Archive for category software as a service

An All Purpose Checklist for Project Closure

This post is from Kevin Sequeira, Product Manager for Tenrox, the leading workflow-driven  project
management and professional services automation solution.
 

You’ve reached that point in the project where you stand at deployment and you are ready to shake hands with the project customer and move on to your next assignment.  Do you just flip the switch, wave goodbye and ride off into the sunset?  Is your job complete?  How do you know…what is your yardstick for saying, “that’s it, we’re done here!”?

From my project experience there are some key steps and critical things to check on as the project is deploying so as to ensure that the engagement is over and the solution is ready for the project customer.  I’d like I present what I consider to be a reasonable ‘general’ checklist for use at project close out to ensure you’ve dotted the ‘I’s and crossed the ‘T’s before moving on to your next project.
 
Are all deliverables delivered?
Review the project schedule closely. Has your project team successfully delivered on all project deliverables?  And just as importantly, do you have something documenting customer acceptance of each project deliverable?  Is there a formal signoff in your project folder?
 
Are all invoices current?
Most projects either bill time and materials, by deliverable, or monthly. Look through all project invoices. Has everything that should be paid up till now actually paid?  If not, now is the time to check with the customer to see if there are any outstanding invoice issues and work to resolve them quickly.
 
Has a lessons learned session been conducted or at least scheduled?
I’m a fan of conducting one or more lessons learned sessions before the actual point of deployment because it’s hard to pull everyone together after the solution has been turned over to the customer and to support staff. But if you’ve not held a session yet, schedule that now with the client even if it’s just a one or two hour phone call.
 
Have all user acceptance testing (UAT) issues been resolved?
How did UAT go?  Were there any remaining issues to be fixed?  Ensure that those have been acceptably resolved prior to deployment. Make sure that you have a formal UAT signoff in hand as well – a project that does not have a formal testing acceptance from the project client should not be headed for deployment.
 
Are all training issues completed?
Most customer solutions require some level of training to be conducted for the customer’s end user community.  Naturally, this would have been well laid out in the project schedule with specific tasks designed to ensure that this is accomplished.  Review the schedule to ensure that all training tasks are complete – a customer who doesn’t know how to use their newly deployed system will likely not be a satisfied customer who gives good references to other potential project clients.
 
Is a formal project acceptance signoff ready for the customer?
Finally, do you have a formal signoff document ready for the customer to sign upon deployment of the final solution?  It’s important that you’ve been accumulating ‘official’ acceptance signoffs on all deliverables up to this point, but this one is probably the most important of all as it signifies overall acceptance of the deployed solution to the customer.  Any discussion of remaining outstanding invoices will likely begin and end with this signoff, so make sure that it is always part of your project closure
checklist.
 
Summary
This is my practical checklist for closing out a project engagement.  Readers – do you have other things that you would suggest adding to this list?  What other items do you consider critical to every project to cover before considering the engagement closed out?

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5 Key Challenges for Project Managers in Services Organizations

This post is from guest contributor Brad Egeland, a leading project management consultant and author. His website, bradegeland.com, is regularly lauded as a top blog for project management, PMO and Agile related topics.

Project management in any environment can be a challenge – there is no doubt about that. But when you’re involved in a professional services organization and working with shared resources and delivering on projects with tight budgets and tight schedule commitments – not to mention likely juggling four, five or even six or more projects at a time – it can get become a very daunting task.

While the list of challenges for project managers is definitely never ending, I’ve created my own ‘Top 5’ list that I’ve encountered over the years of managing projects. They are listed in no particular order of importance, but all can be devastating to your project if not managed well and responded to proactively and appropriately.

