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Six Traits of a Memorable Message: The Tap Test and Why it Sticks

Posted by on February 14, 2012

Adopted from Made to Stick.

In 2007, Chip & Dan Heath wrote a book titled Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. The book offers six traits that separate what we remember from what we don’t, or more accurately, what’s memorable and what’s not.

The six attributes are:

  • Simple
  • Unexpected
  • Concrete
  • Credible
  • Emotional
  • A Story

While they are pretty self-explanatory, each comes to life in one of the more memorable parts of the book where the authors explain a phenomenon called The Curse of Knowledge! (They admittedly capitalize the term to heighten the drama).

The Heath brothers describe The Curse of Knowledge as “Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily recreate our listeners state of mind.” Read the full article…

Best Practices: Top 10 Reasons Darth Vader Was a Great Project Manager

Posted by on January 5, 2012

Darth VaderImportant note: The Sith Lord Darth Vader is actually a fictional character from the Star Wars saga. He was not real. Still, his character clearly showed brilliance for project management. And now, for your entertainment, the Top 10 Reason’s Darth Vader Was a Great Project Manager:

Number 10: Vader prioritized brutally. Vader paid close attention to the happenings of the galaxy, evaluated the impacts of any given issue, and went after the highest priorities…time after time. No emotional attachments, no personal agendas…just the right thing to do to preserve the Imperium, and see his project through to successful completion. In project management, if you can’t prioritize, you won’t get anything done, let alone anything done well.

Number 9: Vader made decisions based on objective data, not whims. Vader consistently evaluated the performance of his team, and made changes to fix problems when the team didn’t perform. Sure, there may have been some fear and terror, but put all that aside. Project teams needs to feel safe and supported, but they also need to know that the project goals need to get met, and if you aren’t delivering on your commitments, changes need to get made.

Read the full article…

Quick Poll: Are you prepared for your year end auditors?

Posted by on November 22, 2011

It’s that time of year again. Sales is pushing to close last minute deals, production is gearing up for the holiday runs. In accounting it’s all about crossing the “t”s and dotting the “i”s. Making sure everyone follows the processes and paperwork. The question is….

Are you prepared for your year end auditors? Take our quick poll and see how you stack up.

Best Practices in ERP Project Management: The 7 Deadly Sins of Project Estimating

Posted by on October 26, 2011

Here’s an interesting article with great perspective on project estimating from the Project Management Institute, PM Network Magazine.

The world of project management doesn’t seem like it would often overlap with theology (other than the occasional realization that only divine intervention could bring in certain projects on-time and on- budget).  However, the seven deadly sins are remarkably applicable to project estimating. Take a look!

#1. Greed

This sin normally applies to material wealth, but people can also hoard information and time. Greed and fear are often related. With estimating, the questions often asked are, “Why are you asking me for my data?” “Do you know how busy I am?”  Sometimes team members do not feel they have the time to spare to share data and past experiences, and when this happens, ultimately the estimates suffer. Charitable teamwork by everyone helps us come up with numbers based on our shared experience and internal tools, rather than guesswork.

#2. Gluttony

As project managers and development estimators, we’ve often seen others add contingency costs to project estimates in lieu of doing the real work upfront to produce an accurate estimate.  The problem with this is that when this is handed up to the overall project manager, chances are another few contingency cost points will be added.  The end result is a bloated estimate.  This sin just adds good hours on top of bad hours. The message is don’t pad your estimates; do the work up front.

#3. Sloth

Rather than using good tools, methods and models backed up by historical data, correct training and documentation, lazy estimates are too often the norm. Don’t just guess.   These estimates relate to project costs as well as timelines, when we actually need things to be completed. We have all heard the lazy client say “I need it ASAP!”  or heard a project manager say “We really need to have it by November 1st. I don’t care what you have to do.” Arbitrary dates and guestimates for costs are too arbitrary, and impossible to manage to when everyone knows they are not accurate to begin with. The message is put in the time to maintain realistic dates from clients and put together realistic estimates on hours to deliver.

#4. Wrath

One of the benefits of a diligent estimating model is that it takes much of the emotional sound and fury out of conversations with clients and with management. Construction of accurate models is a journey, requiring patient, continuous improvement over time.  No one likes to call the client with budget and timeline misses, or similar calls with management, so up-front work pays dividends.

