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A variety of comments on the business information systems industry and its current shortcomings which highlight some of my views on the industry:

1.  There ARE a huge number of very sincere and very passionate people who do NOT understand why things fail and sincerely believe that they are NOT the problem!

2.  There ARE some competent implementers who deliver consistently high value solutions but they are the exception rather than the rule.

3. Generally client executives and personnel have NO detailed knowledge or experience of the problems that occur OR of the correct solutions which can make it very difficult to have an effective conversation with regard to undertaking a project or activity in such a way that it will produce a high value outcome – the credibility of the advisor is critical.

4.  The Strategic Advisor to the CEO should operate at such a level that they can anticipate the views of the Chief Executive and the Executive team and should, in a sense, act as an Interim Executive.

5. An effective Strategic Advisor will help to streamline the entire project with time savings overall across the board.

6. Project managers do NOT generally give Strategic Solution Architecture direction – this is NOT part of their job description NOR of their knowledge and experience set – this is a distinct very senior role that requires a very mature and highly experienced person with the ability to interpret the requirements of the business in business executive terms and translate them into a headline level technology design.

7. Experience with designing and building physical things that work should be an integral part of training any University Graduate or College Diploma  student who is being groomed for a career in Business Information Systems.

8.  Wrong decisions cause IT project failure, the technology is entirely manageable.

9. The Internet has ALWAYS been a “cloud”, recent hype ridden references to “THE CLOUD” is a typical example of the marketing hype that drives the IT industry and confuses and confounds otherwise rational business executives and managers.

10.Pragmatic first principles of the technology is a VITAL requirement for any person seeking to provide consulting and project services in the business information systems arena.

11.A “Professional” is “one who makes their living in a particular way and brings a level of expertise and accountability to their role thereby giving the client assurance of the reliability of their advice – in the context of “Professional Advisor”.

12.Most IT people and particularly business information system and ERP implementation consultants lack formal training in analytical and problem solving methods.

13.The business systems industry has a dominant track record of sub-optimal outcomes and outright failure.  The value-add potential of business systems is very considerable but is seldom delivered except in the most limited manner.  The opportunities are very considerable for organizations that will seek to learn the skills necessary to configure and utilized these systems to their full potential.

14.Successful high value business information system project outcomes are generally the consequence of the intuitive visionary abilities and leadership of one person who understands the fundamentals rather than the consequence of proven and reliable methods applied by a team.

15.There is a HUGE difference between the best implementation of any software solution and the worst – which also happens to be the norm – clients and business generally are numbed out to accept gross mediocrity and unmet promises.

16.All the modern commercially available business software products are extremely configurable with the result that the opportunities to configure them sub-optimally or downright badly are huge!

17.The Business Information Systems and ERP industry is overrun with greed, incompetence and negligence that makes little real effort to improve the quality of its implementations because the expectations of customers have been dumbed down to such levels of mediocrity that organizations expect to pay out huge sums for pseudo solutions that offer almost NO return relative to what IS possible.

18.The design of the Chart of Accounts is fundamentally an Information Engineering activity and NOT a finance activity in the same way that design and construction of a building is the responsibility of Professional Architects, Consulting Engineers and Construction Engineers, NOT the people who occupy the building.

19.The implementation of Business Information Systems is also significantly dominated by “do-it-yourselfers” in business who fail to recognize the abstractness and complexity of high value system configuration and implementation and imperiously dictating settings and approach with NO material appreciation of the risks associated with their actions.

20.There are a huge number of sincere people doing the best they can and honestly believing that what they are doing IS right and best – NOT having the knowledge and experience to recognize that there IS a problem AND that they are PART of the problem.  The implementation industry is, as a whole, so profitable there is NOT incentive to change.

21.There is a huge need for formal statutory regulation of the business systems implementation industry and also and independent statutorily constituted Professional body to regulate and licence practitioners coupled to high standard Bachelors Honours degrees followed by years of in service training BEFORE a licence is granted.

22.The methods the industry conventionally uses  are fundamentally flawed as indicated by the consistently high failure rate over decades.

