Wandering Consultant®

Believing that experience is the best teacher, the Wandering Consultant shares real-life experiences, stories, and situations.  The topics are varied and delivered with an intention of passing along the guidance and wisdom gathered from professionals that I've met along the way.

Comments are always welcome as are similar experiences and lessons that you've picked up.  Happy wandering....

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A newly-promoted sales manager seemed to be struggling in his new role.  He’d been a very productive sales rep but the combination of some life changes and an opening in management seemed like a perfect combination for him and his company.

After settling in for a few weeks, he already felt like he’d hit a wall. 

Whether we’re building and managing a customer’s website or helping them implement sales management practices and controls, it’s not uncommon to include a software component or tool as part of the project.

We always want to find the best tool for the job but we almost always start by looking at the “free” software options.  Recently, a customer asked, “Could we run our entire company on free software?”

I thought it was a great question which could quickly be followed by “Would we want to?” and “How much does ‘free’ really cost?”

In a visit to a sales manager, I asked how she conducted pipeline reviews.

“We don’t have time for pipeline meetings.  The sales team updates a spreadsheet every month and I ask them questions when I need more information.”

I’m rarely surprised any more but I wonder how that organization – or any sales organization that doesn’t review its sales opportunities – not only manages their sales function but decides how and where to make improvements.

What about your sales organization?  Are you managing your sales function with pipeline reviews?

It seems like a rare organization today that doesn’t rely on some sort of software system to market or manage some critical facet of their business. As they grow or their business changes, it’s not uncommon that they need to find and replace these enterprise software systems with something newer or more powerful.

Implementing a new enterprise application is a mountain of work. But just selecting the right replacement solution is an entire project in itself – one that can (and should) includes people from all over the organization. The selection project usually involves requirements gathering, proposals, demonstrations, site-visits, negotiation, and often other more involved steps such as a pilot program. It can take many months.

Every selection project also always includes reference interviews. But never, in my opinion, enough.

There is an art to introducing a speaker.  A great introduction can invigorate not only the audience but also the speaker and really kick off things on a high note.

Unfortunately, a poor introduction can have just the opposite effect.

I speak at a lot of conferences and I have to say that it's one of the most enjoyable things I do.  But when the session starts off with a poor or lackadaisical introduction, I always feel like I’m starting off by running uphill. On the other hand, a great introduction energizes me, puts me in a great frame of mind, and I can’t wait to get going!

Here are some suggestions for speaker introductions.

Losing everything just one time instantly makes you an evangelist for backing up your software systems. For me, it was my senior year of college at 6:00am. I was programming at night for an insurance company on a dual 5.25” floppy computer. In an instant, 3 weeks’ worth of work was gone. The only thing I had left was a 50-page printout of the program from the day before. So I started typing….

I was lucky that I learned the lesson early in my career. Over the years, backups have saved me and the organizations I worked for many times.

Over the last 30-40 years, businesses have embraced new technologies for deploying their line-of-business applications (L-O-B). By L-O-B, I mean an organization’s ERP system, order processing system, CRM system, patient management system, student management system, etc. – the systems you require to run your business.

The original computing environment was the mainframe which was affordable to only a few. As emerging technologies became more affordable and portable, they were embraced by more organizations. These technologies included mini-computers, personal computers, client/server, web-based, etc.

Although relatively stable web-based applications became feasible in the 1990s, many software vendors migrated their legacy applications slowly to the new browser-based technologies. But now, the majority of those applications are fully available via web technologies. Also, reliable high-speed Internet access is now readily available nationwide.

“I work better under pressure.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard this. Many people seem to think they work best under pressure. Of course, they always seem to say it just before they’re about to work all night to finish (or start) a project that’s due the next morning.

As a manager, if I knew my staff was working on important projects, proposals, or reports in the middle of the night, rushing to meet a deadline, I’d likely be very impressed with their dedication – and scared to death of what they were going to deliver. I know that I never get anyone’s best work when they’ve been up 24+ hours. I also don’t deliver my best work with little sleep either.

A customer just sent me a request for proposal (RFP) from a government agency and asked my thoughts before they respond. Here are some basics of the RFP:

  • Government agency
  • Wants a custom-developed software package
  • Described application requirements in the RFP
  • Want a fixed-price bid

As with most government RFPs, potential respondents are allowed to submit questions. Many of the questions were attempts to clarify the needs. Here are some general examples

As I talk to business leaders, more and more of them are worried about succumbing to their own information overload. With the data available on the Internet, the data generated by their own internal systems, and the proliferation of data-collecting devices (smart phones, tablets, etc.) among their staff, many are afraid that they will become so inundated with information that they will stop focusing on their mission – keeping their organizations growing and thriving.

It’s a real concern. With so much data available, it’s often difficult to focus on your key performance indicators (KPI). How many times have you read an article on the Internet and followed a link, and then another and before you know it, 30 minutes is gone? Or checked your phone for that one important message and ended up losing 15 minutes on really trivial messages?

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