Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Business Intelligence - Who Cares?

The answer to this question is probably about 2% of the employees within an organization. Let me start by saying I made this number up and have not done any serious research in to the topic. The following is entirely an opinion piece.

When I started out in ERP (not that long ago - but longer than 10 yrs) the sales process was all about functionality. Back in 1998 the important topics in a sales presentation were "how do you calculate average cost" or "How are landed costs calculated" or "When is revenue recognised on a cost + project". We started to introduce Business Intelligence (BI) - which was an alternate name for pretty, colorful graphs with an image of geese flying north if sales were good and south if sales were bad. Prospects would smile and nod being suitably impressed, but then the BI implementation was scheduled for phase 3 or 4 and may never have happened.

As over time all ERP's got closer together in functionality the industry started to focus heavily on Reporting - and getting at your data for analysis. The graphs got sexier, colors brighter and the 'what if's' more powerful in the demo. This has been a fantastic move and most businesses are benefiting from the myriad of tools available.

When I look at the Agenda for Convergence 2010 I noticed there are 27 individual sessions focused on BI. I was going to write a blog titled "Do Microsoft and its VAR's put too much emphasis on BI"? My answer was going to be YES - but the more I researched the less my argument stood up. At convergence this year there are 140 session topics focused Dynamics GP. To me the 27 to 140 Ratio is about right. The reason we all have ERP systems is to first capture the data and drive/control day to day business activity (that's the 140) and then to use the data we collect to help us run the business more efficiently/profitably.

What I do hope to see in the 27 sessions is what Microsoft is doing in regards to BI - for Dynamics GP customers. Microsoft as a whole is investing heavily in this space which is what they should do, but these generic tools are available to all ERP systems in the market. Call it Anti-Competitive but I would love to see some of the 'special' functionality held back just for Dynamics customers. As a reseller this is the differentiator we need, and a benefit that flows from backing the Microsoft horse. Perhaps this can be delivered by embedding this functionality into the ERP application itself, building GP specific templates, easy deployment wizards for GP, special Pricing or some other creative solution.

Now in Microsoft's defence we already have some 200 odd out of the box Excel and SRS reports that are BI ready. The metric interface inside GP is getting better and the Sharepoint/BI dashboards are looking sweet. Well Done.

So I guess what I think the attendees at convergence will want to see is 'not pretty graphs' but 'what the pretty graphs mean to them and their GP environment'. Things that need addressing are:
1. Ease/Difficulty of Deployment
2. How to Deploy
3. Cost of getting what you want.
4. What BI can you get on a budget
5. What GP data is hard to get at?
6. If I want that Pretty Sharepoint Portal with Dashboards - where do I start?
7. Has my VAR been trained on delivering similar technologies to what is shown on stage by a Microsoft Exec?

Dynamics GP customers are pretty savvy. These are not people easily fooled. The experiences customers will have had to date include:
1. Asking for what was a simple report - and it taking 3 days and $4000
2. Needing a change to Report - and it taking 3 days and $4000
3. Asking for a report like what they saw in the demo - and being delivered an unattractive crystal report.
4. Being delivered a Cube or Pivot Table - but the 2 key things they want to analyze being missing.
5. Plus I hope plenty of good experiences.

I guess my point is that I hope to see some real GP BI substance to what is shown to customers in Atlanta, and more importantly both VAR's and Microsoft must ensure there is a team of people able to execute and deliver the vision.

For the other 98% of GP users I am sure you will enjoy the 140 sessions. Microsoft are doing some good things in GP to make all our lives easier. If you are attending in Atlanta get to as many sessions as you can, corner the people who are in know and don't leave until you are better informed. For many of you it is the daily business you conduct inside GP that is important, so learn all the tips and tricks you can. GP is a great tool - so ensure you are getting full value from your companies investment.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Everyone should use eXtender.

I get so caught up in the day to day busyness of work that it is sometimes hard to see the big picture. At eOne we have been very busy in 2010 with the release of GP 2010 together with Microsoft, a new build of SmartConnect, a new build of eXtender enterprise and Convergence rushing upon us.