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Sales to Service and Everything in Between

Written by: Marlon Arevian – Senior Solution Consultant, Tenrox

Ahhh…the life of a Solution Consultant! They sit warm and snug, in between the Sales and Service departments. Solution Consultants’ inherit a hybrid role of ambassadors for their company’s products during the pre-sales process while effectively assessing scope and mitigating risk for the Service Delivery Team. They also bridge the gap of the high flying energy and emotional rollercoaster of Sales to the pragmatism and well-drawn lines of Professional Services. Outside of showcasing product offerings to potential customers, a big part of their job is to communicate what exactly our new customers are looking to accomplish. The Services Team needs to know things like objectives, scope and risks which were collected during the pre-sale process. Solution Consultants own the post sales knowledge transfer process which saves our customers a ton of frustration from not having to repeat themselves and allows our professional services team to kick off a project on solid ground. It also ensures that the customer vendor relationship is fluid from their initial contact to being live on the system.

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Large software company playbook

Here is a blog I wrote about how some large software companies compete and the tactics they use against their fast moving, more agile and innovative best of breed competitors.

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Ten Major Trends for 2011 and How They Impact Professional Services and Project Delivery

As the year end approaches we all become prognosticator of all prognosticators. I ran into Jim Carroll, a bonafide futurist, in one of my trips and he inspired me to write this article for PS Village. He got me thinking about what are the trends for 2011 and how they will affect enterprise software, project and service delivery and cloud-based technologies, all of the stuff we work and live with everyday.  I started with Jim Carroll’s 2011 trends and wondered how these trends will impact our world.

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The future of ERP: Why the ‘big ERP’ approach is dead

Interesting in-depth analysis by Infoworld on how the traditional huge multi year enterprise software investment and implementation paradigm has changed as a result of competitive pressures, technology (primarily cloud computing), the current economic chaos, and other world events.

Industry consultant Reed sums it up this way:

“‘Empower me. Give me the tools to create differentiating processes that allow me to define myself from my competitors. And make sure that it’s easier for me to do, so I don’t have to hire 100 programmers. Give me the building blocks to put that together quickly, so that it’s just humming in the background, and leave me free to focus on what makes us better than other companies.’ That’s what customers are expecting now and really want.”

Here are some other noteworthy informational tidbits:

The “single global instance” dream dies: One ERP system: a single, global instance of business software applications running our entire business and our business lines, seamlessly uniting our CRM, supply chain and business analytics applications. Efficiencies. Integration. Savings. Fewer headaches. That’s been the dream at many companies and for CIOs since Y2K — a dream most often fed to them by eager ERP vendors.

Bill McDermott, president and CEO of SAP America, stares out the tinted glass wall overlooking the bustling convention floor and then dives into the same pitch he gives the pilgrimaging executives [at SAP's Sapphire event]. “You have ERP,” says SAP America’s CEO. “The next step is to expand it to CRM and the supply chain.” The idea, he says, is to control all the data in a company by standardizing on one system for the front end and using one data source for the back. His pitch reaches its climax when McDermott sounds the message SAP has been trumpeting all week: It’s time to move to a single instance.

In other words, McDermott is telling CIOs to forget the multiple systems their companies use today, rip them out, and replace them with one ERP system — with one data store — that serves the entire company, no matter how diversified or geographically spread out it is. That, he says, is how to get the most bang for your IT buck.

That dream has now faded for many companies. Even at SAP. “I think the concept is evolving,” Say contends. “There’s a pretty open acknowledgement that — is it practical to get to a single instance across all functions of a very large, global enterprise? No. That’s not a realistic goal any more. We’re living in a world where multiple systems have to be networked together, have to communicate openly with each other and need to have sophisticated enough infrastructures on top so that the business can manage it.”

The “more evolved” thinking, Say suggests, is this: Companies can achieve consistencies and efficiencies in their business processes without having to use one singular system that manages the entire landscape.

Call it what you will: software as a service, on-demand computing, Web-based software, cloud computing. Doesn’t matter, because business software experienced via an Internet connection and browser is already here. Resistance is futile, stupid and short-sighted. At this point, however, no one (save for the SaaS vendors, perhaps) is advocating for wholesale rip and replaces of on-premise ERP installs.

