Archive for the ‘Managing the Business’ Category

If Not Microsoft – Then Who? Choices for the ERP and CRM Partner

According to Gartner (as reported by Forbes), ERP in 2013 was a $25B market with a 3.8% growth rate over 2012.  In the same time period, CRM was a $20B market with a 13.7% growth rate over 2012.  

Here’s where the fun really starts for us:  MS owns 7% of the CRM market and grew 22.8%, second behind Salesforce SFDC).  For ERP, MS owns 5% of the market and didn’t make it in to the top 5 growing ERP players (all of whom were SAAS).

If you are a Dynamics partner today (and therefore interested in the above), you are one of three companies:

1. Dynamics Legacy (GP, SL, NAV, Small CRM):  You are outdated already and riding a cash flow business. You need to watch salaries, opex and delivery cost really closely.  Sure, you can grow, but to do that, someone else is contracting.  The market share growth didn’t come from you.

2. Dynamics AX:  Damn, I hope by now you got the vertical message and have already gone in that direction.  If not, you are probably running a pure body shopping operation via a dis-intermediated sales channel driven by partners who sell software into vertical markets.  The market share growth is largely anemic and is causing you to think “really, all this work and that’s what I get?”.

3.  Dynamics CRM Systems Integrator:  You bet early on xRM and see CRM as either a vertical platform for the enterprise or do large scale system integration.  Chances are you do a ton of dev work (and did before you picked up CRM) and most likely are healthy with Sharepoint.  You’re probably too busy to worry about market share growth, except as a reminder that its nice to be a second seat player to SFDC and, frankly, not that far behind.

(Yeah, I know you are thinking about ISVs – they fit into the above.)

With all that written, what are your options as an existing or new partner?  If its my money, I’d look for a disruptive technology platform (okay, that really means SAAS) who is partner friendly.

Based on that criteria, you don’t have a good choice for ERP.  You can look at Netsuite, Intaact, Accumatica, SAP Business One.  NetSuite sells competitively against its partners and has a 10 year track record of being partner unfriendly.  They seem to be changing, but if you are in a major economic zone, you’ll be competing head to head.  Intaact is pretty low end as a solution, sells direct, but is VERY partner friendly.  Accumatica…well, who knows.  They really aren’t SAAS but they kind of are via IAAS in Azure and they have on premise, but I don’t see any good vertical focus or sufficient differentiation from the other two.  SAP BOne is just pure play on prem – nothing new.  Epicor?  Hates partners.  Sage?  Portfolio maintenance play despite X3 – and X3 is like AX 2.5, a toolkit not a product. 

What about Workday, Workforce and Cornerstone?  These three round out the top 5 fastest growing ERP solutions.  But, they aren’t ERP.  Their roots are in HCM and Workforce Management with Workday having a basic (sorry guys, but it really is basic) financials package.  They show great promise, but unless you already focus on HCM, its a tough switch.

For CRM, the news is great and easy:  SFDC.  Great product, great company, and the FORCE platform creates a great ecosystem for you but they will sell against you.  The opportunity with SFDC is system integration, custom dev or FORCE ISV … EXACTLY THE SAME AS MS!  And MS is a little cheaper and is a known quantity for you.  All the big SI’s (Cap, PWC, Accenture) are already in place – the smaller consulting companies are mostly dev and ISV.  Again, exactly like the MS channel.

My advice?

1. If you are legacy partner, pick up Intaact and love up your current client base while you watch costs.

2.  If you are AX, double down and sell more.  Nothing is better out there.

3.  If you are CRM, double down and sell more.  Partnering with the #2 in a market is a good place to be especially when the company that is #2 is dominant in these accounts on the server and OS side.

4.  If you are starting a business?  Get a good idea and build a SFDC product (checkout – totally rocking product).  Its too costly to get into AX organically today and the FORCE platform gives you access to a whole ecosystem.

5.  Do you know HCM really well?  Then check out opportunities as Workday/Workforce SI but be clear that you need to be pure play consulting and forget software.  Definitely not my first choice.

In the meantime, watch out for SAP.  Some rumors are flying about a whole new, mid-market SAAS based product going through a partner channel that will NOT be an upgrade of BOne.

Love to hear your thoughts,


PS:  Tim S – thanks for the note.


I Want To Buy Off Your Website But It’s A Hunk of Crap–A Rant

November 8, 2011 3 comments

So I’m searching for a new BI\Dashboard software company that offers a very narrow list of features, to wit:

  1. Primarily driven by dashboard creation that integrates with MOSS
  2. Provides for mobile dashboards accessible from iPhone\iPad, Droid and Windows Mobile
  3. Pre-built MS SSAS cubes for Dynamics AX
  4. I didn’t care if it provided ETL creation or cube creation capabilities as I’m pretty comfortable inside BIDS and with SSIS and SSAS.
    I did a Google search (sorry, Bing search) using terms meaningful to me and filtered down the first 5 pages of returns to get a list of potential companies.  I know almost all of them already, but hadn’t spent much time on their websites before.  So, that was my first stop.  All I wanted to know was what products they had, a quick synopsis on what each does, if they integrated to AX and MOSS, did they have a mobile solutions and what the basic pricing was like.

