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keysThe May/June issue of APICS Magazine features an article by Gary Smith, a VP with New York City Transit with over 35 years of supply chain, process improvement consulting and team-management experience.  Smith’s insights about what makes a successful project – and the challenges that brings – are worth reprising here today.

First, to quote him directly from his APICS Magazine article (“Change from All Sides”):

“A successful project implementation demands that the people who are affected by it understand the benefits, are full owners, and participate from the beginning.  When the benefits of a project are clearly seen by all in terms of how these advantages align with the organization’s vision, mission and purpose, then acceptance, buy-in and ownership are possible.”

He goes on however to note the most important consideration, too often missed in projects:

“When a company implements projects both large and small, it is introducing change.  The nature of global competition requires businesses to adapt and transform in order for it to remain relevant… There are two types of change – mechanistic and organic.”

Smith describes how the two types of change differ.  Mechanistic change is often revolutionary, coming in the form of new ideas from management or consultants.  He gives the example of a new receiving process which is put in place, with employees trained – but in some cases receiving department staff were not involved and, even though all agreed a past system was outdated, the ideas they had for improvement were seemingly ignored.  Or worse still, they were done without giving proper credit.  When the consultant leaves, it’s no surprised if the new process is abandoned quickly.

Then there is the organic form of change, which is more evolutionary in nature.  It’s a change that becomes a part of an organization’s culture.  It tends to permeate from the bottom up.  Often, it’s taught by experienced employees to new hires.

And therein, emphasizes Smith, lies the secret:  “In order for change to become permanent, it must successfully transition from mechanistic to organic.  That is quite literally the only way to create sustainable change within an organization.”

How does this happen?  The key, in a word notes Smith, is ownership.  People have an innate desire to succeed.  They desire a stake in providing solution to problems.  Intrinsic motivation – the internal gratification derived from solving a problem – can be more satisfying and lead to better results than any external reward.  And, those intrinsic motivators can provide lasting change.  When intrinsic change is recognized by leaders who inspire action through change, people feel like part of the process.  It takes time and patience, but it is possible, and the results can be, as Smith puts it, “staggeringly successful.”

True ownership, then, is the “surest way to build a successful project, avoid failure, and create lasting organizational change.”

pmi_1998A recent graphic in The Week magazine (4-29-16, p. 18) reminds us of just how far the web has come.

Twenty years ago, our company (then named “PMI”) launched its first website (depicted, in part at left).  It was a rather tacky little affair with too many colors, fonts and sizes but hey, we were all young once – even the Internet.

As The Week points out, back then, at the dawn of 1996, there were a mere 40 million Internet users worldwide.  Today, there are 3.2 billion.  That’s an eight thousand percent increase in just two decades.  And in five years even that’s projected to double.  That will equal or even exceed the number of people on the planet!

We used to call websites “on-ramps to the information superhighway!”  As a good friend once famously quipped, “You’re nobody till you’re somebody-dot-com.”  (Thanks, Dave.)

Today, we’re awash in data, as in:

7,000 tweets… per second

Over 53,000 Google searches… per second

Over 120,000 YouTube videos viewed… per second

Nearly two and a half million emails sent… per second

And over 35 terabytes (a million gigabytes) of internet traffic… per second

By next year there are projected to be nearly nine million data centers worldwide.  Amazon has 30, each of which contains roughly 50,000 servers.

Back when we launched out site, your could download a 4 minute song in about… eight minutes.  Today, two seconds.

And lastly, for some longer term perspective, there’s this: Just over thirty years ago, in 1985 (two years before we launched our company), the Cray-2 was the world’s fastest supercomputer.  That Cray-2 had the same processing power as the Apple iPhone 4 when it was released in 2010.  That Cray-2 weighed nearly three tons.  The iPhone 4: just 5 ounces.

And just for good measure, don’t forget: the pace of change in technology is said to be running faster than ever before.  Hold on tight…

 

Tech Trends concept image with business icons and

Research firm Gartner Group recently published its list of the “Top 10 Technology Trends for 2016.”  We thought we’d share just a few of them with readers today.  The list was created by David Cearley, a Gartner VP who shared them with editors at Information Management.

Cearley begins with what he has aptly termed “the device mesh,” by which he means the various endpoint devices people use to connect with people, communities, governments and business.  “In the post-mobile world the focus shifts to the mobile user who is surrounded by a mesh of devices extending well beyond traditional mobile devices,” Cearley says.

From there, Cearley builds a case for some of the trends to watch for, including these:

Ambient User Experience – The device mesh creates the foundation for a new continuous ambient user experience, Cearley says. Think of it as one continuous and seamless digital experience for the user that blends device, time, and space, and combines the user’s physical environment with the virtual and electronic environments. “Designing these advanced experiences will be a major differentiator for independent software vendors and enterprises alike by 2018,” Cearley notes.

