Tuesday, April 4, 2017

5/5 launch eprentise's TO THINK THAT I THOUGHT MY BUSINESS WOULD GROW by Helene Abrams, problems of growing biz w/IT

Today, 5/5, is the launch of this fun and astute ebook based on an idea by eprentise's  Helene Abrams with limericks by Josh Greenbaum to tell the story of a growing business, stymied by IT problems and solutions...


A big bang, they told me,
IT transformation,
Was needed to stave off
complete devastation.
The old stuff was tired,
and needed replacing,
The new stuff would do it,
the results would be bracing.

MAY 2nd Published!

So what's the real deal?  Why do many growing businesses founder when dealing with IT? Read this interview.
An Interview with Josh Greenbaum, author, and Helene Abrams, originator of TO THINK THAT I THOUGHT MY BUSINESS WOULD GROW (eprentise, May 2017)

Q.  What inspired your new book/video To Think That I Thought My Business Might Grow?
HA.  Throughout my career, I have been involved with hundreds of large organizations who have been influenced by the media, executive sponsors, or large consulting organizations to use technology to embark on huge, multi-million dollar projects to “reengineer” their business processes with promises of lower costs, faster response, better customer service, large returns on their investment, being more competitive, etc. More often than not, these projects were not successful; they took longer, cost much more than they were budgeted for, and most importantly, they did not get the results they wanted.  Also, by the time the projects were “finished,” the business or organization had changed, and the technology and the processes no longer represented the current requirements or allowed flexibility for newer initiatives.

JG.  The problems in To Think That I Thought My Business Might Grow are common ones businesses report time and again. I was inspired by the opportunity to tell this age-old story in an accessible way. Besides being an industry analyst and consultant in enterprise software, I have published lyrics and written short stories. When Helene explained her idea of a humorous book to explain these problems, I was thrilled to give it a try.

Q.  Is this a parable for business?
HA.  I’m not sure how much of a moral lesson this is, but it is definitely a story that businesses need to understand in order to succeed.
JG.  Things happen, such as mergers and acquisitions, launching a new line of business or opening a new subsidiary to go after an opportunity, that necessitate IT change. It's usually difficult to make business changes inside packaged software systems like Oracle®, one of the software products many companies use. In too many cases, problems develop because businesses put too much faith in technology without considering the ramifications for their business.

Q.  What are the common problems with IT that can make a growing business "a mess"? 
HA.  These problems are not just for a “growing” business, but for any business. 1) Not documenting the decisions made and the rationale for those decisions including the business reason, the impact of the decision, the configuration, or the customization involved. 2) Making IT decisions without getting the business involved early or training the business users before the implementation. 3) IT is attracted by new technologies and implementing the latest and greatest. This can be for their own personal career growth, because they think they understand the business better than the users, or just part of their personalities to try new technologies, bells or whistles.

Q. What happens when business users don’t understand the new technology or new system?
HA. Their energy is focused on the technology rather than on what they need to do to make their business better. They may extensively customize an out-of-the-box system to replicate what the users had before, rather than understanding the differences in how the new system works. Many times, the business wants to replicate the old system because they are comfortable with it, and they don’t thoroughly understand the features and functions of the new system before making their decisions.

Q. How could this be avoided?
HA. There's a lack of standard definitions and processes before implementing a new system - i.e., standard definitions of items, a standard chart of accounts, a standard calendar, a common organization structure, etc. Too often in the past, each division, location, or part of the organization did things their own way. That meant that in order to report or to implement a data warehouse or a business intelligence system, data needed to be extracted and manually transformed. It resulted in a “Tower of Babel.”

Q.  How does the solution to implement a new IT system often compound the problems?
HA.  Making the business better is more often a data issue than a technology issue. When there is a focus on the new or different technology, often the perception is that the data problems will go away. However, if the data is not consistent, complete, or correct in the old system, just moving it to a new system isn’t going to fix the problem. 
JG.  Business people struggle to understand how business intersects with technology and how the changes in their business intersect with the new technology. Tech people struggle to understand the impact their work has on business changes. This leaves a gap in knowledge that makes it difficult to fit the new system to the business, and without that knowledge, technology cannot serve the business appropriately.

Q. What's needed?
HA.  Consistency – a single source of data with a common definition throughout the application. Completeness – all the relevant data is in one place and is not pieced together, aggregated, or integrated from several different places. Correctness – the summary data is derived from an original source or transactions. The ability to cleanly roll up from the transactions to the summary and drill down to the detail, without manipulating the data.
JG.  Teamwork between IT and the business side is essential. This is an important way to ensure that the right data is being used in the right way for the right reasons.

Q. Why is manipulating data a problem?
HA. The process of manually extracting, transforming, and loading data (used for data migration) is custom code, and can introduce coding errors and inconsistencies. It also doesn’t “fix” the bad data in the source system. It is resource intensive, and impossible to see the results until all the coding is done (often months or years). Governance is not put in place to make sure that the users are not creating their own silos or duplicating data that is already there. 

