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jonerpdemojam.jpg Jon has been tackling key SAP issues (like SAP certification and HANA) since 1995. Get the latest from his blogs, YouTube channel, and iTunes feed.

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Podcast: Jon Reed Interviews Eric Kimberling of Panorama on SAP Implementation Trends Print E-mail

podcastlogo_jonerp.gif"On SAP Project Success and Failure, The Fun (and Value) of Twitter for ERP Pros, and What Panorama's Research Says about the SAP Market"
Podcast Interview Date: July 27, 2009
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What's the best way to overcome inaccurate perceptions? By gathering comprehensive data. And what's the best way to put a vendor in context? Study the broader market. Eric Kimberling, President of Panorama Consulting, does both of these things in the ERP space. To get a better handle on keys to SAP project success (and how to avoid failure), as well as the impact of SaaS and the key skills ERP users should be cultivating, I invited Eric to join me and to share Panorama's findings with JonERP listeners. I also put him on the JonERP hot seat and asked him to make his own recommendations for SAP's future direction. 

During this twenty-five minute podcast, we also talk about the value of Twitter for ERP users and why Eric's experience as a popular ERP "Tweeter" has showed him that Twitter is for more than sharing classic rock music playlists. Eric also shares the keys behind Panorama's business model that includes plenty of information sharing with the ERP community (such as their well-attended ERP webcast series). 

Podcast Timeline

1:10 Panorama's broader ERP focus - they serve all ERP products and provide aggregate data to their clients on where the ERP market is headed. Their data serves as a marketing and educational tool but, also helps them to serve their clients in the best manner possible.

2:25 Eric's firm doesn't shy away from giving away a lot of valuable data. What would he say to skeptics of this approach? What about those who are afraid of whether someone will take your content and not use your services. Eric explains why information has become a commodity and why giving away information makes sense. Not everyone will become a paid client, so you don't worry about converting every reader into a client.

3:43 How Panorama's "Freemium" model helps them to close deals by building trust. They share information with the ERP community and it speeds up the sales cycle because the trust and credibility has already been established. The biggest credibility benefit? Getting your information quoted (and getting interviewed) by other publications and blogs. This builds up additional trust with prospective customers.

5:00 Jon and Eric have both shared "rockin' Twitter updates" as they Tweeted their music playlists while cranking on deadlines. But Twitter is much more than just goofing off. What kind of benefit does Eric get out of Twitter in his ERP work, and what would he say to those who question whether Twitter can impact your business. Eric talks about how Twitter's immediacy can be a great way to "market test" ideas and get quick and extremely honest feedback on possible business ideas or market trends. The guys also talk about how other Twitter users will call you out if the blogs and content you share are not up to snuff. The "jugular immediacy" of Twitter helps you to stay on top of ERP developments. Eric points out that despite the honesty of the Twitter dialogue, that people are generally respectful even when topics get heated.

7:40 Digging into Eric's research and broader view, Jon asks Eric what his findings show about SAP's strengths and weaknesses. The biggest strength? It's name recognition, market share, credibility, and deep functionality. The product is strong. But the findings from Panorama's study of 1,000 ERP customers globally are as follows: SAP is the most expensive product to implement (and the one that takes the longest). But, SAP also had the highest satisfaction levels of all the vendors on both the executive and user level. SAP also got the score for lowest business risk. Despite all the bad sensational press SAP can get when a project goes awry, the data suggests that SAP actually has a lower business risk than most other ERP apps.

10:35 Jon asks Eric for his take on the relevance of SaaS in SAP environments. Eric doesn't necessarily think that SAP's strengths merge well with the benefits of SaaS currently. But he does see the benefit of a SaaS/SAP hybrid model in today's economy, providing SaaS options for certain kinds of functionality. SAP is providing something in between a pure SaaS model and disregarding SaaS entirely.

12:34 Are new ERP installs considering pure SaaS installs? Is it impacting the ERP purchasing process? The answer is yes. There is a lot of hype around SaaS. Eric finds that SaaS is not always living up to the hype, it' s necessarily always cheaper or easier to configure or customize. Companies have to weigh out short term and long term cost issues, and lower cost versus greater flexibility. New ERP customers are seriously considering SaaS, but it's just one possible purchase option at this point.

14:20 Project failure remains an issue for ERP customers, and SAP is no exception. Jon asks Eric what his take is on SAP project failure? Eric finds that generally speaking, it is not the software that is the problem. Usually the problem has to do with how well the processes have been defined, how the organizational change has been communicated, how the training has been rolled out. Some SAP clients get into a bind by refusing to change their processes and then overcustomize the code base. Having realistic expectations is another key point. For example, understanding that SAP is more expensive and complex to implement is important to embrace going in. But the benefits of that investment are also there for those companies that can see the process through. When projects fail, companies typically underestimate the time and budget that the project is going to take, and then they undercut key areas of the implementation in the middle of the process.

17:00 The "human side" of an SAP implementation is crucial to manage to avoid project problems. So what is the Panorama view on ERP skills and their importance to project success? Eric talks about the importance of ensuring that the consultants that come onto the project transfer their knowledge to avoid the ongoing dependence on outside firms. Competencies need to be developed internally, and without knowledge transfer, change management, and training, projects can go awry. A plan that addresses these factors should be developed in advance, prior to user acceptance testing. Business process changes should be anticipated and communicated in advance - with all the venting and discussion over the changes addressed ahead of time so there are no surprises.

18:50 Many SAP customers are either evaluating or moving to ERP 6.0. What lessons has Panorama observed in terms of the SAP upgrade process? Eric advises thinking of the SAP upgrade as a full blown ERP implementation. Doesn't assume that because your internal team is good to go with the current version of SAP that it will be smooth sailing on the new SAP platform. The same training and change management concerns come into play, as well as knowledge transfer.

20:25 Everyone talks knowingly about knowledge transfer. But what are the keys to ensure that it doesn't become a bogus catch phrase and actually happens in real life? Eric says that one key to knowledge transfer is to ensure that the training materials provided are not just generic, like approving purchase orders. Those generic materials must be tailored to that specific user environment to make sure that the knowledge in-house pertains to a company's unique business processes. This forces users to learn the software in a deeper way that simply vanilla classroom training.

22:14 Prior to wrapping the podcast, Jon puts Eric in the JonERP hot seat and asks him if he were a member of the SAP Board, how would he change or improve SAP's direction. In Eric's experience, one key to overcoming the hesitancy some of his clients feel about SAP is that SAP can be associated with high visibility failures sensationalized in the media. This can create the perception of risk and fear of failure. But Eric trusts his data, which shows that SAP does not have the kind of business risk that some might assume. Focus less on taking shots back and forth with Oracle. Rise above Oracle and Microsoft and Lawson: we're in a different class, and here's why.



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