But as enthusiasm for traditional, on-premise, expensive and complicated software deployments wanes even further, Web-based software options hosted in either public or private clouds will become even more attractive for companies big and small looking for low costs and easily consumed apps, analysts say

“The supervendors have architected enormous complexity in order to be able to sell across so many different verticals, in so many industries,” says AMR’s Richardson. “I think there’s a need for simplicity, and the Salesforce.com and Workday people get that.”

What is amusing is a quote from an ERP cloud vendor with their “anytime, anywhere access” mantra and slogan as if their one size fits all ERP “suite” message is any different from the mega vendors like SAP, Oracle. The bottom line message of this article is the “big one size fits all software” days are over or numbered at best.

By the end of 2009, Gartner forecasts that global SaaS revenue will reach $7.5 billion, which is an 18 percent increase from 2008 revenue of $6.4 billion.

Looking out even farther, Gartner predicts that the SaaS market will show consistent growth through 2013 when global SaaS revenue will total more than $14 billion for the enterprise software markets.

Two years from then, in 2014, is when Saugatuck predicts big change: “SaaS will become integral to infrastructure, business systems, operations and development within all aspects of user firms, with variations in status and roles based on region and business culture.”

“There are many things happening here that are good for users, good for the IT profession, good for business. It’s just good, good, good,” Pierce says. “You know, what’s slowing this adoption are all the priests of the past — all the preservationists. All the interests that are built up around the edifice that is enterprise software. … Cloud computing is a dream come true.” says Todd Pierce, CIO of Genentech

Acquisitions aside, how will the cadre of ERP vendors approach the future? Like those robots in the Transformer movies, the MISOH cartel, and other traditional ERP entities will have to change their “shapes,” and alter their strategies to stay with the times (and already have, to some degree). That means embracing — rather than resisting — on-demand and SaaS-based computing software-delivery models. And you can bet you’ll be seeing fewer and fewer “cloud computing” rants from big ERP execs, like the one that Oracle’s Ellison gave in fall 2009.

For example, in an odd 2008 interview with ZDNet, Lawson Software CEO Harry Debes proclaimed that the SaaS industry would “collapse” in two years. In the interview, Debes also noted that Lawson was a happy Salesforce.com user. In fall 2009, during an interview with CIO.com, Debes stands by his comments, saying that the feedback from Lawson’s customers at the time, which was that they did not want a SaaS solution, “was compelling.” That’s changed. And today, Debes says, “I’m a very big fan of cloud computing,” though his on-premise business still has a bright future, he contends.

Talkin’ ’bout the next generation

It’s just that the recession and years of questionable return have forcefully introduced a new strategy: Leave the commodity ERP processes to the back office (such as payroll and HR), but make damn sure that front-line users are freed from the banality and inflexibility of the Ghosts of ERP Past.

Industry consultant Reed sums it up this way: “‘Empower me. Give me the tools to create differentiating processes that allow me to define myself from my competitors. And make sure that it’s easier for me to do, so I don’t have to hire 100 programmers. Give me the building blocks to put that together quickly, so that it’s just humming in the background, and leave me free to focus on what makes us better than other companies.’ That’s what customers are expecting now and really want.”

Bill McDermott, president and CEO of SAP America, stares out the tinted glass wall overlooking the bustling convention floor and then dives into the same pitch he gives the pilgrimaging executives [at SAP's Sapphire event]. “You have ERP,” says SAP America’s CEO. “The next step is to expand it to CRM and the supply chain.” The idea, he says, is to control all the data in a company by standardizing on one system for the front end and using one data source for the back. His pitch reaches its climax when McDermott sounds the message SAP has been trumpeting all week:

It’s time to move to a single instance.

In other words, McDermott is telling CIOs to forget the multiple systems their companies use today, rip them out, and replace them with one ERP system — with one data store — that serves the entire company, no matter how diversified or geographically spread out it is. That, he says, is how to get the most bang for your IT buck.

