Insights Session – The Parting Glass: So what and who cares?

On Thursday, May 20th at 9:15am at Sage North America’s annual partner conference, Insights, I will be presenting a session entitled The Parting Glass: So what and who cares? (GEN22).

In this last session of the conference, join me in a no-holds-barred look back at what you have learned at Insights 2010 and what your intentions are when you get back to the office. Be prepared to submit at least one item for which you wish to have the rest of the group hold you accountable.

For those of you who plan on attending the session, note that I will be asking you to post your commitment to the group as a comment on this post. Please include:

  • A brief description of your commitment
  • A date when you plan on achieving it

My Sessions at Sage Insights 2010

A few of you have written to me to ask about what sessions I am facilitating at Sage Insights 2010. Thank you for the vote of confidence as I assume this is because you would like to attend them, not avoid them. In either case, here they are:

Code Day & Time Title

PRE19

Sunday, 8:00am – 5:00pm

Sage Consulting Workshop

GEN55

Monday, 1:15pm – 2:15pm

Creating a Great Scope Document

GEN23

Monday, 2:30pm – 3:30pm

Managing an Engagement From an Issues List

GEN54

Tuesday, 3:15pm – 4:15pm

Enhancing Your Customer’s Experience

GEN53

Wednesday, 9:15am – 10:15am

Consulting and the Crisis of Self-Esteem

GEN52-1

Wednesday, 1:30pm – 3:00pm

Creating the Firm of the Future (Part 1 of 3)

GEN52-2

Wednesday, 3:15pm – 4:15pm

Creating the Firm of the Future (Part 2 of 3)

GEN52-3

Wednesday, 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Creating the Firm of the Future (Part 3 of 3)

GEN58

Thursday, 8:00am – 9:00am

Creating a Partner-Based Service Level Agreement

GEN22

Thursday, 9:15am – 10:15am

The Parting Glass: So What and Who Cares?

For Sage Partners Only (Sort of)

Sage has made a site available for Sage Partners or anyone else who would like to speak at Insights to submit their session ideas. Please note that these would not be paid speakers, but if you have a topic that you would like to share with other partners, please feel free to submit your ideas.

You will need to provide a title and an abstract (description) of the session. These must be submitted by January 29, 2010.

The site is available at http://www.softconference.com/subs/SAGE/2010/CFPE/default.asp?log=1

If you have any questions, please email me or just leave a comment below.

Report on ITA General Session – WOW – That’s a great idea

This is the sixth and last in a series of postings about my thoughts from sessions that I attended at the Information Technology Alliance’s Fall Collaborative (<-I love that word) held in Palm Springs.

Delivered by five partners, four of them Sage partners. Wows included:

  • David Cieslak of Arxis – Solid state drives can breathe new life into old laptops. I can state from personal experience this is very true!
  • Jeff Roth of SWK made their part-time HR director a chargeable resource. Customers love it.
  • Steve Krueger of Business Technology Systems created and executed a referral plan to accounting firms and did lunch and learn and technology updates.
  • Lissa Johnssen of Net@work sold her business. No more headaches and she loves working for another company.
  • Chris Faist – Started selling cloud services to customers.
  • Clark Haley moved BCS/Prosoft’s Web site to WordPress. For details visit his post on this transition.

Report on ITA General Session – Google Enterprise

This is the fifth in a series of postings about my thoughts from sessions that I attended at the Information Technology Alliance’s Fall Collaborative (<-I love that word) held in Palm Springs.

This was one of the most anticipated sessions of the conference and it did not disappoint. Michael Lock is the director of channel at Google and give the association an update on Google’s thinking:

Google makes the assumption of abundance of all things, for example, bandwidth and processing power. Apple did this when they created the graphical user interface. You must assume abundance to be innovative.

Some choice quotes were:

  • “We will look for a fewer number of quality partners.”
  • “You can move off of google.com anytime at zero switching cost. We have to keep you interested.”
  • “Operating systems should be (errr, will be) free!”
  • “Google is in the 1st inning of the first game of a 162 game season.”
  • “Google has over one million users on the Premier version of Google apps at $50 a pop that’s a cool $50 million.”
  • “Google has introduced 109 new features in gmail this year alone. How were we able to do this – We only have one version.”

When asked about Google Wave, Lock replied that he is unclear of what will happen it. I love that. That is how great innovation is done – lots of ideas. Some of them will work and some won’t.