#5. Envy

If you have seen a better process someplace else, bring it up! Do not sit back and wish we did things that way. No one wants to work in a failing system if you’ve seen it work someplace else differently and with better results, then share!  We want your feedback and are open to process-improvement planning. We incorporated much of what we do from the direct experience from our team members.  Don’t envy the old ways, bring new ideas up and help us all to improve.

#6. Pride

When it becomes clear we cannot meet a goal we have committed to, sometimes we shift our commitment to a target we are able to reach. Rather than be up-front about our ineffectiveness and use our metrics as an opportunity to improve, we re-baseline to make ourselves look good. At the end of each year, we are able to say we had made 90 percent of our targets, but these are misleading measurements because we are only looking at things from our point of view and not our customers! If our estimates are off, don’t be too proud to talk with the customer  to push the timeline or re-visit the budget. Move over pride, make room for humility!

#7. Lust

You ever know a customer or project manager who wants what they want when they want it, no matter what? Inflexibility on delivery can come with its share of problems. Insisting a team meet every delivery deadline without exception and by exclusively tying success to meeting schedules  will lead to a team shipping a product on time – no matter how low its quality is.  What’s wrong with that? Industry data show that we can stamp out bugs for as little as US$60 each if caught early in the process. Once in the field, we have spent as much as US$15,000 to fix a single defect.

So gang, like most people, sometimes we are sinners. Sometimes we are saints. In both roles, we’ve learned that a good estimate leads to better success in everything we do.

Best Practices in ERP Project Management: Effective Communication

Posted by on September 28, 2011

In working with teammates and customers, our ability to communicate effectively is not only key; it is what our customers and team members expect from us. Here are a few things to keep in mind that can help increase your odds for effective, clear communication:

  • Outline the issue or opportunity to be addressed
  • Agree on a shared reality. Both parties must agree on the current reality as it relates to the given issue or opportunity
  • Outline a realistic timeline
  • Relay information about the environment in which the team will be working (if relevant)
  • Identify what to expect from unfolding events (i.e. risk awareness)
  • Create contingency plans (i.e. what to do should something go wrong)
  • Agree on preferred communication paths
  • If applicable, agree on and execute a relevant feedback loop to ensure the given issue or opportunity is properly addressed

By outlining this information, we enable teammates and customers to be more engaged. We also put them in a better position to react to changing circumstances and unexpected events. This structure also reduces the chances for error and allows subsequent communication to be concise and exception-based. Most importantly, if we follow the above ground rules for communication, we will create an engaged, connected and alert team that can share information in meaningful ways. We’ll also benefit from a team with members who can suggest improvements to each other because everyone is informed.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

—George Bernard Shaw


Best Practices in ERP Project Management: Big Picture versus Narrow Focus

Posted by on September 14, 2011

Another great area to address in project management is context. I agree with Scott Berkum who states in Making Things Happen that in project management one fundamental question is:

Do people always need to see the big picture?

At first glance it would seem reasonable to assume that anyone could benefit and perform his or her job better with an understanding of the context and greater picture. However, even when it comes to information, more is not always better. Consider this popular anecdote:

  • In an old story three stonecutters were asked what they were doing. The first replied, “I am making a living.”
  • The second kept on hammering while he said, “I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire country.”
  • The third one looked up with a visionary gleam in his eyes and said, “I am building a cathedral.”

If we analyze the replies we find the first stonecutter who is focused on making a living, will typically give an adequate effort for his day’s wages. The third stonecutter has a more holistic approach and is likely a manager or leader, with a keen eye towards the big picture and the finished product. The caution is the second stonecutter, the one who is focused on doing the best job in the entire country; he has set his own agenda and could prove to be troublesome if he is not properly tuned in to the overall goal. He thinks he is performing excellent work, in becoming the best stonecutter in the country, when in reality; he could be way off base.

This anecdote illustrates the theory that if people understand why something is being done, they will more likely meet the requirements of their task, have higher morale, and be in a better position to act independently. However, in project management, as in many aspects of life, some situations may cause us to think twice about whether it makes sense to share the full vision. For example, we may not have fleshed out a long-term vision yet, so it wouldn’t make sense in that case.

In looking at how to engage as a team, two things need to be considered when we share the big picture: simplicity and context. Simply put, people need to have simple, digestible messages to focus on and they need to understand why they are being asked to do something or to embrace something. Or, again simply put people need to know “how their contribution fits into the outcome we want.” In order to be effective team members we must endeavor to address both simplicity and context when we communicate. Whether it is setting priorities, addressing project goals or getting agreement on shared outcomes, keep it simple and focused.