Q.  Who do you consider the audience for this book?
HA. Anyone who runs an IT department, budgets for one, or for whom technology decisions are driving the business decisions (or who thinks that new technology adoption will improve their business).

Q.  What do you mean by "finished but not done"?
HA.  When you first implement a system, you base the setups or configurations on the current state of the business. No one has a crystal ball to know what the next five years will bring in terms of business or technology changes. 

Q.  How does this occur?
HA.   I was Oracle’s first Apps consultant in 1988. After Oracle, I went to Deloitte & Touché and E&Y (large system integrators – SIs). We would implement many huge Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) projects, sometimes for customers who had 100+ sites. We would implement at the first site, go live, and then go to the second site to implement. By the time we got to the third or fourth site, something had changed in the business – either there was a merger, acquisition, or divestiture, or they had to comply with new statutory or regulatory requirements in a new market, or the technology changed (i.e., at some point, there was the bandwidth for a company to operate globally).

Q. What did these customers do?
HA. Their only choice was to do a full reimplementation. That means that they had to hire an army of consultants, rethink every decision, and start from scratch configuring the system. Then they had to manually migrate the data from the old environment to the new one which involved writing extensive extract, transform, and load scripts, leave behind most of their history, and spend huge amounts of money all over again – sometimes the cost was the same or more than the original implementation.

Q. What's the solution to your mantra "finished, but not done"?
HA.   The original implementation was finished and working, but the organization was not ever done, because the system (Oracle EBS in this case, but it was true for all other ERP [Enterprise Resource Planning] systems as well) did not align with the business. I thought that there must be a way to allow for ongoing changes in the business without starting over again, so I came up with this software.
JG.  (Joking) Technology is always perfect, the problem is the people who have to use it. When the implementation of new software has been undertaken without bringing the right people into to process, project “mediocrity” or outright failure is the norm. Tech has to be matched with what the business needs. This is difficult and honored more in the breach than in the observance.

Q.  In what ways might companies use your book/video to enable managers to make better decisions?
JG. One of the biggest problems is stakeholders on both sides who fail to understand what the other side needs and wants. This lack of communication and empathy is at root of many of the problems that companies face when their IT projects go south. I think this book shows what happens when that communication doesn’t exist, and what happens when it does.

Q.  Do you think communication is often lacking between departments and managers?
 JG.: There is a reflex to throw tech at a problem and SIs make good money on it. SIs, by rote, are following a script from 25 years ago that mandates that tech can solve all problems, and if you just work harder and put in more hours you can solve anything. But more technology cannot guarantee success if IT isn’t working with other teams in these projects.

Q.  How can a company resolve essential problems, and embody concepts such as "Agile," "Responsive," and "Hyperconvergence"?
JG.  Agile is being able to iterate change rapidly in order to meet changing conditions. A business seeks out and tests new opportunities, finds what could help it recover from failure, and moves on. The pace has of business has increased exponentially, and responsiveness, knowing or anticipating the next new thing customers will want, is essential to business success; this is as much about adopting a new mindset as it is about adopting new technology. But when new technologies – and new business processes – are implemented, they need to work in sync together. This is what hyperconvergence is all about.

Q.  What's the take away from the experience of your book and video?
JG.  IT doesn't have to be implemented the way we always have done it. It’s essential to build consensus across the silos inherent in any business. If technology and business don’t work well together, neither can be successful.

For Further Information
Contact: Susan Weinstein
Publicist, To Think That I Thought That My Business Would Grow

So I signed a big contract, for a new IT system, and a new set of apps, no boss could resist ‘em.
eprentise ebook and video coming 5/2.

IT Parable eprentise (May 2nd debut)

When I set out to change things, my business was dropping, my customers leaving,my stock price was flopping...

If you, like many,
have started to wonder,
is your IT just right,
or just a big blunder?

Was that reimplementation
a mistake to avoid?
Has your chart of accounts
gotten lost in the void?

Are you drowning in data

that’s too hard to use?

Is it messy and fickle

and often abstruse

TO THINK THAT I THOUGHT MY BUSINESS WOULD GROW How New Technology Leaves Evolving Businesses Finished But Not Done® - An eprentise® Parable about IT
eprentise's Helene Abrams had heard the same story over and over: Large companies are by their very nature continually changing, and yet they often find that their business needs outstrip their IT – causing them to go into a fatal tailspin. She and author Joshua Greenbaum join forces to tell this critical business story, TO THINK THAT I THOUGHT MY BUSINESS WOULD GROW  w/illustrations by Peter Babakitis (May) in book and video.

In a direct and amusing style, this eBook and video explain the chain of unexpected consequences that develop when a major company decides to jump on the “latest and greatest” technologies and trends without focusing on the best decisions for the business itself. As the head of IT nears a deadline vital to the business, he finds himself in a series of predicaments. Yet the solution was hiding right "in plain sight." While the drowning company fights for survival, "Finished But Not Done" takes on a deeper meaning.

Video on FB page:


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