23.It is so easy for the boundaries between the client and the contractor to become blurred resulting in shared solution ownership and therefore inability to assign accountability – it is fundamentally the responsibility of the Professionals to conceptualize, design and execute a solution that works for the client, it is the responsibility of the client to accurately state the desired solution outcome, NOT the solution method.

24.In the case of Bridgestone the legacy systems were relatively simple – they had to be because they were old – were replaced by huge and cumbersome systems that failed.

25.The issue of abstractness and invisibility drives the need for very formal and very rigorous contracting, contract management, design, etc.

26.The Business Information Systems industry requires a range of very fundamental skills – listening, problem solving, planning, economics, basic business – requires a minimum four year Honours degree in a new discipline of Engineering and provided by an Engineering Faculty but tailored to business systems.

27.I have diagnosed failed projects by major big brand implementers, including those associated with the big accounting firms, where huge amounts of time have been wasted on totally irrelevant and unproductive activities that have wasted thousands of hours of client personnel time with no benefit other than to implementer revenue.

28.The systems are prone to gross unnecessarily, gimmicky technical complexity while the REAL business complexity is ignored at huge cost.

29.Process mapping, swim-lanes, etc are almost totally irrelevant except in terms of implementer revenue targets – safe to do, takes lots of time and money and never leads to a deliverable so there is NO possibility of being proved wrong – can also be performed using staff with limited qualifications.

30.Average pricing, the same rate for all staff, allows excessive profits on low level staff and disincentivises input from senior and more expensive staff.

31.A LOT of the alleged benefits of the new technology are myth and marketing hype.

32.“The Cloud” is a current example of taking something that has basically been around for decades and hyping it up to create new sales opportunities, many of which will, in time, be found to be reckless and unwise.

33.The problem of mid-level client staff being left to lead mid-level consulting staff down the garden path to design solutions which are totally inappropriate and highly inefficient.  Happens the other way round as well.

34.A huge need for mature, grey haired analysts, architects, project managers, etc.

35.A 3 to 5 year degree with 3 to 5 years of on the job training post graduation.

36.Client executives know the desired business outcome, client staff do NOT generally know the best way to get there – that is the responsibility of the consultants.

37.“Process” is a red-herring, YES, there IS a need to do initial high level business discovery but NOT to do detailed documentation of processes.

38.Abstractness – it is probable that the VAST majority of what Bridgestone paid millions for will NEVER be put into production and has been lost.

39.Most executives fail to demand the same standards of excellence from Business systems that they demand from other investments – they do NOT know how!

40.Many implementation firms focus on revenue and NOT quality deliverables – there are too many money focussed people and NOT enough technical solution orientated people in the industry.

41.The tension between the Architect, the Consulting Engineer and the Constructor is a necessary and healthy part of achieving a successful outcome in construction AND in business systems.

42.The Business Systems Consulting and Implementation industry is the most extreme case of greed driven incompetence, negligence and non-delivery on the planet to today and the big names are the worst offenders.

43.The rationale is extraordinary – we have here arguably the most abstract and complex area of business improvement with GREAT potential to do harm to business and yet it is completely unregulated.  There is NO formal body of academic or professional training geared to reduce the occurrence of disastrous projects such as the Bridgestone example.

44.Will Bridgestone be to Business Systems Engineering what Grand Teton was to Construction Engineering – the high profile failure that awakens the need for statutory regulation of the industry?

45.When something fails the FIRST place to look in order to apportion accountability is in the MIRROR – NOT a IT consulting practice.

46.The Bridgestone case either evidences criminal duplicity and outright dishonesty or bungling incompetence.

47.Many IT and Business System consultants are so taken up with gimmicky features that they lose sight of the business and the content and creating enduring value and so they give dangerous counsel and waste much effort and money.

48.There is much about business software that is very basic but has been grossly over complicated as evidenced by the Bridgestone case.

49.Business Information Systems is a sales and marketing driven industry, NOT an industry based on engineered excellence.

