Have You Been Techno-Ripped Off?

I continue to be amazed at what businesspeople will put up with. A few days ago, I talked to a client who had hired an individual to put in a computer system. The so-called consultant sold the company $40,000 worth of hardware and software. Then he decided to go to work for a large computer company.

The client is left in the lurch; and my company is trying to figure out how to save some of the client’s investment and get a working system out of a mess. Unfortunately, this is all-too-common in my business. The businessperson almost always gets the short end of the stick.

I have a great deal of sympathy with the businesses that get taken. On the other hand, most of these businesses—if they are pressed—admit that they did have several proposals before they chose the system they have. How did they choose? You guessed it, they bought the lowest price.

Computer professionals are like lawyers, doctors, and CPAs. You won’t find many lawyers that charge under $175 an hour. You won’t find many good CPAs much below $90 an hour. Why, then, do people expect to find computer professionals for $25 an hour?

Business people wouldn’t let their teenage child touch their Federal Income Tax return (which nobody but the IRS will see). Web pages put up by the boss’s son that the whole world will see are common. Does this make sense?

I have a real problem with consultants that leave clients in the lurch. They give all computer professionals a black eye and a bad reputation. But clients can prevent it by dealing only with reputable businesses that charge a fair price. Grandma was right. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. In fact, someone else paid for some of the most expensive lunches that I’ve ever attended.

Do You Really Need an IT Professional? Part 3 of 3

Finally, as Harvey McKay writes in his book How to Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, “[Most] CPAs and lawyers make great CPAs and lawyers.” I don’t go to my doctor for legal advice, nor does my lawyer give flu shots. Different experts are for different tasks. Reason tells you which to choose. I also recognize my lawyer’s limitations. He can help me deal with what happens to my money after I die; he isn’t much help with what will happen to the rest of me.

I think I’ve made my point. But there is another issue here that is just as important. Let me return to the computer professional for now. The fact of the matter is that computer people are good at different things. My sister, for example, is a lawyer. I’m sure she knows a bunch about employment law, since that’s what she does for a living. I wouldn’t sign a will she drafted for love nor money. Unless, of course, I could take the money and go next door to sign another will with an attorney that knew more.

I also think that businesses need to evaluate the type of computer professional they are dealing with. Some are very good at programming. Some are good at hardware setup. Some are good at the “big picture.” Even the best of us aren’t good at everything. The biggest problem today is (a) computer professionals that think they know everything, and (b) business professionals that think anyone that knows more than they do is a computer god. Get real! Most of the time a businessperson’s instinct about their business is a lot better than a computer geek’s.

I may hang on to my doctor after all. Her instinct for what constitutes a heart attack is better than mine. Paying a little money now could save my life later. A word to the wise is enough.

Webcast: Productivity Tips & Tricks – Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009 R2

In 2012, Data Guidance Group has been hosting free, monthly, 20 minute webcasts on tightly focused topics. Here’s a webcast we recently did on Dynamics NAV 2009 R2 Productivity Tips and Techniques. The user interface change in Dynamics NAV 2009 Role Tailored Client (RTC) is taking a bit of time for some users to adapt to. This webcast discusses tips to help you get the most from your Dynamics investment. Previous recordings are also available, for example Dynamics NAV (Navision) searching and filtering. More webcast information is available on the DGG webcast page.

Do You Really Need an IT Professional? Part 2 of 3

Words I Loathe

Let me quote for you the words that I dread the most from clients: “I talked this over with my brother-in-law and he says…” “My CPA says that…” “My son is a Senior at (insert high school), and he is going to design our web page…” And my favorite of all times: “The guy at (insert computer store name) said …”

Gentle reader, I do not believe that every piece of software that needs to be installed requires an expert. I don’t even think that installing a new hard drive necessarily requires someone with an A+ Certification (an industry-recognized certification for computer technicians). As I told a friend recently, the instructions in most boxes are pretty good. I recommend that you read them.

I do, however, believe that when you do something that requires an expert, you should use an expert. To do otherwise is to risk your business. Let me show you what I mean.

Installing a hard drive in your home computer is a lot like unpacking a television set. If you break it, you may cry, but it’s not the end of the world. Moving your business from one computer system to another is brain surgery in comparison. If you mess up, you could be in real trouble.

Having a child create a web page for your business is like having the child handle your advertising. Some of the teens I know could handle it. Most would make a glorious mess of your business. And many parents I know are so blinded by pride that they wouldn’t recognize the difference.

Just because your child knows enough to create a basic web page doesn’t mean that she needs to do your business page. Knowing more than Mommy or Daddy does about the Internet is required of every child above 10; that doesn’t make your child an expert. It makes you behind on your homework.

I am all for hiring the kid at the computer store to hook up your modem or load the latest copy of FIFA Soccer 12. Perhaps they could even show you how to put the film in your digital camera. Some would try to find the latch to release the back of the camera. (A joke: digital cameras don’t have film! That’s why they are digital.)