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Gartner Highlights Key Predictions for IT Organizations and Users in 2010 and Beyond

Here are Gartner’s predictions for the coming years in IT:

http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1278413

The most interesting one is “By 2012, 20 percent of businesses will own no IT assets”. The argument they make is that essentially more and more organizations will use cloud computing and refrain from buying their own equipment. Also, more and more users will access corporate data using personal mobile communications and their own laptops. In other words the company will own and control less hardware; the equipment will all be owned and managed by third parties.

This is a surprising and rather aggressive prediction. I agree with the trend and I can see a future in which IT departments focus a lot more on strategic initiatives rather than managing now commoditized IT equipment and infrastructure. Cloud computing is radically transforming the IT function and will have a major unquestionable impact on IT budgets and how IT is perceived within the organization. But 2012 is awfully close. I do not think the transformation will occur so quickly.

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The Year in Review in Software & Services and 90% Software Maintenance Margins

Here is a good short review of enterprise software and services stories in 2009.

What caught my eye was Brian’s referral to 90% software maintenance margin as a bad thing. Brain, most software companies invest significant dollars in infrastructure, R&D and new product development. Healthy profit margins from on-demand services and support are an absolute necessity. Without those margins no software company can attract great talent, investors or even consider any new ideas.

As an example, at Tenrox while 9 out 10 new customers are opting for Tenrox on-demand we still do have and support on-premise customers with perpetual licenses. One of these customers had gone without support for eighteen months thinking the software works great and they do not need our support, updates or innovations. Well something went wrong and they called our service team asking for help. They wanted to pay time and material for us to jump on the problem and fix it. We explained our policy that they must reactivate support, pay a penalty for the reactivation, and get up to date before we can even look at the problem. This customer was quite frustrated and did not take the news very well at all.

As a software company we have no choice but to establish such policies. Tenrox is not a consulting “time and material” provider. The profits and good margins from on-demand services and support are absolutely essential for continued innovation and first class customer support.

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We’re going SaaS‚ no exceptions

I attended a PS Village meeting last week. PS Village is a pretty interesting, fun and educational breakfast meeting that takes place in various cities all across the United States and Canada. The attendees are primarily professional service executives, project management and software professionals. The sponsors are Professional Services Automation and project management software solution providers like Tenrox and others. The breakfast meeting lasts about two hours, is pretty informal, and the attendees simply sit around the table and discuss a few topics together.

One of the people at my table (name and company will not be disclosed of course) was the leader of a professional services team in a large multi-national organization, let’s call him PS-man for short. He was complaining about a meeting he attended where the division’s CEO articulated his strategy for the division’s product and service offerings.  The CEO said, and I quote:  “We’re going SaaS, no exceptions”.

PS-man was quite frustrated and unhappy with this sudden shift. To him, the CEO had not articulated a believable vision and a clear path to achieve that vision. According to PS-man, it seemed like the CEO, being sort of new to the job, had heard of the industry buzzwords and decided the industry trends are the way to go. However, PS-man felt that neither the company’s products nor his team were ready for the shift to the SaaS (software as  a service) model. They did not believe that SaaS was the answer to their challenges or that it could drive new growth. PS-man’s reaction was “Yeah right, we’re going SaaS until a sales guy comes with the next big order for an in-house implementation”.

Our table spent the breakfast talking about SaaS, its benefits, how to transition a traditional product and service offering towards the SaaS model and the roadblocks one can face on this journey. At the end of the meeting, PS-man seemed more sold on the opportunity that SaaS could represent for him and his team, but he was still unsure as to whether his company’s leadership truly is willing to make the investment, has the sponsorship and the expertise to navigate the company towards this change. I tried to highlight a roadmap to SaaS from our experience, and how to take some steps towards this goal without completely abandoning what works for them now.

This meeting reminded me of how executives can so quickly get out of touch with their teams. While our “visions” and ambitions may sound great and exciting to some, many out in the field will react exactly as PS-man did. Your team has to see and feel that you have really done your homework, you have thought it through in great detail, and that you are truly in it to win it. If you are unsure, unprepared or it looks like you are simply following the crowd then even a good strategic initiative and good intentions can actually hurt instead of help the organization.

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