In a moment of pure irony the presentation Lock was using, created in Google’s presentation software, of course, was interrupted by a Microsoft Windows dialogue box with an error message indicating that ActiveX (a Microsoft product) had crashed.

Report on ITA Breakout Session – Preventing the Loss of Customers

This is the third in a series of postings about my thoughts from sessions that I attended at the Information Technology Alliance’s Fall Collaborative (<—I love that word) held in Palm Springs.

The session was less about the loss of customers and more about having solid non-solicitation and non-compete agreements with both customers and employees.

This is the second time I have seen New York attorney, Joel Greenwald present. He is very good and his content is extremely relevant to all small businesses. Some of his thoughts were:

  • The law is slow, but it catching up from a technology perspective.
  • Sometimes customer lists are trade secrets, sometimes they are not. It depends on how your treat the lists.
  • Having a non-compete is more prevalent than ever. They should be tight, reasonable in geography and duration and only signed by key employees.
  • Non-solicitation agreements (employees and clients) are more enforceable. Again, he recommends only key employees sign them.
  • However, everyone in a firm should sign confidentiality agreements.
  • Contracts should have severability clauses that allow the judge to invalidate one section without throwing the entire agreement out.
  • Do not include these agreements in offer letters and do not make them part of your handbook.
  • Tell job candidates not to disclose trade secrets from their current or former employers and ask them to sign as to whether they have signed any agreements.
  • All these documents are meant as deterrents not as litigation tool.
  • All companies should have a computer usage policy that is signed off separately from the handbook. This is similar to any sexual harassment policy as well.
  • Monitoring and accessing email on company computers are two different things. Monitoring is OK in almost all circumstances; accessing is less clear.
  • “Never punish people via the withholding of wages. Ever… it is really a bad idea.”

Thoughts on ITA Breakout Session – Professional Service Firm KPIs

This is the second in a series of postings about my thoughts from sessions that I attended at the Information Technology Alliance’s Fall Collaborative (<—I love that word) held in Palm Springs.

Presented by Jeanne Urich of SPI Research. The highlight of my ITA experience occurred during this session when Jeanne acknowledged that a conversation that the two of us had at the spring ITA meeting has influenced her thinking and that she now believes that fixed price agreements are better for customers and consultants. Now to convince her to give up on these dozens of benchmarks! I think this will be a much harder task.

The study consists of 175 metrics, 20 of them deemed key performance indicators. The problem in my mind is that all, save one of the 20 are inwardly focused on the firm, even those in the “Service execution” and “Client relationship” areas are firm-based.

The problem as I see it with most benchmarking is that it focuses us on all the wrong things: the past rather than the future; internal rather than the customer; efficiency rather than effectiveness.

For example, one “customer” metric was about project completion success. The question was asked of the providers, “What percentage of your projects are completed on time and on budget?” The average answer was 74 percent. This more than doubles the number (35 percent) according to a study done by The Standish Group who asked the same question of customers. Needless to say, I side with customers on this one. Again, to her credit Jeanne acknowledged this flaw.

Many of the other metrics are based on the false premise that value delivered is equal to rate times hours, aka, the labor theory of value. This theory is demonstrably false and belief in it has been proven to cause harm.

I have sat in on countless benchmarking session and the reactions of the attendees is always the same: a) if they are doing better than the benchmark, they think they are OK and do nothing, and b) if they are worse than the benchmark, they dispute the data and still do nothing. Path (b) actually happened twice during the session!

My beef with all benchmarking in business is that while it attempts to appear scientific, it is not even close. To her great credit Jeanne is very careful about saying that these metrics are correlative not causal. Unfortunately, most people do not understand this distinction and are lulled into the illusion of control via data.

The findings are always similar and in many cases are nothing more than a bunch of truisms:

  • Firms who market well have higher revenue. (Yet, marketing spend, even among top firms, is less than average across all industries.)
  • Firms who close more business (win to bid ratio) are more successful. (The question is, what do they do differently that allows them to have a higher win to bid ratio? Win more or bid less?)
  • Few firms grew revenue in 2009.
  • Clear vision and strategy and taking care of your people are important in professional firms. Firms that focus on culture are rated as better places to work. (What kind of culture?)

Conclusions are almost always the same – “Increase revenue, lower discretionary spending.” Always a good idea.