3D Printing Materials – The public likes 3D printing, and the public always gets what it wants. That will drive new advances in 3D printing technology, and its wider-scale use in new industries. “3D printing will see a steady expansion over the next 20 years of the materials that can be printed, improvement in the speed with which items can be printed and emergence of new models to print and assemble composite parts,” Cearley says.

Information of Everything – “Information has always existed everywhere but has often been isolated, incomplete, unavailable, or unintelligible,” Cearley notes. “Advances in semantic tools such as graph databases as well as other emerging data classification and information analysis techniques will bring meaning to the often chaotic deluge of information.”

Autonomous Agents and Things – The rise of the machines – or machine learning to be precise – also gives rise to a spectrum of smart machine implementations, Cearley explains. This includes robots, autonomous vehicles, virtual personal assistants, and smart advisors, all acting in an autonomous (or at least semiautonomous) manner. “IT leaders should explore how they can use autonomous things and agents to augment human activity and free people for work that only people can do,” Cearley insists.

Internet of Things Platforms – IoT platforms complement the mesh app and service architecture, Cearley says. Unfortunately, “Any enterprise embracing the IoT will need to develop an IoT platform strategy, but incomplete competing vendor approaches will make standardization difficult through 2018.”

You can read the entire article at Information Management’s site here.

 

Last week we shared the findings of Panorama Consulting’s 2016 ERP Report in a post here.

Today we’ll take a quick second look at some of the trends they observed and conclusions they reported in a separate email accompanying their report which they shared recently with us.  We thought some were illuminating, and as ERP implementers, wanted to share them with our audience as well.  Here goes…

Their key data points looked like this:

YEAR COST % COST OVER RUNS DURATION % DURATION OVERRUNS % RECEIVING 50% OR LESS BENEFITS
2015 $3.8M 57% 21.1 Months 57% 46%
2014 $4.5M 55% 14.3 Months 75% 41%
2013 $2.8M 54% 16.3 Months 72% 66%
2012 $7.1M 53% 17.8 Months 61% 60%

 

And then, quoting Panorama directly, we thought their highlights were revealing…

  • On average, organizations spend 6.5-percent of their annual revenue on their ERP project. This is an increase since last year where organizations spent 5.9-percent of their annual revenue on their ERP project.
  • Consistent with previous years, 56-percent of respondents chose to implement on-premise ERP software.
  • Since last year, there has been a significant increase in the use of cloud ERP, from 11- to 27-percent. (But as noted last week, many of these purchased the software themselves and merely had it hosted by a third party provider – not a true ‘cloud’ installation.)
  • Since last year, the use of ERP consultants dropped from 77-percent to 68-percent.
  • In comparison to last year, there has been an increase in the percentage of organizations engaging consultants for planning and implementation, and a decrease in the percentage of organizations engaging consultants to assist in software selection.
  • Only 20-percent of respondents reported an intense focus on organizational change management.

Panorama’s 2016 full report is available here.

 

 

NAVblog_UniversalAppAt the risk of being self-serving, our post today highlights a perfect example of why it may be time to upgrade your ERP system.

Tablets.  Phones.  Taking the office wherever you go.

Late last year Microsoft announced the availability of the phone and tablet clients for their Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP system.  We currently offer it via the latest 2016 release of NAV to clients who are current on their maintenance.

Think about it…

You can access your ERP system – and key information about your clients – while you’re on the road, across the country or around the world.  On your phone.

You can save a lot of IT equipment costs by implementing tablet technology directly on the shop floor.

Field service technicians can get access to the data they need on the device they prefer.

Warehouse workers can use lightweight, inexpensive tablet functionality to pick, pack and ship orders.

These are devices that are designed for touch.  They utilize the newest and fastest interface technologies.  They are “fast and fluid” in Microsoft’s words, with design concepts used in Windows and Office 365.  You can email quotes and invoices, and even shoot photos of and attach them.

Because their interface design is similar to that of the standard NAV client, they can be customized for almost any desired function, for any user, anywhere.  They can take advantage of Dynamics NAV’s revolutionary “role tailored client” and be configured instantly for one of over 20 customized “roles” for small business.

And since it’s an “app,” you can easily download it from the Windows Store, App Store or Google Play.  You sign in using your usual credentials and the app connects to your Dynamics NAV 2016 server, on premise or in the cloud.

It’s all based on Web client technology, so you get to reuse any investment in objects, business logic and modern client add-ins.

It’s a perfect example of using modern technology to improve the overall ERP experience, making it more available, in more places, at lower cost than ever before.  Your people get to use the same tools they use in their everyday lives, a tool they’re familiar with, now available to boost the productivity of your organization and better utilize your ERP investment.

And it’s all available today.  All you have to do is ask us.

 

panorama 2016Each year, Panorama Consulting releases its annual survey of responses about ERP systems from companies across the globe.  Their 2016 report includes results from 215 companies, ranging from small companies to multi-national organizations.

