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Craig Schiff

I am very excited about this opportunity to share my perspectives and experience in my BeyeNETWORK Blog. For those of you who may not have read my articles and newsletters over the past few years, I hope you will appreciate a vendor-independent perspective on all things related to Business Performance Management (BPM). I focus on key topics organizations should consider throughout their BPM project lifecycle, from early stage requirements definition and justification, key measure development, vendor selection and finally, successful deployment and rollout. Of course, market trends and vendor updates will also be part of the mix. Please stop by on a regular basis to see what's new, and to make this interactive, please share your opinions. If you have a specific question, contact me directly at cschiff@bpmpartners.com.

About the author >

Craig, President and CEO of BPM Partners, is a pioneer in business performance management (BPM). Craig helped create and define the field as it evolved from business intelligence and analytic applications into BPM. He has worked with BPM and related technologies for more than 20 years, first as a founding member at IMRS/Hyperion Software (now Hyperion Solutions) and later cofounded OutlookSoft where he was President and CEO.

Craig is a frequent author on BPM topics and monthly columnist for the BeyeNETWORK. He has led several jointly produced webcasts with Business Finance Magazine including "Beyond the Hype: The Truth about BPM Vendors," the three-part vendor review entitled "BPM Xpo" and "BPM 101: Navigating the Treacherous Waters of Business Performance Management." He is a recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. BPM Partners is a vendor-independent professional services firm focused exclusively on BPM, providing expertise that helps companies successfully evaluate and deploy BPM systems. Craig can be reached at cschiff@bpmpartners.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Craig's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

Recently in Tales of the End User Category

Of course they do, but you wouldn't know it by looking at many of the companies we meet with while they are in the process of selecting a performance management solution. A company we worked with a few months ago illustrates this point perfectly.

When we walked in the door they were far down the path with a particular vendor and they just wanted us to 'validate' their decision. In other words, did we believe their assessment was right that this vendor could meet their requirements. Well, we'd have to see those requirements first. The good news is that on the technology side they had a decent set of requirements outlining required interfaces, supported databases, desired performance/responsiveness, remote access needs, security, etc. It was a 12 page document and also included a project timeline.

On the business side, it was a paragraph someone had sent as an email. It went something like 'need to implement a system to replace Excel-based planning and reporting'. Now of course the finance team and business unit leaders involved had a lot more thoughts on what they wanted, but it was all in their heads. It was not clear that they had even discussed it with each other. There was no way this was going to end well. So, we recommended they step back for a moment and let us help them develop detailed requirements.

They put together a team of 40 key stakeholders and we interviewed all of them (some in departmental groups, others individually). The end product was a nearly 60-page document reviewing the current status of their systems, related challenges, and required functionality of the new system. While the raw interview data was maintained, the requirements were summarized by product functionality area and prioritized by frequency of request. One of the first things that became apparent was that they were looking at capabilities that went far beyond just planning and reporting.

The end result of all of this was that the vendor they were about to purchase was now obviously not a fit. Using these new detailed requirements we helped them identify several vendors that could potentially meet their needs. They went on to evaluate four of them against their specific requirements. They then scored them according to their ability to meet each requirement and went into contract discussions with the top two scoring vendors.

Without detailed business requirements you could easily select the wrong solution, as almost happened here. In addition how can you compare vendors without knowing what specific criteria you are using for the evaluation and scoring? There is also a hidden benefit to this requirements process. Those 40 people that were interviewed now feel that their voices were heard and their input was taken into account. While it is unlikely that 100% of their requests will be met by the new solution, because they were part of the process they will help support a successful rollout and accelerate user buy-in and adoption.

 


Posted February 26, 2013 2:32 PM
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Life can be tough for consulting companies. Some potential customers have ben burned by unscrupulous consulting firms in the past and can now be somewhat hesitant to give the consulting industry another chance. Most consultants of course are fair, ethical, and deliver good value but end up paying the price for the few bad apples. I have recently had the unfortunate opportunity to observe a number of situations in the performance management consulting industry where the customer was being misled and will probably be left with a bad taste of consulting. In some cases the performance management software vendors are adding to the problem.

Let me spell out the three types of problems I've witnessed. Each of these has actually occurred more than once. The first is an old trick that you would think intelligent business people would be on to by now - getting the prospect to focus on the billing rate, not the total project cost. In the most recent case it was really a CFO that created the problem, not the consulting company, who in the end benefited from his short-sightedness. This CFO was evaluating several consulting companies to help with his performance project. He made his decision based on one single factor - hourly billing rate. That's it. He made the false assumption that all were equally expert and he was going to find the lowest cost solution. Well, in the end, he found the most costly (and probably least effective) solution. He neglected to ask how many consultants would be involved and for how long. So, what he got was a busload of junior consultants who moved in for months. What he could have had instead was a higher rate senior expert for a much shorter duration. The total cost would have been lower, the time to payback shorter, and the likelihood of success greater.