Webcast: Searching and Filtering – Dynamics NAV 2009 R2 (Navision)

In 2012, Data Guidance Group has been hosting free, monthly, 20 minute webcasts on tightly focused topics. Here’s a webcast we recently did on Dynamics NAV  2009 R2 Searching and Filtering. Searching and filtering has changed a bit in Dynamics NAV 2009 Role Tailored Client (RTC). This webcast discusses tips to help you get the most from your Dynamics investment. More webcast information is available on the DGG webcast page.

Do You Really Need an IT Professional? Part 1 of 3

The scraping sound you hear is the sound of my soapbox being dragged to the center of the stage. Some will very much dislike this series of posts. So be it. But for some, it will be the catalyst to get you out of a bad situation; it’s for those folk that it is written. Some of what follows may be a bit sarcastic. I’ll leave it to you to pick that part out.

I have decided something very important. From now on, I am going to be my own lawyer, dentist, and medical doctor. I had two courses in business law in school. There are plenty of books in the library. I successfully incorporated my business several years ago. I can save myself $250 or so an hour by doing all my own work.

I’ve also watched my dentist for years. There isn’t much to it. He pokes my teeth with some sharp steel sticks, then brushes them, flosses them, and charges me about $100.  And since my father is a doctor and I have a Physician’s Desk Reference, I don’t need to go to the doctor anymore. My MD only gives me a half-dozen different drugs anyway. I can just call my father and get him to call in the best medicine picked from the PDR. I haven’t figured out how to do a heart balloon yet, but I’m going to check the book out of the library as soon as I get a chance.

Perhaps you detect a note of sarcasm. Perhaps you think you know what’s coming. This is a column about “brother-in-law computer experts.” Lest you think it is all self-serving, read on. I plan to redeem myself before the last post in this series.

Webcast: QuickBooks Inventory Tips and Techniques

In 2012, Data Guidance Group has been hosting free, monthly, 20 minute webcasts on tightly focused topics. Here’s a webcast we recently did on QuickBooks Enterprise Solution Inventory. Inventory in QuickBooks (whether Pro, Deluxe, Enterprise, etc.) has been a hot topic. This webcast discusses tips to help you get the most from your QuickBooks inventory. If you have retail inventory, take a look at QuickBooks Point of Sale. More webcast information is available on the DGG webcast page.

Changing the Way You Think About Business Software (ERP) and Technology

For 20+ years, DGG has really been in the business of changing the way our customers think about business, accounting, and ERP software. Changing the way you think about business software and technology can make you a lot of money. I’m thinking that perhaps we should have been talking about this for a long time.

Why? Our customers know that we’re different because we’re deep in both business and technology. Being deep in business changes (or should change) the way you think about software and technology in general. Using technology in business is like using a car.Photo of a man looking at the screen of his laptop.

The car is the hardware and infrastructure. The cables and racks and servers and operating systems (for example, Windows Server or Linux). Information Technology (IT) professionals spend a great deal of their time keeping the car working and tuning it up. I was talking to a customer’s IT support a week or so ago. He was lamenting the fact that the previous support person didn’t have individual servers for each piece of software: email on one server, web services on another, and accounting software on yet another. From an infrastructure standpoint, I completely agree with his objective. But polishing and tuning up the car doesn’t get you anywhere. Having the car (or server) running well is a precondition or prerequisite for everything else.

The gas is the application software. I’m not thinking about server software: SQL, email, etc. I’m thinking about Word, Excel, accounting, and business operations software. In order to go anywhere (in business or in a car) you need gas. This is the place many businesses (and IT departments) fall flat. They have new hardware on which they spend thousands of dollars with software that’s 20 years old. Old gas is bad for engines; old software can be equally bad for companies.

The result of old software is that businesses begin to think in terms of the software capability they have. Twenty years ago, we were happy that software worked and was stable. If we started the day with 10 in inventory, invoiced 2, and the computer said we h ad 8 left, we were ecstatic. Today, we expect the features we thought were whiz-bang in 1992. A car with 1992 gas sputters along, wheezing–if it runs at all. A business just creates a huge amount of work and “fights” its software by using Excel, ACCESS, and other tools to do the heavy lifting.

Finally, there’s the driver training. Anyone who’s taught a 15-year-old to drive knows that without training, the best place for the car and the gas is in the garage. Without proper training, you can hurt yourself.

And here’s where the analogy of the car vs. business technology breaks down. If your car doesn’t run, you don’t have gas, or you can’t drive, you find out pretty quickly. You wind up walking, pushing, or having a heart-to-heart conversation with a telephone pole or police officer. If your business technology isn’t optimal, you can run for a long time (harder, with more difficulty) without realizing it.

I’ve seen businesses run into the ground because they didn’t use the right software or didn’t use software right.

There’s more information on business software on the DGG site, and our Profit Tools eBook can provide some ideas.


Ice Cream and Vegetables | Leading Results

I don’t often post about pure marketing, but this article seemed to deserve a post. Randy talks about the tendency to want marketing to give instant gratification. His example is Groupon promotions which often lead to a rush of business from new customers that never come back. The loss leader turns into just a loss.

I think this is also true of electronic marketing based on search engines, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Check out Randy’s article and let me (or him) know if you agree!

Ice Cream and Vegetables | Leading Results.