SAP projects.

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References and Additional Information on Reporting Suspected Visa Fraud and Abuse

United States Code (USC): 18 USC § 1546 (a) “[Any visa, permit, or other document] procured by means of any false claim or statement, or to have been otherwise procured by fraud or unlawfully obtained…” provides for criminal penalties and fines.

Contact U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley to tell your story or to encourage further investigations or prosecutions: http://www.grassley.senate.gov/contact.cfm

The Criminal investigations into Infosys and other high tech worker visa fraud issues is being partially handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Texas. If you have information about Infosys or other system integrators committing visa fraud reach out to them. You can contact them here: http://www.justice.gov/usao/txe/contact.html

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement accepts tips and information related to visa fraud, feel free to report any suspected incidents here: http://www.ice.gov/exec/forms/hsi-tips/tips.asp




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