There are myriad approaches to solving any problem. There are myriad ways to turn a problem into an opportunity. Not all solutions result in long term satisfaction. With matters of health, when we are ailing or have a wound, sometimes we just need a Band-Aid and sometimes we need major surgery. The artistry and the science are in knowing when to use a Band-Aid and when to use a scalpel.
Now clearly we don’t claim to be brain surgeons. Brain surgeons will tell you about neurons. They’ll also share with you information about just how fragile your mental infrastructure is.
In our business, at least in the way we approach our business, we know how to properly diagnose your problem and prescribe the appropriate solution. We never recommend surgery for a business abrasion. On the other hand, breakdowns in collaborative commerce require more than a B2B Band-Aid.
Enough cute metaphors. Why do we do what we do, how we do it, why are we successful?
LISTEN AND LEARN
First we just plain listen better than many of our contemporaries. Listening is both an art and science. You get better at it when you are interested in the subject matter, have a strong basis of understanding for the material or concepts being presented (even maybe to the level of empathy) and know how to enhance the experience by asking questions designed to complete the picture being painted by the presenter.
Second, we take of advantage of everything we’ve learned from every other engagement we’ve undertaken to fully define the problem or problems, articulate the goal(s) and formulate a course of action to address the problems and goals. We then commit this position statement to writing.
Many of our clients believe that their problems and challenges are unique…and sometimes they are. Many times, however, they’re the same challenges faced by other organizations doing business in a highly competitive, global economy. While never breaching confidentiality for even one moment, it is our intention to let each new client benefit from the combined knowledge base of all of our consultants and every other client that has gone before them.
COMPLETING THE VISION
Even with the above in mind, after listening to your problems, challenges and goals and setting them forth in writing, we revisit them with you to validate that our vision is, in fact, your vision.
Once we agree, we can begin our joint effort of determining the proper course of action, fleshing out the project plan, setting our milestones and determining how we will measure whether we have been successful with our initiative. After all, if we have no idea what success means we will conversely be unable to recognize failure.
YOUR INFORMATION SYSTEMS TOOLS….RIGHT TOOL FOR THE RIGHT JOB
Many people in manufacturing tend to blame their ERP system for the ills of the work environment. Sometimes they are correct in doing so, many times they’re not. That’s why we suggest that you determine whether your system is broken before you decide to fix it. We work with a number of applications software providers, some of which have world class tools designed to facilitate supply providers, some of which have world class tools designed to facilitate supply chain excellence. But as great as that sounds, implementing an ERP or supply chain system can be as expensive and painful a process as you will ever encounter in the business world. That’s why we often ask that you consider the possibility that your business processes might be adjusted to take full advantage of your current system. We might also ask that you help us determine whether the system was implemented properly in the first place….and whether your valuable employees received the training they needed.
If your ERP system is the culprit we may have a tool in our toolbox that can help. If not, we are more than happy to help you find the right tool. We’ll advise you and guide you, but if we both agree that one of our tools may work, don’t be afraid of a hard sell, it’s just not going to happen.
At ACUMEN we view the deployment of ERP and supply chain systems as a strategic matter rather than a tactical one. We believe strongly in the importance of building a strategic information systems plan and that it be based on the business vision rather than the wizbang of technology. In fact, you’ll often hear us say things such as “Technology is evolving faster than its usefulness”. When we are engaged to assist in constructing a strategic IS plan, therefore, we will insist that each proposed technological solution be based upon a specific business need and cost justified relative to that need. Once again, it isn’t brain surgery, but it’s a pragmatic business approach that is far too often overlooked.
…AND SPEAKING OF MONEY
It takes money to deploy a robust enterprise system. Your money. We view it as our responsibility to help you use that money wisely. Oh yes, we want some of it. After all, we’re a for-profit company too. But we don’t want all of it…..just the right amount of it so that you always feel as though we were worth every penny. As for the rest of your money, we want to protect it jealously.
THE RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Let’s review our “rules of engagement” so far:
1. Listen closely to the client so that you can understand the problems and goals of the organization.
2. Ask good questions based upon your knowledge of the industry, information systems and problem solving. If you don’t clearly understand the challenge, ask more questions.
3. Provide feedback in writing that captures the problem or challenge, goals and objectives and a criteria by which we will measure success in solving the problems and/or addressing the challenges. Propose a course of action based upon the collective experience of all of your consultants, colleagues and clients.
4. While doing all of the above, help the client to determine if the current system or systems are causing the problems or creating unneeded challenges or whether the business processes or even the people are contributing. Do not jump to conclusions or assume anything.
5. Help the client understand strategic information systems planning and how decisions regarding systems should be driven by business imperatives and subject to a targeted ROI.
6. If, in fact, the current systems are at the core of the problems or are creating insurmountable challenges, look into your toolbox or elsewhere to find tools that might help achieve the desired results.
7. Be prepared to protect the client’s information systems budget as if the associated funds are our own money. Be prepared to show a justification for each action if asked and keep the client fully apprised weekly or upon demand about progress to date.
8. Deliver measurable, cost justifiable results every time.
You might be wondering what methods we use to achieve solid results. Once again not brain surgery.
1. We’ll ask some of your key people to meet with us in the beginning of the process and occasionally throughout any initiative.
2. We’ll ask you to set forth reasonable expectations and agree to a mechanism for adjusting those fairly as things change in day-to-day business.
3. We’ll interrupt you once in a while with a “stop by” or phone call to gain clarity on an important point. (Here’s where we’ll disagree with a noted author…in our world…”don’t sweat the small stuff and none of it is small stuff”.) In other words, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Expect those interrupting calls; you’ll be happy about it later.
4. We’ll give you a pretty good estimate of how much time you and your staff will have to devote to whatever project we mutually undertake.
5. We’ll insist that you appoint a project “champion”.
6. We’ll report back to you in writing frequently and even let you know when you or your team are inhibitors (discreetly, of course).
7. We’ll take joint responsibility for keeping you on budget and warn you of twists and turns in the project that might lead to additional expenses.
THE ART AND THE SCIENCE
To accomplish the above we use conference room and business pilots, facilitated training, certification processes and other project management methodologies that are tried and true. Those processes form what is perhaps the science part of this successful equation. Methodology alone will not keep us on track, however. In the final analysis, we’ve done this all before and enjoyed great success as a company in helping to actuate our client’s business vision. Learning from each engagement and bringing to bear our collective knowledge each and every time is at the core of our success. Knowing how to pull a rabbit out of hat may be magic…but knowing when to pull it out is art.
WHEN NOT TO CALL US
In the end, we’re not everyone’s cup of tea. We have a tendency to become part of your organization. With that in mind, we speak our mind (being politically sensitive, of course.) After all, we’re helping you build a strategy and spend your money wisely. As a result, we’re anything but a silent partner. So if you find that intrusive, best not call ACUMEN Corporation. If not, we’re eager to work with you.