Why is ERP becoming a dinosaur?

I remember leading the test drive of a popular ERP system for one of my enterprise clients. The salesman had never had a prospect force him into a “test drive”. My number one rule was “Nobody touches the keyboard except me.” 

As I entered an order, I asked, “How do I find my Customer Number?” 

As I entered a part number, I asked, “How do I see how many are in stock?” 

As I scheduled the order, I asked, “How do I see the current factory schedule for this item?” 

It drove the salesman nuts. He couldn’t explain how to do anything without grabbing the keyboard. 

I asked, “What good is this system if I can’t even enter one order?” 

His response…”Are you going to train your people or not?” 

That’s pretty much their attitude. He was so upset with me, he went directly to the CEO, who asked me what was wrong. I handed him one of our orders and said, “If you can enter this order into that system, we oughta buy it.” He couldn’t. We ended up buying another system that people could use.

The dinosaur is big, but it is dying. Hack on, and let the one who delivers the value win. 

What do you talk about with prospects?

Businesses in general are not looking to buy products or services. They are looking to solve their own problems. This is NOT a discussion about your product or service. It is a discovery of the thing that bites them in the ass (that they would do just about anything to get rid of). 

As you meet people (and you need to be out there in order to do this), you’ll have to let them know what you do or have in order to get the discussion going. After that, the discussion is entirely about their problem. 

“What do you do?” 

“We have a web service that does .” 

“Interesting. We’ve never been able to .” 

“Really? Why is that?” OR 

“Really? Tell me more about that?” OR 

“Really? Then why don’t you . We’ve had a lot of success helping do that.” 

You get the idea. 

Once you help them identify and articulate their problem, one of two things will happen, either you drive the dialogue into the next step in the process or you turn and run the other way. Either way, you both win.

How should I handle a 1st customer meeting

First of all, remember that this is an INTRODUCTION, no more, no less. So take the following words out of your vocabulary right now: don’t, but, money, donations, profit, give, bring. You are there to get to know each other, that’s all. Be prepared to speak openly and honestly when asked. And be prepared to LISTEN. These are the best things you can do for him. 

I would not push anything in a first meeting, but I would be prepared to respond to any question. You don’t mention whether this introduction is over a meal - all the more reason to relax, take it easy, and enjoy. 

I would spend some time up front preparing. Mentally have a list of any possible question and your response. Also, learn something about the customer. You already have a mutual contact (your previous CEO), so you should have something interesting to talk about besides your project. Remember, he is interested in YOU as much as your work. Give him a chance to get to know you. 

Most of all, do or say something that will make him remember you, so whenever you follow up, he’ll immediately know who you are. A light discussion about the local football team or an activity one of his children is involved in may work. A hand written thank you note is always nice (Why doesn’t anyone do this much any more?) But beware: you MUST be sincere in whatever you say or do or you’ll look like a jerk and do more harm than good. 

Most of all, have a good time! And post back to let us know how it went. I, for one, will be looking for your post.

Am I burnt out?

You are not burnt out and I have proof. This discussion. A truly burnt out person would not have even bothered. (Kinda like claiming you’re over your ex-girlfriend but still wonder what she’s doing all day long). The fact that you asked is not an admission of giving up; it is a cry for help. You still really want this.

I go through what you are experiencing all the time. There are days when I can’t stay awake at my terminal. Sometimes I hit a road block and wonder how I’ll ever get by. I usually step away for a time, but here is my real secret…

Pick one little thing that needs to get done, no matter how small or unimportant it may seem. If I’m really down, I pick some mundane task like refactoring 25 lines of code, manually updating 50 records, or even changing some naming conventions. But not something big like solving a client-server architecture problem. Hell, that’s the reason I’m already down. One other thing - the task must be in the heart of your project; cleaning off your desk or reading a journal don’t count. Then do the task. Completely. You’ll feel a little better, I promise. The next day, do it again, maybe with a slightly bigger task. And again. And again. Who knows, you may be feeling a lot better before you know it.

I have no idea if my advice can help save your project, but I do know you still want to. Use others for support. You are not alone.

How can I get started in programming?

Oh how I wish I could share the joys of hacking with non-hackers, but that would be like describing the color blue to a blind man. You just gotta experience it yourself. There’s nothing like putting something together and seeing it work the first time. Even if it isn’t perfect, that first output is better than sex. Still makes make holler and jump out of my chair! (The output, not the sex.)

I would strongly suggest trying out one of the many “Build an App in x Days or Hours”. Grab a book or something on-line. They’re everywhere. Follow the instructions and do what they say. Build your app.

One of two things will happen: you’ll either feel like I do and you’ll be hooked. Or not. Either way is OK, but to not give it a shot this year would be a shame.

(By the way, you’ll probably find out that’s how the best of us got started. School is cool, but nothing replaces just doing it.) 

Why are relational databases so important?

Today’s action items: 

- Give me a list of good (lifetime sales > $10,000) customers on the west coast (CA, OR, WA) who bought any product on the defective list during busy season (10/06, 11/06, 12/06) and haven’t placed an order since our last email blast. We’ll find out why. 