We also had a new developer join our team (Kevin) who was familiar with all our applications from a few years back. We have been taking the time to ensure he is up to speed on all the solutions we offer. I spent an hour or so going through the functionality of Dynamics GP Extender and eXtender Enterprise. When I was finished with the demonstration and overview his simple response was "Every GP customer in the world must have purchased that - it makes so much sense".

Of course I agreed with a laugh and said 'of course they should'.

I have since had two new experiences that have got me to thinking how cool eXtender really is.

Firstly, I was asked to build some sample applications in Extender for Microsoft to present on stage at Convergence. I was reluctant at first, but as I got into the project it was exciting. I came up with a bunch of clever and creative ideas, and built a whole mini application in less than an hour. (I will keep the details as surprise for those at convergence). When I was done I sat back and said "that is amazing . . . look what I have built in an hour and I am NO developer"

Secondly, We have recently made our demo servers available to our partners which has been adopted really strongly (call Abbey to get on board). To support this we needed to put together a mini booking system to ensure there are no double bookings or overlaps etc. I initially built a spreadsheet that contained all the required data fields (dates, times, server names, contacts, partners) to handle the booking influx and placed it on a network drive. How foolish. This should be an eXtender application. I then deleted the spreadsheet, recalled my email to the team and built my solution in eXtender. It took 18 minutes from start to finish and provides a couple of key things that I could never get from a random spreadsheet.

1. All fields are validated and controlled for data values and types.
2. My partner list already existed in GP, and so there is no duplication of data and we select partners from the master list that is always up to date.
3. It is permanently on a GP menu in one safe secure place.
4. I can run reports on the data via SmartLists and Excel Report Builder
5. I get a full calendar based record search.

This is what my 18 minutes produced. I sat back and said 'how cool is that' with a little inference to 'how cool am I'. So once again, as happens every few months, I get excited about eXtender and all the possibilities it brings to the world of Dynamics GP.






So two questions remain:
1. "Why doesn't every Dynamics GP customer own Extender"?
2. "Is eXtender shown in every Dynamics GP demo every presented"?

To answer question 1: When I was running eOne as a VAR, 90% of all our customers owned Extender. It was fundamental to every sale I made. I did not know how to sell GP without it (still don't). It was my differentiator and the tool that got my prospects excited about ERP. Every customer has a need for either Dynamics GP Extender or Extender Enterprise. That is an indisputable fact. The only conclusion I can come to is that there are 40,000 GP customers that have never heard of eXtender or never been told how it makes their lives easier.

To answer Question 2: I have no idea how you demo Dynamics GP, meet all the requirements on a customers Request for Proposal and differentiate your solution from the competition with using eXtender. Is BI a selling differentiator? Is SRS a selling differentiator? Is project accounting a selling differentiator? Is audit trails a selling differentiator? Extender allows you to present the most flexible ERP solution shown to a customer (yes much faster and easier than either NAV or AX and you can still upgrade!). You can show things that none of your competitors can. So why would anyone do a demo without finding a need to differentiate their solution? - I have no idea.

So to all our partners out there. Pull a list of all your customers that do not own eXtender. Then arrange a time with Abbey or I and we will show you how to take eXtender to almost everyone of those customers. This will be the easiest software sale you have ever made. This will be the easiest professional services sale you have ever made.

Remember there are 2 version of eXtender, and we are equally passionate about each.
Microsoft Dynamics GP Extender: entry level solution available from Microsoft
eXtender Enterprise: full featured solution available from eOne

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Free Hour at Convergence

Convergence 2010 will be held in Atlanta, and is the gathering place for so many of our reselling partners and customers. Many software developers use Convergence as a prospecting opportunity to find new customers (and that is important) but we have decided to take a slightly different approach to convergence in 2010.

Any eOne Reseller or any customer that owns an eOne product (SmartConnect or Extender Enterprise) can request 1 hr of face to face time with our consultants or developers. eOne will be bringing an extended team to the event this year that includes 2 developers, 2 consultants (product Guru's) and 3 members of the sales and marketing team. So let us know what you want to discus and we will lock in a location and a time. The topics are completely open for you to name but some things you may wish to discus could be:

Resellers:
1. How best to demonstrate eOne products?
2. How do Extender and SmartConnect really work together?
3. What is new and what is coming in the next builds?
4. How can we make implementations run more smoothly?
5. Questions/Comments about our support services
6. Why is your VPC 32 gig?

