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Stuart Browne 13-Oct-2022 09:44:35 9 min read

Why don't we build houses the way we build SAP systems?

It's a simple idea.

We take proven practices from the SAP industry and use them to improve outdated housebuilding methods that have been around for centuries.

To test the theory, I've applied 20 years of lessons learned from large SAP projects to build a utopian narrative for house builders.

First, you’d pay a fee for the plot of land. It’d be really expensive but you’d get a massive discount off list price.

This is your Land Licence.

Next, you pay an annual fee for Maintenance on the land. Around 22% of the Land Licence would be a fair rate to pay.

Rather than pay for the Maintenance when you start living in the house, you pay maintenance as soon as you take on the land - even though there’s nothing to maintain.

This is a pain because there a possibility that your Architects and Builders will take 2 years to build the house, meaning you’ve already spent 44% of the original Land Licence in Maintenance fees before you move in.

The Land Licence will be based on the number of User Days you’ll spend in your house. 

At the outset, you estimated that this would be no more than 2,000 User Days per year based on family size and being away for holidays.

But your Land Provider had a deal on at Quarter End and told you that you could have User Days at a massive 80% discount. Plus, if you had visitors over or your kids had friends round, it’s better to have User Days in the bank. 

You don't want to run out of User Days and get caught in your annual Land Licence Audit.

So you bought 10,000 User Days.

Sure, you pay more Maintenance but it’s only 22%, right?

It wasn’t clear from your Land Provider though that you’d have to pay for all 10,000 User Days upfront even if you don't use them and you have to pay for 10,000 annual User Days for the time the house is being built when the Users live in your current house.

We live and learn though, eh?

You met a few Architects and Builders and listened to their vision for design. 

How they’d transform your life and make everything better and simpler. 

It sounded good.

But you had a nagging feeling that your Land Provider had said something about the Blueprint for a ‘standard’ house being included in the Land Licence. The Land came with whole load of Best Practice Accelerators pre-built for your kind of living. Essentially an out-of-the-box house that you just configure and move in to.

Now it seems that your Builder is planning to spend a lot of time changing those standard things based on some early workshops where they compared your current house to your new house. Now, they're going to change some things in the new house to be the same as your old house for you. These are apparently called gaps.

Plus, you’re thinking of not going with the ’standard’ house after some family feedback.

Your kids would like a playroom, your partner wants a spare office and you quite fancy a snug. It’ll cost more in builder days but your family is special and different - so no need to stay with the standard plan.

The builder has quoted you for the work on a time and materials basis. 

Boy, those rates are high - maybe you can have some of your friends and family help with the build to save on costs?

No?

Ah, I see - because they don’t really understand this kind of house technology or the building methodology...?

Right.

But you say they can prepare plan the fluffy stuff though - decoration and soft furnishings. 

And migration (aka moving in)…?

OK, that sounds fair.

As long as my decoration and soft furnishings people can talk to the builders at the right time and get an understanding of what’s being built - dimensions, materials and such like. 

We can’t go live in the house without furniture and fittings.

Wait. The builders have used the contingency already? 

A change order? 

What’s that?

We’d forgotten to think about drains and central heating?

Was that not your job?

No, it wasn’t in the proposal and you assumed we were doing those things? 

OK.

And this questionnaire you’ve sent to size the central heating system - it’s a little complex. We don’t know what some of these things mean. Is it not better that you use your expertise to size the system for us?

No?

I see, because we’ll be living in the house, we have to do that but you’ll advice us by telling us whether we need a combi-boiler of water tank system.

Go over that part again - we can buy combi-boilers from Amazon - and water is heated as and when it's needed, but with the tank system we have to find our own small room in the house to keep the tank in?

Anyway, time is getting on, we were planning to move in by now, but the house doesn’t look anywhere near ready. Has the plan slipped?

No. We’ll still be in by October.

But there’ll be no windows when we first move in?