This year, their editors pointed to five conclusions which they thought “really stood out.”  We’ll reveal their findings in our post today.

  1. Business transformation is still not the top reason for pursuing ERP implementations. Panorama refers to this as a “flawed and myopic approach” to ERP.  They reveal that the #1 reason is “to replace the old system” and note that, while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, “it shows that too many companies are replacing systems because they have to – not because they want to pursue a larger business transformation.”  They further note that 18% did not improve business processes as a result of their implementation, and only about one in four “improved all of their business processes.”  (Most however did claim to improve “key” business processes.)
  2. Overall project costs and budgetary overruns are increasing. We should note that the respondents in these cases were pursuing projects in the $4 million or so range on average.  And while the raw costs were lower, the costs when ‘normalized’ for company annual revenue actually increased, with well over half reporting that they’d spent more than expected, another increase over last year.  Expanded scope, organizational issues and underestimated project staff needs were cited as the key causes.
  3. SaaS ERP takes a hit, on premise holds its ground, and cloud ERP continues its growth. On-premise systems held their own – despite what you may read in the press – at 57% of installations.  Cloud solutions rose to 27% but this notably includes companies that bought their own software and merely hosted it via an outside third party (We’d call that a SortaCloud solution).  Finally, the report notes, “SaaS solutions appear to be losing ground to the ‘best of both worlds’ benefits of having a third-party host a traditionally on-premise ERP system.”
  4. Project durations increased by 50 percent. Perhaps the most startling revelation according to Panorama was that implementation timelines among surveyed firms jumped from 14 months to 21 months.  This seemed to be a problem across the board, regardless to some extent of company size and complexity.
  5. Data issues are derailing implementation project plans. Data issues were the number one cause for implementation overruns.  The results highlight what many of us in the implementation business know well: there are many complexities and risks that go along with porting “dirty” legacy data into clean new systems.

The 2016 report simply amplifies the lessons learned in past years, including the fact that change comes slowly, both in terms of management thinking and project implementation.  The consolation prize may be in knowing that if any of the above characteristics describes your organization, well… you’re clearly not alone.

jobs_chinaWe noted in our prior post some of the facts and jarring effects of free trade and trade barriers upon American manufacturing employment.  Those effects are now being voiced in the pitched rhetoric of the latest electoral season.  Free trade, while a linchpin to global (including American) growth and well-being, creates winners and losers, as pointed out well in a recent article in The Economist (“Open Argument,” 4-2-16).

The question then, from an employment standpoint becomes, how do we help the so-called losers?  That is, what do we do about all those displaced workers?  Following are a few thoughts and ideas that might help move us forward:

  1. Look to Germany. While also absorbing the twin shocks of competition from China and from nations east of the European Union, Germany has continually managed to upgrade its workforce skills, thanks to a vibrant system of apprenticeships.  The U.S. still places too much emphasis on four-year education, and not enough on job and trade skills.
  1. Rethink labor market policies. Through job exchanges and courses, “more could be done to help workers who lose jobs find new ones,” note the Economist’s editors.  Easier said than done, to be sure, but historically our safety net is either too narrow (temporary unemployment benefits for a fixed period of time for the displaced… and then what?) or too broad (paying everyone including those in dying industries those same benefits without an eye to retraining in new, potentially more promising sectors).
  1. Relocation grants for workers hurt by trade. Many older, two-earner families may be disinclined, but lots of younger less-skilled workers might be well-served, and moving to newly vibrant employment areas does have a certain Darwinian logic.
  1. Create a system of portable benefits. Too often the displaced job-seeker finds employment not only at less pay but with reduced or no benefits (healthcare, pension, etc.), making the new position far less tenable than it might otherwise be if benefits were portable.  Perhaps even a system of wage insurance “might have merit,” say the Economist editors.
  1. Finally, retrain workers for the very different jobs of the 21st century.  As Ian Bremmer points out in a recent Time magazine article (“The Risk Report,” 4-25-16), while many manufacturing jobs have been re-shored back to the U.S. in recent years, there’s no debating the change that has been wrought through modernization and automation.  The new century’s workers must be trained in the new century’s jobs, and that includes embracing the new technologies, and providing the training that must accompany them.  Just as companies are embracing robots, 3-D printing, process improvements and modern ERP systems, workers need to be trained in the programming, maintenance and application of today’s newest tools.  There will be fewer of these jobs than the auto line-workers of the 1970s, but they will be better jobs, and

If economic disruptions and the perils of trade are destined to be a continuing part of our landscape in the changing face of global competition, then it’s high time that newer, more creative solutions have a place in that landscape too.  This country was built on a backbone of productive jobs, many in the manufacturing and industrial sector of the past century.  Through education and creativity, we can still create some of the most productive, highest paying jobs in the world.

But we won’t get there tomorrow mired in the thinking – and hot rhetoric – of yesterday and today.

 

 

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