Customers
1. Highlight product suggestions for our team
2. On the spot training on an area you have found challenging
3. How can I ...?
4. When is error logging going to get better?
5. How can we write custom nodes for SmartConnect?
6. What's new from eOne in regards to Microsoft 2010 release?
7. What are the training opportunities available?
8. How do we build our own Excel Templates?
9. We have some specific difficulties with an implementation - can you help me?

So please take advantage of this great opportunity to sit down one on one with our team. We will be available from Friday 23rd at 7am through to Tuesday 27th at 5pm. The only fine print on this offer is that for any meeting requested after 7pm, we reserve the right to hold this session over a beer (our shout).

We hold strongly to the belief that we are only as good as our last software release, only as good as our last implementation and only as good as our last support call. Please come and share your experiences, and ask the tough questions. To book in your hour please email me directly at martin.olsen@eonesolutions.com.

Note: This offer is only open to eOne customers and partners (or you can come together) attending convergence in Atlanta. Times will be allocated on a first in first served basis.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

What's in a URL

You have always been able to find our website at www.eonesolutions.net or www.eonesolutions.com.au and from today you can connect with eOne at www.eonesolutions.com.

My apologies to all those that have gotten lost at the www.eonesolutions.com website or emailed us at eOnesolutons.com over the past 8 years. Thanks to Wes Miller who has been the owner of this URL until today, but as his business has moved forward in a different direction, we are now able to operate as eOnesolutions.com.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Demo from Heaven

So you have been given the job of showing Dynamics GP to prospect! This demonstration is pivotal to the sale, is worth $250K to your company, and helps to keep 2-3 consultants employed. Now don't feel any pressure?

The demonstration is and should be a pressure situation. This is the one moment you must bring your A game to the table. You have to be at your best. You have one chance.
I have been involved in hundreds of GP demonstration and have delivered some top shelf, sizzling demo's as well as some dreadful efforts that left me kicking chairs around the room. Literally kicking chairs around the room (of course after the client left).

Why are demo's so hard:
1. No two demo situations are the same
2. No Mid market customer needs the same solution
3. There is sooo much to show (because GP is that good and that big)
4. Every Demo can be hijacked by a dominant prospect personality
5. Technology

I am not going to delve into a Demo 101 discussion here as there are entire books written on it - but I want to touch on a couple of points that are very specific to delivering winning Dynamics GP demos:

1. You win or loose in the first 15 minutes: That is the audience will either believe you or not by this point. If they believe you, you can win. If they don't then you may as well pack up right now and stop wasting peoples time.
2. No Powerpoint. If you can't avoid it altogether then do it at the end of the demo - not at the beginning. Let the sales person tell the customer all about how good the company is, how long it has been around blah blah blah some other time. It does nothing to help you in your demo other than put people to sleep!
3. This is not training - it is a demo. Do not try and teach anything - aim to amaze.
4. Take your hand off the mouse. Put your hand in your pocket if you have to. When someone asks a question - look them in the eye and answer it. Unless a questions begins with "can you please go to the xxxx screen and show me how to xxxxxx" you do not go clicking about Dynamics GP.
5. Go 1000 foot high early. Know what the unifying pain points are for the audience and hit each on the head in the first 15 minutes. Show what they need to see to believe in you and the software.
6. Following the intro - pick the trickiest part of the RFP and hit it on the head. If they are really passionate about landed costs - then go right at it. Do not try and avoid the hard topic - as everyone can see right through you and see your avoidance tactics.


I will dig into each of these topics further next week, and then show you the 15 minute intro you need. There are a few critical points to make in your intro that will either engage the audience or lose them. The things you want them to know are:

1. You are organised, confident and honest
2. It is easy to get at the data keyed in by users
3. The system is easy to use
4. There are links with Outlook, Excel, websites and other applications they love
5. The system is flexible, configurable and can be made to work just how they need it to work
6. You have customers already that are amazed by how good GP is.(Incorporate anecdotal customer stories throughout).

If you do all this upfront, then you will likely win the demo. Read next weeks blog to see what the demo looks like and why you only go into GP once during the first 15-20 minutes.