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Stuart Browne 11-Oct-2022 11:03:36 7 min read

Are you peddling against the wind in pursuit of ERP transformation?

16 years ago, before Electric Bikes were a thing, I wrote a book.

It was something I needed to do in order to empty my head, and the process was more interesting than the end result for me.

In the preceding years I'd devoured a library of books across an eclectic spectrum, and completed some 'interesting' training courses that were pretty much nothing to do with what I did for a living. 

Having just committed to working part-time - so that could walk my kids to school a few times a week rather than working on an industrial estate in Slough, or flying to Frankfurt for a 2-hour meeting with corporate nodding donkeys - I had time on my hands.

So I re-skimmed the 150 books I'd read and summarised them on large Post-It notes on the back cover of each.  I started a big spreadsheet with an inventory of all the stuff I'd learned, things I'd seen others do to great effect, I curated famous quotes I'd read, and all of the stuff from those book summary Post-Its. 

Then, I spent weeks distilling it all down into a structure, pruning into a series of practical ways to think differently.  I wrote a thousand words for each 'model' and sewed in the quotes to tie it together with some nice iconography.

It was all stuff I'd been doing for the past 10 years of my work life consolidated into a handbook.

The process was cathartic and rewarding. But slightly awkward in that I was laying bare my own inner workings.

The self-published book sold in respectable (but not amazing) numbers - and I still get good feedback on it to this day. And the odd pocket-money royalty payment.

What's this got to do with Electric Bikes? 

Nothing.

The famous quotes part of the process was great - as it's given me a rich, recallable vocabulary of quotations that I can pull out on demand.  They're great ways of landing a message without it coming from you - which is handy in a consulting world.

One of these quotes jumped out at me this morning when I was reading a blog post.

“It's amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the credit." - Harry Truman

It's one that made a big impact on me at a time when all of my peers were 'career hungry' - and I'd just taken my first independent part-time consulting gig at Unilever.

If you only care about your own advancement and self-promotion, you lose a connection with the stuff that matters.  I found that I could get better results for customers, and help other people develop if I got out-of-the-way and facilitated good stuff happening, rather than saying "look what I did". Instead, just let your work speak for itself and create totems or frameworks that others can use to be successful.

Sounds trite even as I bash my MacBook keyboard sat opposite Paul Kurchina say in a hotel waiting for the ERP Today Awards to kick off. He read the same blog over his morning coffee too.

What's this got to do with Electric Bikes? 

Nothing.

This don't take the credit outlook has crept into my work philosophy big time - and expanded to:

"It's amazing what you can accomplish when you do not care who gets the money."

You see, we provide independent advice to customers - we call it 'business-side consultancy'.

Oftentimes, that advice is helping customers build a roadmap for their ERP or Digital Transformation, and then helping them select software solutions and implementation partners to do the heavy lifting.

Most organisations who offer advice have a vested interest in the outcome - if the customer chooses their solution, they get a big prize, if the customer follows their advice, they win a big meaty project.

These organisations can't help themselves but care a great deal about who gets the money.

We don't. 

We don't care what software they choose or which systems integrators they choose to implement it.  Sure, we care that it's the best possible answer to their challenges, but we don't care what the solution is, or who cuts their code.

That's what being 'business-side' means.

And it's amazing what you can achieve when you stop chasing a self-serving outcome.

I get asked on a weekly basis..

"Will you help us build an SAP S/4 HANA business case?"

No.

Absolutely not.

I'll help you build a roadmap or business case for technology that supports your business strategy.  But if you come to me with the answer (S/4HANA) and ask me to justify the answer, that's not consulting.

That's puppetry.

What's this got to do with Electric Bikes? 

Well, this morning, I read an SAP Brand Voice blog on Forbes by Paul Saunders.

Successful ERP: As Easy As Falling Off An Electric Bike

Paul Saunders is ex-Gartner, so knows his stuff.  He's Head of Product Strategy S/4HANA and Chief Evangelist Cloud ERP at SAP. We've met a couple of times and had some great conversations about S/4HANA and customer challenges adopting it. 

It grabbed my attention because we've done a lot of research on Successful ERP programmes, working with our own ex-Gartner Research Director, Dr Derek Prior.

Paul builds a great metaphor based on fitness and cycling, and how buying the shiny new equipment (Electric Bike) doesn't exonerate you from taking responsibility for your own (fitness) success. 

As with all good metaphors, he silently compares his new eBike with S/4HANA.

Paul closes taking about ERP success with..

"It’s YOUR journey to YOUR destination. An ERP vendor is there to help you succeed and enjoy the ride."

This resonates closely with our own research.

It’s a good analogy.

Unless you have an old bike that your local bike shop has heavily customised for you when they built it.  Meaning, the process of moving to a new bike causes you upgrade your current brown bike and replace some of the parts - knowing that it’ll be expensive and might not work too well, so will need a lot of testing. You'll get the same old brown bike with some new intestines.

Or, you can buy a new green bike and be forced to change many of your cycling habits even if you don’t want to - because the bike manufacturer has invented a brand new kind of bike that they really want to sell to you. Sure, you'll get the latest new tech eBike, but getting used to riding it might take some time, and your bum will hurt for a few months. You may even fall into a ditch once or twice.

Of course you could buy a blue bike and spend money chopping bits off your old bike to glue on to the new bike. Create kind of a Frankenstein's monster with lots of old bearings, rusty brakes, but a supercharged powertrain. Sounds exciting, right?

Whichever new bike you choose, you'll need to empty your piggy bank.

And then sell your piggy bank at the charity shop on the way to the bike shop.

On the way, you'll discover that some of your former bike parts no longer come with the new bike so you have to buy other products like Handlebars and a Seat that you previously took for granted as part of your old bike. And you’ll need to make sure they integrate properly with your new bike - the old integration headstock and seat post won't work.

Then, whether you choose a brown, green or blue bike, you'll be cajoled by the nice people in the bike shop to rent your next bike rather than buying it. Bike as a service apparently.

The people who help you build your new bike will want to transform it rather than upgrade it, even if that's not on your fitness agenda. A nice big eBike project.

But your new bike will probably be a bit faster. If you believe the brochure.

This isn't a dig at Paul - he's a great guy and he's written a great article.

It's a Harry Truman inspired ramble to remind you that if you ask people who are motivated by self-interest for advice, you'll get self-serving answers.

But if you ask people who don't care who gets the credit, you'll get different advice, that'll probably be more on-your-side.

Just be careful who's peddling* the advice.

 

*the action of promoting an idea or view persistently or widely.

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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.