- Give me a list of phone numbers (using our Caller ID) of people who called in the last 4 days, whose call wasn’t answered and had never called us before. We’ll call them back. 

- Give me a list of our slowest moving (10%) products that haven’t been ordered in the last 4 months that are sitting in prime space (Location beginning with 1,2, or 3) in the warehouse. We’ll move them to pallets to make room for new stuff. 

- Give me a list of all products returned from Territory 7 in the last 3 months with a Problem Code related to fit or size. We want to make sure their description is correct on the website.

I could go on (and on and on)…

Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s obsolete. Maybe because it works so well. 

Why are ethics so important?

I don’t want to debate fine points of ethics, but I thought I’d share a little more background. 

I really think that this is a black and white issue. I don’t see any difference between illegal downloading and walking out of Walgreen’s with a CD in your pocket. Or putting that extra chicken leg from the buffet into your purse. “They’d just have to throw it away, anyway.” I don’t care. Right is right and wrong is wrong. 

I don’t ever want anyone to get the impression I’d employ situational ethics in business. And I do not want to knowingly conduct business with anyone that does. It’s simply not worth it, period. 

I once had a partner that drew the ethical line where it was most convenient for him. First, he copied software from one account to another. Then, he went through a client’s employee’s drawers looking for something to “save us a lot of time”. Before I realized it, he was making back door deals with clients and vendors because he “didn’t think I’d mind; it was money I’d wouldn’t have ever seen anyway.” 

I’m not suggesting that everyone progresses down that path, or that reusing tidbits of code is the same as murder. It’s just that when it’s time to draw an ethical line in the sand, my position is clear and firm. 

Just a few anecdotes to give you an idea of how strongly some business people feel about this issue: 

- An acquaintance of mine was earning $150 per hour advising a Fortune 1000 company which multi-million dollar enterprise package to buy. As an aside, he brought in a buddy to sell printers to his client and split the profit. He was immediately fired and black-balled. The CEO’s reasoning was, “I would have never known if we made the right decision.” 

- A vendor was presenting their software package to my client. They said, “We already know your industry. In fact, we sold a system to XYZ Company.” My client immediately dismissed the vendor. He later said, “That’s all I need. For one of his programmers to accidently say what I’m doing to an XYZ employee over coffee.” 

- My client went bankrupt. Their assets (including all IP) were acquired by a third party in the settlement. Imagine their surprise when they had to compete with my client’s ex-employee who set himself up in a software maintenance business at 1/2 industry rates. How did he know who to call on and what software they had? The case is still in litigation, but that guy’s name will forever be dirt in this town. 

- A contractor at one of my clients accidently left a thumb drive on a desk he was using. It had 70,000 social security numbers on it. What were they to think? 

I could go on and on. They are some real slime balls out there. There are also plenty of good people who make stupid decisions to save a little time because “it doesn’t make much difference anyway”. How are people supposed to know the difference? 

And when it comes to technology, many business people are doubly in the dark. Sometimes, TRUST is all they’ve got. It’s so ridiculously easy for many of us to earn a nice living (try digging ditches instead), why would you ever jeapordize that over something so trivial? 

Are the any advantages for single founders

Top 10 Reasons for Being a Single Founder 

10. You spend 0 time debating technical issues that have already been decided. 

9. You spend 0 time refereeing personal differences among the other co-founders. 

8. You spend 0 time wondering why they can’t keep up with you, or why they’re doing something other than what you have already agreed upon. 

7. You learn every part of your business. You never worry what’s happening outside of “your turf”. 

6. You can always find a sympathetic ear to discuss a technical, marketing, or business issue. For free. 

5. You can always find someone else to socialize with, with no impact on your business. For free. 

4. You are not going to get hit by a bus. 

3. If your significant other wants more of your time, give them a picture of the new house, car, jewelry, or NBA franchise they will own if they exercise some patience. They’re the only other one that really matters. 

2. You get real good setting up your schedule to work best for you, with “head down” time, and other time. 

And the best reason for being a single founder… 

1. You keep all of your equity. All of it. 

What’s the advantage of working for someone else?

I have been in this situation many times before and always struggled with it. Until I figured something out…
“working in an internal IT department at a non-software company” can be a HUGE advantage.

Why? Because your “customers” are right there.

Please do not underestimate this as part of your career planning. Sure, we all want to create cool technology, but As far as I’m concerned, the single biggest shortcoming for developers that I’ve ever seen is what I’ll call “detachment from users”.

You don’t have that problem. You have end users right there at your fingertips. Take advantage of it! Learn from them. Practice your systems analysis skills. Find out how to make that missing link, the connection between technology and people, work properly.

I have written significant pieces of technology for software houses, but was actually “more” frustrated. Why? It took months, sometimes even years before anyone actually used it. And then, they were communicating with someone other than me. The technology was cool, but by not closing that loop with my customers, I always felt that my work (and learning) was incomplete.

By all means, continue your dreams and career plans. But don’t waste your current situation by being depressed about it. I can’t tell you all the times in my career when I stood head and shoulders above my peers because I had suffered in the trenches like you are now. Except you don’t have to suffer. Because now you know to look for opportunities to get a lot better in other ways. They’re all around you if you just look.