The next two problems are both related to the same thing - helping a company select the right performance management software for their needs. This is near and dear to my heart since this is one of our core service offerings at BPM Partners. While we help our fair share of companies with this task, there are still some that are misled by consultants, and more recently the vendors themselves. You would think it would be obvious to companies purchasing this service that vendor neutrality is key. Apparently not. Many consulting companies that implement, and in some cases even resell, a particular vendor's products try to pass themselves off as independent vendor selection experts. Does the customer really think they would help them select a solution other than the one that generates their large implementation revenue stream? Now the vendors themselves have gotten into the act. A number of them are offering six-week business assessments/insight services to help a company determine its technology needs. In most cases this service is free (that should be a red flag). Is there any chance whatsoever that after their review they would recommend another vendors' products? In both cases there is a high probability that the customer will be force-fed a solution that, while addressing the needs of the vendor and/or consultant, falls somehwhat short of being the best fit for the customer's needs.

The main problem in all of this is that these consultants and vendors are creating a potential future problem for all of us. Sure they are making money now, but they could be jeopardizing their long-term prospects. If enough people are ultimately unhappy with their performance solutions or consultants the word will get out. The result of that could be a slowdown in the adoption and growth of performance management itself.


Posted September 15, 2008 1:45 PM
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While meeting recently with a Fortune 100 company planning out their Business Performance Management initiative, something came up that I felt could derail the whole thing. Unfortunately, they didn't see it that way. These are very senior, smart people and they did a brilliant job of analyzing their data needs and developing a standardized data structure to handle everything. Where their brilliance failed them was on the people side of the equation. They did share that they were getting a little pushback from some of the divisions about moving to a new, standardized performance system. This was attributed to stubbornness and ignorance. It was their belief that they could overcome this by re-assignment of problematic individuals and hiring new people who wouldn't have been exposed to anything other than the new way of doing things. It was also suggested that people would come around if they thought about how this new system could help improve the company's stock price. From my perspective there was a much simpler, less heavy-handed approach they could take that would have a greater chance of success.

There are several faults in their approach. The re-assignment and new hiring could certainly create morale problems with the remaining staff. The benefit of improving the stock price is probably not felt to any great extent outside of the senior team planning this project and a handful of others. Most importantly, this whole approach could result in under-utilization of the new BPM system, which defeats the purpose and is a common way these projects fail. My approach would have three components 1) Gain Buy-in: this can be accomplished by involving key user representatives from across the company in the planing process and discussions about the new system, they can share in the excitement, feel some ownership, and bring these positive feelings back to the troops; 2) Provide Local Benefits: don't just look at this from a corporate perspective, try to find some minor things you can add to the system that address a local need or pain that has been expressed by field staff, perhaps adding the ability to do some detailed analysis of their own data that they have been unable to easily do on their own; 3) Communicate and Educate: make sure everyone understands why a new system is needed, educate them on the benefits to them that may not be obvious. In the case of this company specifically, their new BPM system will actually reduce the workload in the field by removing the need to provide certain reports that are required today and are difficult to produce. However, no one has really taken the time to communicate this to the field. If this company proceeds with their own approach as outlined above, I think they will have a revolt on their hands. At a minimum they will have a performance management system that very few people rely on to analyze their performance.


Posted July 8, 2008 1:33 PM
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I just returned from CFO Magazine's Corporate Performance Management Conference in New York. Due to a torrential downpour the first morning I arrived a few minutes late and ended up having to stand as there were few if any open seats left. I would estimate that the room was packed with about 175 to 200 finance managers and executives (not as big as many IT events, but large for this type of audience). The crowd was very engaged and taking copious notes. I was the second speaker that morning and after my speech numerous people came up to me to ask for guidance on how to address their performance needs. Since most performance management projects still start in the finance department all of this bodes very well for continued momentum in performance management..


Posted June 6, 2007 1:22 PM
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More and more business executives, as well as their boards, are recognizing the importance of balancing financial measures of performance with non-financial ones. While financial measures give an organization an understanding of its past performance (past year, quarter, month, week, etc.), non-financial measures (customer satisfaction, innovation, quality, employee turnover, etc.) can provide greater insight into potential future performance. However, companies are still struggling to move forward with these types of measures. The reasons are varied, but include: lack of adequate tools to obtain this data, skepticism related to importance/accuracy of these elements, highly confidential nature of certain measures. For true performance management these obstacles need to be overcome. This recent study by Deloitte outlines some of the key issues.


Posted April 10, 2007 8:22 AM
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