Read more about project management Theory in Practice at, Making Things Happen by Scott Berkun.

Quick Poll: The Price War Trap

Posted by on September 12, 2011

Norm Brodsky at discussed the price-war trap in a recent article. We’re wondering how your company is responding in this quick poll

Quick Poll: What is your biggest concern as we head into the 2nd half of 2011?

Posted by on August 8, 2011

Participate in the survey: What is your biggest concern as we head into the 2nd half of 2011?.

Best Practices in ERP Project Management: Decisions are Progress

Posted by on August 3, 2011

I enjoyed reading about how quick decisions can impact culture in Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier. Here are some highlights and thoughts:

When you put off decisions, they pile up. Piles end up ignored, dealt with in haste, or thrown out. As a result, the individual problems stay unresolved. Whenever you can, swap ”Let’s think about it” for “Lets decide”. Commit to making decisions. Don’t wait for the perfect solution. Decide and move forward.

When you get in a flow of making decision after decision, you build momentum and boost morale. Decisions are progress. Each one you make is a brick in your foundation. You can’t build on ”Lets decide later”, but you can build on ”Done”.

Don’t postpone decisions in the hope the perfect answer will come to you later. It won’t. You are as likely to make a great call today as you are tomorrow. It doesn’t matter how much you plan, you will still get some stuff wrong. Don’t make things worse by over-analyzing and delaying. Long projects zap morale. The longer it takes to develop, the less likely it is to launch. You don’t have to live with a decision forever. If you make a mistake, you can always correct it later.

Make the call, make progress—get something out now, while you’ve got the motivation. When we model a culture of quick decision-making we’ll also build a motivated, optimistic environment, and amazing momentum.

Is Microsoft’s Azure Cloud Computing Solution for ERP the Death Knell of SPLA Hosting Providers?

Posted by on July 6, 2011

The Microsoft Azure platform is here and the roll out of Cloud Computing for Microsoft Dynamics ERP is on the horizon. It seems logical when Dynamics ERP is available through Azure that our practice will no longer be reliant on a third party hosting solution for our clients who want their ERP solution from the cloud. I can’t help but feel that, in the long-term, we’re likely to see a serious change in the way Azure cloud services impacts relationships between resellers and SPLA partners. It’s obvious that Microsoft’s end goal is to help everyone better serve our customers. I doubt it will be the death knell of service provider partnerships. However, it does raise a few questions. We’ll be watching for answers to these questions and more from the market and from Microsoft:

  • How will the role of the SPLA partners transform once Microsoft Dynamics ERP is available through Azure?
  • What will the cost savings be for the customers?
  • What changes will we see in the integration process for rolling out Microsoft Dynamics ERP in the cloud with Azure?

The launch of Dynamics ERP through Azure is slated to bring simple, flexible hosting solutions to the mainstream reseller. It’s touted that the flexibility and functionality of Azure, will enable us to add more horsepower with just a couple of clicks. We’ll also be able to manage the rest of our cloud computing service quickly and easily using the Azure control console.

Take for example, CoreMotives, a Microsoft partner offering marketing automation solutions for companies using Microsoft Dynamics CRM. As the company started to outgrow its server infrastructure, hosted by a third party, customers started experiencing processing delays. CoreMotives migrated its solution to the Azure platform to take advantage of scalable storage, processing power, and hosting by Microsoft. The company was able to increase its scalability, shortened its time-to-market, and improved the infrastructure reliability. Windows Azure serves as the development, service hosting, and service management environment for the Windows Azure platform. It provides developers with on-demand compute and storage to host, scale, and manage web applications on the Internet through Microsoft data centers.

I believe the Microsoft Azure platform coupled with the power of the Microsoft Dynamics ERP solutions will transform our industry and give us the tools to serve our customers better with a more flexible, scalable, and secure solution for hosting ERP in the cloud. I for one can’t wait to see the results.

Jody Leoni is President of eSoftware Professionals – the oldest Microsoft Dynamics NAV ERP solution center in North America. Jody writes about best practices in inventory management, material requirements planning (MRP), top concerns facing food industry executives, as well as best practices in accounting software solutions on this blog and at ERP Software Blog.

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