Reading the Instructions

Men–so the adage goes–don’t read instructions. For me, that’s not really true. I read them, but sometimes I miss things. Or perhaps the instructions could be better.

These instructions were for resetting a fairly complicated device (a firewall) to factory default.
(1) Backup the firewall. Check.

(2) Disconnect from power. Check.

(3) Press the reset button. Check.

(4) Reconnect the power and hold the reset button down until the alert light on the front turns amber.

Well, I got through 1-3 and I thought 4. Problem was, it didn’t seem to work. I was disconnecting, pressing, reconnecting, and holding. And, well, the light was blinking amber. So didn’t I follow the instructions?

Turns out, no. I had to wait until the light went solid amber. Works. Glad I didn’t contact tech support. They might well have advised me to RTFM (Read the Fine Manual).

How People Read Websites — Eyeball Tracking

If you knew where people looked on your website, you’d probably put the most important stuff there, right?

There was a report from MarketingSherpa several years ago that used eyeball tracking to make recommendations for designing pages. Eyeball tracking actually measures where people look when they look at something (usually a computer screen).

Here’s an interesting (and useful) example of how people go about reading web pages.

I know this isn’t business software or ERP related, but it’s interesting. Hope you like and use!

Is a Tech Foundation the Same as ERP? A: No!

In the last post, I mentioned the concept of a tech foundation. Some might be confused, particularly since DGG focuses on ERP and business software. Since I didn’t fill in the specifics, I think it might need a bit more fleshing out.

Let’s start with an org chart. The titles and who reports to who (in this case) aren’t important. The functions are important.

The CFO, for example, has two basic functions reporting to her. The accounting and financial reporting department handles financial statements and recording transactions. The Internal Audit department assures accuracy and prevents fraud. Likewise, the CMO has sales and advertising reporting to him.

Suppose we matched up each of these functions with software that assists the function. We might come up with something like this:

  • Controller –> Accounting Software (General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, etc.) and perhaps ERP
  • Internal Audit –> CAAS (Computer Assisted Audit Software)
  • Sales –> CRM
  • Marketing –> CRM, email marketing, web metrics
  • Manufacturing –> MRP (Materials Requirement Planning)

This isn’t complete, but you get the idea.

Each of these areas has software (or tools) that supports its function. A good foundation contains tools in all the appropriate areas of the organization chart. A foundation that has more tools piled on one side of the org chart makes the organization lop sided. A good technology foundation provides all the needed tools.

The issue with this is simple: few single individuals–and few single companies for that matter–do all of this well. When you include things like CIM (Computer Integrated Manufacturing), there are probably fewer than a half-dozen companies in the world that could or would handle all of this foundation. There might very well be none.

So how do you use this foundation concept? I use it as a balancing tool. If I see a client heavily weighted (for example) on the accounting and MRP side, I try to get them to consider the marketing (web site or eCommerce) side of the chart. The best answer is a comprehensive plan, with appropriate priorities. Fix the most pressing problems. first.

I could (and may) write a book about this, but this post is too long already. Tell me what you think. Any questions?


Business Platitudes, Technology, ERP, and the Answer to Everything

Ok, so this is not exactly a post about ERP or business software, and we do focus on those items. This is a post about an Inc. magazine article on business platitudes that ought to retire. This article is no hat-tip to buzz word bingo. It’s actually an article that hits home a bit in the technology industry.

One of the platitudes in the article is “Work smarter, not harder.” It’s an old saw that this is what technology helps businesses do: “We can install this techno-widget and cut your effort by 50 person-days.” Well, maybe. All of the other platitudes are things that I’ve heard recently, and I’ve actually said some of them. What comes out of the article for me Stairway of computers drawingis that we need to quit batting around platitudes and start doing some real work on one of the central issues in business today: the world is changing and many who have business expertise are ignoring the developments in business that are changing the world. We are extremely vulnerable to the new and different.

Many businesses, for example, are clinging to old ways of marketing and selling their product. Moving from the “join the Rotary Club” world to the “have an online social presence” world is difficult for many business people. But maybe it’s not an either/or maybe it’s a both/and. My friend Dave Barger over at LunaWeb is trying to get the word out, but it’s a difficult slog. The problem–from my business perspective–is that too many businesspeople are working in their businesses, not on it (kudos to E-Myth guru Michael Gerber).

These days it isn’t or shouldn’t be just about the web or just about ERP or just about eMarketing. It should be about building a foundation of technology that supports business. Ignore this, and you imperil the whole structure. Focus on just one element, and the foundation doesn’t have integrity. Like all foundations without integrity, the problem won’t show up instantly; it will be a few years. Then it may be too late.

So go on and “work smarter, not harder” and “don’t reinvent the wheel,” but while you’re working on it, reinvent your business. If I can help, I will. Contact me at DGG.

Oh, and while I’m at it, the answer is 42.

Microsoft Dynamics AX – Directed to the Enterprise

Microsoft might disagree with this simplification, but they seem to have identified two basic market segments: SMB (Small and Mid-sized businesses) and enterprise. In the Enterprise space, Dynamics AX is the ERP system targeted. Licensing for enterprise AX will soon be available through the volume license agreement channel, though the requirements for the partner organization providing licenses in this model will be significantly greater.

The other Dynamics products (NAV and GP primarily, and perhaps SL to a lesser degree), will have a new licensing model. The changes will be good for smaller businesses that need more functionality (like most of our clients).