Instead, I had to weed through pages that talked about business value, solutions, the importance of analytics, their management team, their mission, the customer lists, synergy, recorded demos, dense graphics, customer testimonials, news listings etc.  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

In essence, I wanted to know 5 simple things and had about 10 minutes total to learn them.  Instead, I wasted all 10 minutes just trying to figure out how to find what I needed.  In essence, their sites weren’t letting me buy – they were forcing me to be sold. 

Go take a look at your company’s website – what do you see?

Brass Tacks: What Really Matters in a Consultancy?

August 8, 2011 4 comments

As a consulting manager, you’ve got three ways you can approach your job: be a sales partner and drive business, be a talent manager and hire/retain/train the best consultants, or be an operator and focus on process, measurement and delivery tasks.  Most of us, in any job, do all three (sometimes in a single day) but most of us are usually best at one and tend to play to that strength.  At times we have to prioritize one of these areas over the others because of some combination of external factors.

In my current job, the guys that report to me are really, really good in the sales cycle and pretty good operators so I spend a significant amount of time on talent recruiting, performance metrics and internal projects to improve productivity, efficiency and quality.  In fact, I think its fair to say that I’ve spent the majority of my time in the last 2 years in this area.  And, as a result, I’ve discovered something pretty important……none of it matters.

Don’t get me wrong – process and and a continual drive to improve are one of the hallmarks of excellence for a consulting team.  But, despite that, three things are far more important:

Leads, sits and sales.

Let’s face it, folks:  if you don’t sell, you don’t have anything to which your excellent processes can be applied.  And, you can’t sell if you don’t get sits with a prospect.  Of course, you don’t get sits if you don’t get leads that generate that sit.  Ergo sequitur, the most important thing to a consultancy is leads, sits and sales.

So, if you have leads, sits and sales, keep on your approach.  If not, drop everything and get deals closed.  Pretty easy, no?

Categories: Managing the Business Tags:

Lawyers, Damn Contracts and More Lawyers

July 29, 2011 1 comment

I’ve just spend the last two weeks of my life, weeks that I will never, ever get back, negotiating service agreements, statements of work and support contracts for four really huge deals.  We’ll close all of them, of course, but it got me to thinking about all the time I’ve spent in my career dealing with contract negotiations  and how much I love technology and people and how much I dislike contract negotiation.

Let me make it clear that I don’t hate lawyers or contracts.  A friend of mine, an ex-judge on the Texas State Circuit Court and now a SWAT team litigator for a prestigious Dallas law firm, once took me to task for belittling the contract process and the attorneys involved in it.  His insights, to this day, shape my attitudes and outlook on this process.

I believe contracts serve two purposes.  First, they confirm the terms under which two parties want to form a close and often deeply intimate relationship.  By being clear in these terms, they eliminate doubt, set expectations and clear the air in advance of work being done. This frees the creative juices of the parties to do the actual work they both believe will lead them to greater degrees of success.  Second, they memorialize that understanding so the benefit of the agreement accrues to future or successive participants despite the absence of the originators.  Again, this frees the new players from uncertainty and debate and allows them to more freely go about their business.  Lawyers, to the extent they help the parties gain clarity, align in agreement and make clear their positions are doing some of the most important and admirable work in capitalist society.  Not quite as important as those individuals who take significant personal and capital risk to build new companies, fund new ideas and create new jobs, but right up there.

When I negotiate with clients over these valuable little jewels of understanding, I run into three basic types of attorneys:

  1. The Business Guy:  This is the attorney who is closely aligned with the commercial concerns of the business, understands those commercial concerns, and seeks diligently to reflect those concerns in the legal context and language of the contract.  These guys are really easy to work because they only focus on clear understanding and alignment with the commercial concerns.  I treat them like a trusted partner, am completely open and transparent in my dealings with them, and generally get deals done very quickly with them.
  2. The Rewrite Guy:  This is the attorney that rewrites every aspect of your documents because they are not the way he would have written them.  Their mindset and perspective may be protectionist of the commercial side of the transaction, but they end up changing everything.  With these folks, if they are genuinely trying to act like “the business guy” you’ll just have to work through it.  If they are acting like the next category (see below), you may have a challenge.  I generally just bluntly talk to them about the issue, to wit: “These agreements may not be perfect, but they’re pretty good.  Can we just focus on the commercial issue most important to you?”
  3. The Persecutor:  This is the attorney who attacks you on everything, never gives an inch, and belittles every attempt to compromise.  You have only three choices with this guy.  If you need the deal, hard negotiate.  It will take a ton of time and you have to be very patient.  If you don’t need the deal, walk away and advise the prospect that their attorney is not being reasonable.  Lastly, the approach I normally take, is to engage our executive sponsor, explain the situation and ask them to participate in the discussions in attempt to mediate.  If they will, expect to spend a lot of time on the phone – sometimes days or months (one deal in Chicago took 6 months just on legal).  If they won’t, I walk.