OK. And what did you call that again? Ah yes, a workaround - we can use wood for windows and ask the ‘business as usual’ team to put transparent windows in later?

Wait, what business as usual team? How much will they cost us?

OK, so we need to pay for 150 builders to build the house and then we need to have 30 builders live in the garden to fix problems with the house and show us how to use it?

How long for?

For ever?

Surely we won’t need 30 people doing that for ever?

Ah, not 30 builders? Just 10.

And 20 offshore builders who’ll work remotely on house maintenance and monitoring from India?

Any other costs?

Another house you say?

Incase this one falls down. In a disaster?

Like a Disaster Recovery house.

In the clouds?

OK. Sounds sensible.

Right, we’re now at the point where we’re going to start preparing to move in. I’ll tell the family and the movers. 

The house hasn’t been tested?

It’s safe though, right?

85% safe. Do we get a test certificate to say it’s 100% safe at some point?

We have to do a list of things that we want to sign-off as acceptance criteria - and then you’ll tick off what you can do and we’ll talk about the rest and maybe cover it as part of the first month end?

But your builders will be around though…? 

Hopefully some of the 150 builders who built the house will be the same 30 that maintain it won’t they?

No?

They’re going off to build another house.

But they’ll document how the house works and tell the other guys?

No?

OK, so we pay you to transfer the knowledge of the house you built for us from one of your teams of builders to the other team of builders who maintain it. 

Right, OK.

Our decoration and soft furnishing people are saying that they can’t get any time from your builders to understand how the house is laid out. Apparently the builders are busy testing the house you’ve built which is mainly a standard house with a playroom, a study and a snug added…?

They’ve also asked my kids and their friends to write user test scripts to make sure the house works as it should. But we don’t have any information to tell us how the house works and the builders are busy testing at the moment, so the kids are really upset.

Matthew, my eldest said that Colin, one of the builders told him to just say everything is fine so that they can finish testing and get the house ready on time.

Matthew is worried that his bedroom might not be big enough and that there may be no plug to charge his phone next to his bed.

Colin said he could use an extension cable if that was the case. And to make sure that this was on the RAID log?

But when Matthew said “Yes, but what if my room is too small?” Colin told him he could ask his sister to swap rooms if he wanted, and that he’d be moving out to go to University soon anyway.

Matthew is only 8.

By the way, thanks for the lovely cake you gave us as a moving in present. It’s a nice touch to celebrate how much we’ve spent with you to build our new house. A £30 cake with your builder’s logo on it alongside our logo that you’ll post on LinkedIn is a fantastic idea.

It's been hard work and has taken much longer than we expected, but it’s great having our own newly built house. We’ve lived here for 3 months now and there are a few small issues we'd like to discuss.

My family tell me it’s made their lives worse rather than better.

Yes, I know we did the furnishings and planned the move in but that’s not really the problem. The actual house is too complex and doesn’t work the way you said it would. 

The hot water is always cold, the front door won’t close, the electrics keep tripping and the bathroom leaks. But more than that. It just isn’t what we thought we were getting when you did that proposal for us 3 years ago.

I understand that we were involved along the way but we’ve never built a house before - that’s why we asked you guys to advise is.

We’ve also visited our finances and realised that we’ve spent 50% more than we budgeted on the house. And we really don’t see the benefit of that investment at all.

Ah, OK. So making the house work and bringing the lifestyle benefits we discussed at the start is actually our responsibility? 

Your builders and maintenance guys were just there to build the framework.

We can fix it though, right?

No need - there’s a new version of the house coming out soon which we need to upgrade to?

Or we can move to a different house in the clouds?

And you guys can help us with this project too, right?

OK, I'll let the family know...

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Stuart Browne

Stuart has held leadership roles in the SAP ecosystem over an 18 year period, spanning consultancy, delivery management, practice development, sales, marketing and analyst relations. With an eclectic mix of skills and one of the largest SAP networks in the UK, Stuart has established a formidable reputation that has enabled Resulting to guide SAP customers through complex challenges.