Or the ten most important things I learned from my 10 years in business software industry
This month I complete my 10th year at Intelligent Systems and in the business software industry. Wow. Ten years. This is really a long time, especially in today’s dynamic environment. Through all ups and downs (and there have been a lot of each), I saw a lot. I experimented a lot (and yes, sometimes it was risky and not very successful, uuuh). And I need to use this cliché – I learned a lot. From how to prepare a successful marketing plan, through how to get and stay ahead of competition (“Hip hip hooray” for Intelligent Systems – from the most successful partner in Bulgaria to a leading partner in CEE and member of Microsoft’s Inner Circle), to how to fix the office dishwasher. And I am grateful for every single lesson (and the dishwasher one was very useful as well :).
Here are my “10 Lessons learned” from the past 10 years – a time for dynamic disruptions and great changes in the whole business software industry. These are my tips & tricks for any company that plan to implement business software, for vendors’ teams as well as any other individual who is engaged in the industry (or have to be for some reason).
1. The team. What is the most important thing in every ERP implementation? The team. That’s it! If you want to have a successful project gather a Rock star team. This means not only to have your colleagues inspired by the upcoming ERP, CRM or BI project, but also to know your vendor’s delivery team and make sure you are all on the same page. Why not have the project kick-off take longer than planned? And then organize an informal dinner at a nice place for all the people that are going to participate in this project? This will be a good team building before the long days (and nights) you are most probably going to spend together.
2. Be realistic about your expectations from the software project. When deciding on investing in business software, you have high expectations by default. Yes, the ERP will help you optimize and streamline your business processes. But be realistic about what to expect. Set you SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time bound) goals precisely.
3. Find the right partner/customer. This one is something important for both the vendors and customers of business software applications. Vendors, please focus on 2-3 industries and/or segments. Choose those groups that you have some experience and feel confident about. You can’t be a specialist in all sectors but you can focus on a few areas and be really good at them. Customers, whatever solution you choose, make sure your vendor have some decent experience and know-how in your industry specifics or at least – in a related sector. Trust me, this is the only way it will work out – quick and sweet (and with less pain).
4. Fail to plan – plan to fail. Whatever you need to plan – your day, your week or your entire project – do it on time and at your best. Be sure that any issue that is not properly planned at the start line will come up later. Be sure that this will happen at the most intense moment and it will bring some hard times for you, your team and eventually, for the whole project. Be wise and plan!
5. “All ERP implementations fail”. No, not all of them, but it happens. I have seen numerous cases when communication has played a major role, both in the positive and in the negative direction, As one of my managers recently told me: “Every project is a matter of balance”. Sometimes you are in the perfect balance, sometimes you totally screw it up, but if you communicate it properly, according to the situation, you can be quickly back in the game. And the other way around – number of deals and projects fail because of miscommunication or at least – the lack of it. Communication is your most powerful weapon – use it wisely.
6. Share your knowledge. The most exciting part of working in business software is that you come to know new businesses, new industries, new processes. You learn innovative technologies and business models. With every project, no matter a successful one or a fail, you get more and more experience and know-how. And the best thing you can do for yourself(!) is to share your knowledge. Share it with your teams, with a colleague involved in the same matter, with a prospective client, or with a newly grad who is evaluating a career in the business software industry. Be a mentor for a rookie or a group of newly hired people who want to take the fast path. This will not only streamline your project management, but will also help you evolve as a professional.
7. Be honest. Honesty is an important part of every relationship and business is no exception. If things are not going well, tell it to your customer or vendor straight away, so you can immediately take action and put things back in control.
8. User acceptance. A lot of things have been written and said about the importance of the user acceptance and they are all true – if both vendor and customer are not working toward it, the project will most probably fail or at least – you won’t be writing a success story about it. So, do your user acceptance tests and all other homework and analyze and fix any single issue which may rise.
9. Talk to your team and ask for advice. Anytime. When I joined the team 10 years ago, I didn’t want to bother anybody with my questions and tried to do it the hard way. I browsed the whole Internet (where there was not so much useful information, too), I read a lot, and sometimes, I did get lost in all the business software terminology, abbreviations (oh, how I hate abbreviations), functionalities, etc. It was really time consuming for me and was not very fruitful at all. Today, I might be experienced in business software topics but I still (am a woman and I) have a lot of questions. So usually, if I can’t find the information I need in the first 15 minutes of researching (or let say 30 or up to an hour for some more complicated issues), my next step is to identify the right person to help me out with it. He or she would answer my question, share his or her thoughts or we can just discuss the issue together and come up with a plan how to cope with it. I do believe it is much more beneficial this way.
10. Technology for the People. The most important thing I know today and the one thing to remember is that business software is a technology developed by people, delivered to people to be used by people. Have this in mind next time you hate your ERP system for not working (come on, it a technology developed by real people and it’s never perfect) and know that there is a person who can fix it. Your ERP or CRM or BI system works for you and not despite or instead of you so make sure you also play your “human” part in it. ?
It’s been an incredible ride. Thank you all for this ten remarkable years of professionalism and support. A big thanks to the team mates who welcomed me at the office back in 2008 (we were a small compact team then, all of us very, very young for this serious business ?). And special thanks to all these enthusiastic people who joined later on and put all their energy in achieving our dreams.
And now, let’s rock!