I’ll start this post out with a little personal story. I had an unfortunate experience sub-contracting for a well-known consulting company. Their Hyperion division was infamous within the Hyperion community for how they staffed projects. This firm would hire one experienced consultant and several people with minimal knowledge. The experienced person was supposed to “take the lead”. This meant doing all the work and training people with absolutely no knowledge. I got off of the job as fast as I could. It was dishonest to the client, and done solely to increase the profit margins of the firm. This firm used to get the jobs based on the company’s national rep, but I doubt they were asked back.
I felt badly, not only for the client but for the amateurs too. They were thrown into a bad situation with no training (someone on my job had a photocopied manual for the bootcamp thrown at them on a Friday afternoon and told to be ready to start on Monday. Bootcamp is typically a week long, instructor led experience.) I’m all for deep immersion learning, but this was ridiculous. There was little or no chance that someone in this situation would succeed.
This same firm was later hired by the employer of someone close to me. She works in a different department than the decision maker and has no influence on the decision. The new CIO made the choice independently. It was a disaster. One person worked and all the other consultants sat around. The company is unhappy with the product and their implementation of it. This is unfortunately common. The reputation of a large consulting company does not necessarily carry over to their Hyperion consulting.
Even at a reputable firm with some good consultants, you will find plenty of under-trained resources. They could be learning while they do the grunt work. We all have to start somewhere. There are large jobs where you can really use someone like that. However, if you’re a mid-sized company, how many people like that are going to be added to your job?
So how to choose the right firm. If you’ve already had an implementation, did you get the resource that you expected? If you didn’t, why? Did you wait 6 months and then ask for someone to start next Monday? If you want someone right now, you’re going to get whomever is available right now. If you have flexibility, try not to demand an immediate start. It’s not easy, but it’s realistic. It’s often worth it to wait for the consultant that you have an affinity to.
Brass Tacks has interpreted this into our company. We’re personal in our service. We only work in products where we have experience. We will be honest with our experience. We will not send you untrained consultants that are learning on your dollar. Talk to us and decide for yourself. The person you talk to will be part of your job. Not a salesperson, but someone doing the work. If you feel comfortable with us, we look forward to working with you.
One of the questions that I’ve always hated is “Are you technical or functional?” I started with an MBA, so I started functional, but damn I spent a lot of hours to make sure that my technical skills are there as well.
What I’ve slowly come to realize is that there are very few people that are both. It’s understandable; most people find one path that they like and stick with it. There’s a certain amount of 20th century thinking to this. My father stressed the idea of going to work at one company and staying there until retirement. I have clients where people who have been on the job a decade are short timers. Unfortunately, this is now a rare luxury. Being multi-faceted and keeping your skills sharp is a necessity.
Back to the topic. Which skills does it take for a successful implementation?
Use financial professionals. Look for a consultant who has a finance background before they went into the tech side. If you have a big implementation (which be definition won’t be fast), hire an advocate that’s independent of your main implementation. Clients should be suspicious if they are offered many resources at a low rate. Look for a few good ones that can really work the project well.
Why not just hire the first Hyperion programmer you come across? Understanding the nature of the problems you’re trying to solve and knowing what the software can do have to be united. Communication can bridge some of the gap, but the best blending happens in one mind.
There are excellent programmers out there, and for complex implementations they are absolutely necessary. What you don’t want is no one who understands what a balance sheet is. While this will be apparent eventually, unfortunately it doesn’t show itself until much later in the process. You will end up spending far more in the long run if you don’t have both sides represented for an EPM implementation.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. This is my favorite holiday and I would ask everyone to take a moment out of their day to remember what you’re thankful for. I’ll be back with another posting after the holiday.
This blog post will be particularly relevant for anyone considering PBCS, though it also applies to all implementations.
Have a session to talk to consultants. Choosing the right ones with experience and having an open session is vital. There are a surprising number of people who won’t talk to you much up front, but will tell you what you did wrong at the end. Insist on an organized discussion. You’ll discover if you’ve hired someone who understands your needs if they are honest with feedback. Alternatively you may have “yes men” or people with strictly technical backgrounds. More on that in my next post.
Try to limit specialization. Minimalize any customization of the software. There will always be things that need to be done, but differentiate them from the wants. Try to be clear on which is which. Listen to the feedback from your consultants. We always try to provide alternatives and options so that our clients know what things will cost. Try to stay close to out of the box if you want a quick and inexpensive implementation. Every experienced firm has pre-written pieces that will help you implement quickly. Find who best understands those pieces and how to apply them to your needs.
Don’t expect it to be perfect the first time, but do show it to as many people as possible. You can have a good and functional implementation, but too often the perfect is the enemy of the good. Since no battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy, expect to make changes after people use it. Use a waterfall approach. Get what will be successful to your company in the hands of the users, but manage expectations. Let them know that you will take their feedback and make changes as necessary. Find a consultant that will stick with you for consistency of vision over time.
Finally, Implementations run over when you hire resources that can’t help. Not that they don’t want to, but they can’t. These fall into two main categories; Ones that are learning on the job or resources that are only technical. Both are costing your money and time.
Magic Hyperion is what I call requests that won’t work. Sometimes they’re reasonable “Why won’t the software export in the format I need?” Other times it’s not “Why won’t the software do the budget for me?”
This is not a Hyperion specific problem. All of the competitors have the same thing happen. Probably all other software as well. So how do I explain to a client making a reasonable request that it doesn’t work?
Possibility 1: Tell them that it doesn’t work. Wait for the disappointed looks.
Possibility 2: Provide them with alternatives and options that do work.
Sometimes you’ve got to go with 1. No other choice. More often, if I give them a thought through list of pros and cons, they’re happy to come around. I believe that most clients are reasonable people that want to get things done the easiest way. They just need the software to fill their needs.
Finance professionals; time is the most important thing to understanding. Also what’s in shortest supply. Hire someone who you think understands you.
IT professionals; Understand the client needs, and don’t just implement it out of the box. Try not to do things just because a client asks, but take the time to explain the ramifications.
The right design and correct amount of customization is key to a successful implementation.