In closing, a big thank you to James Stanton (my buddy from Dallas) for his influence on my thoughts and to Betsy Tucker and Gregg Lallier who are two attorneys I recently had the pleasure to work with on deals and who were great partners in making the deals better for everyone.

Objective Measures: Knowledge and Contribution

December 22, 2010 Leave a comment

The last post in this series will focus on objectively measuring a consultants knowledge and contribution to the team.

Knowledge really has two facets:  What you can immediately demonstrate and what you can really do. 

Measuring the first is easy:  certifications.  These mean one and only one thing (and its the same thing that a bachelor’s degree means):  you are sufficiently motivated to put yourself to some trouble to let other’s know that you potentially have a good skill set.  Its kind of like taking a shower and dressing nice for a date – doesn’t mean you are going to knock ‘em dead, just that you were interested enough to go out of your way.  Reporting is dead simple:  put out a publicly viewable list of everyone’s certification and testing levels then advertise the heck out of the folks that are getting it done.  Do a good summary by cert for the sales and marketing teams so they have a brag sheet.  Then go onto other things (like meeting the new MPN requirements).

Its the second category that really causes the issues.  Having a certification on Exchange is one thing; knowing how to deploy the SMTP Gateway is a whole other beast.  Unfortunately, I haven’t come up with any silver bullets on this.  However, I’ve been exploring some ideas as follows:

1. Create a self-assessment scorecard for everyone that is part of their periodic coaching or reviews.  Let them fill it out and let their boss independently asses them.  Meet quarterly to review and let the ensuing conversation unfold.

2. If you are going to do the above, spend lots of time training your managers on how to have good conversations.  Talk to Tim Johnpress at Ascendte or review Catalytic Coaching for more info.

3. Do project implementation reviews/punch out assessments/lesson learned meetings at the close of each project including the business unit director, sales rep, PM and consulting team.  If you have a culture that supports admitting and correcting mistakes, this will really help flesh out areas of improvement.

Most importantly, strive constantly to create an environment where folks can say “I could have done this better” without fear of penalty.

Red Flags Your Business Relationship is in Trouble

November 8, 2010 1 comment

Maurilio Amorim has an interesting new post on Red Flags Your Business Relationship is in Trouble. The lessons in the post apply well to Dynamics partners. The first two items, Communication Blackout and Justification Inquisition should be common sense to anyone who has spent any time with another human being. If the client is not communicating or requesting considerably more information and documentation than normal, you have a problem. 

The next two items, dealing with the Internal Teamer and More for Less, are both very applicable to Dynamics partners. We’ve all seen cases where a client hires someone internally hoping to reduce consulting fees. Maurilio’s advice is “Play Nice”. Often the client doesn’t get the savings or efficiency they were looking for. I would add, make the internal hire your friend. Frequently the expectations placed on the internal hire are unrealistic. They are being tasked with replacing a team of consultants and find themselves desperately looking for help. You have the opportunity to turn the Internal Teamer into and advocate for your firm.

More for Less is the critical lesson we all need to internalize. Lowering fees and increasing output devalues your work, especially when you do that to save a client. Read Maurillo’s whole post for the details. 

Categories: Managing the Business

Post Project Reviews

August 27, 2010 Leave a comment

I think that the Dynamics community as a whole has a lot of room for improvement in conducting any kind of formal post project review and I think that there are a number of reasons why. Specifically:

  •  Despite the Sure Step process of “releasing the implementation team” the reality is that often much of an implementation team trickles off incrementally as part of post implementation support.  Rarely (never?) is there a close the project meeting where everyone goes off to new projects.
  • Team members may be move on and off projects for specific tasks that go live at different times.
  • Its expensive in terms of unbilled hours and possible travel to pull together a team for a post project debrief.

I still maintain that an effective post project debrief would got a long way to improving future implementations, spreading institutional knowledge and building better teams but those are soft items and they bump up against the lost billable hours required for a review.

I don’t have any great answers for this problem. I’m hoping that the addition of the Sure Step Project Review Document will help facilitate this process both at the end of a project and at major milestones. I also think that  the project review needs to be done with only partner personnel, not shared with the client. A separate review with the client may be appropriate but In many cases the discussion can center around how to better deal with certain types of clients. That candor is critical and won’t happen in a mixed environment.

 So here is my call for improvement. 

  •  Do you conduct consistent formal  project reviews?
  • How we turn off the cuff reviews like “that project went well” or “that project was a mess” into something actionable on future projects?
  • What suggestions do you have to encourage more post project reviews?

Post your comments here or email me at

Categories: Managing the Business
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