50.The headline requirements can be quickly discovered by a very experienced Strategic Solution Architect in a short space of time but requires at least a Master Degree and twenty years’ experience in most cases.

51.Deploying a broad based integrated suite as was done at Bridgestone is roughly equivalent to dumping the staff in a  new city halfway around the world with head masks on that let them see only a pin-prick  of the view at a time – without training it is a disaster.

52.Consider the legislation that regulates the Civil Engineering Construction Industry as a source of ideas for how to regulate the Business Systems industry.

53.When an IT person says “it is NOT possible” this generally means “I do NOT have a clue how to do this and I cannot be bothered to find someone who does know how to do it”.

54.When an IT sales person says “it is easy” this frequently means “I have a vague idea how we might do this but it sounds interesting and I am sure we will manage to hack it and make good money”.

55.It is the nature of design that we never get things right first time and we need to iterate to refine understanding and design and pick up unintended errors.

56.If we plan for 3 iterations we should achieve closure by iteration three most of the time.  If we do NOT plan for a designated number of iterations things generally drag on indefinitely.

57.We have the huge paradox of people who have for the most part NO formal engineering training with regard to the rigours of designing and building things that work leading what is arguably the most abstract business design and commissioning engineering activity on earth.

58.The “Process” myth.

59.The “Cobol is dead” myth http://www.techwell.com/2014/06/cobol-still-used-more-google, Google search on the quoted text “Shortage of Cobol Programmers” returns 8,450 exact matches and superficial research indicates a huge demand for Cobol skills – so Bridgestone did NOT actually have to replace their systems, at least not with an urgency that caused a massive system meltdown and huge business damage.  Search for “cobol compiler” returns 98,400 results for the exact match – there are plenty of modern Cobol Compilers out there.

60.The continuing association of large consulting businesses with the major audit firms coupled to cross referral of business from the audit practice massively clouds the situation and is a major and ongoing conflict of interest and abuse of trust.

61.There are a very large number of sincere and committed people in the business systems industry that but does NOT mean that their methods are effective – it is possible to be sincerely wrong!

Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

Std 009 Procurement: 01 Request for Proposal for Business Systems Solution

This is the heart of the tender and contains a large number of tough clauses that are directed at ensuring a realistic bid with a robust platform for realistic negotiation and a tough contract that is directed at ensuring performance

There is a more detailed version of this document at the end of this page for larger projects with a more detailed procurement process

Cnf 046 Insourcing -- Restructuring the IT Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness --Armscor Case Study

Case study of a strategic planning project undertaken to develop a customer service focused IT Strategy for the Armaments Corporation of South Africa, the project used strategic marketing concepts to research business user, business requirements and concerns and convert these into a strategic action plan that was measurable and actionable thereby strengthening the position of the IT Department as a partner with the business
CSt 08 History of my experience with software design, development and deployment to create high value business solutions

One of the areas that James Robertson assists client with is the design and oversight of construction of custom strategic software geared to creating competitive value for clients

Dr James A Robertson PrEng

Business Systems NOT delivering?

Call the Business Systems Specialist

Dr. James Robinson

Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.

Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.

He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.

If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist

Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.

Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.

All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.

There HAS to be a better way!

This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control

We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website

We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues

Click here to read more about the Engineering Approach

By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT

This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.

Search Articles

Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

Std 017 Procurement: 08b System Procurement Gut Feel Factors

A rating sheet that takes account of the softer, gut feel issues in adjudicating the tender, this is in addition to the highly structured and very formal Adjudication Schedule that I provide and the formal Tender presentation standards that are laid down in the Request for Proposal master document
SNw 055 Business Process – irrelevant, distracting and dangerous

Business process is the focus of most business information system implementations and is highly ineffective, this article goes so far as to suggest that business process is irrelevant, distracting and dangerous and that there are other much more effective techniques that should be applied
Std 012 Procurement: 04 Procurement Timeline and Diary

The procurement timeline is a relatively simple Gantt Chart -- I lay it out in Excel, it is quick and serves the purpose, see the sample attached
The goal of the timeline is to set out the overall timing of the procurement process in sufficient detail that all parties are fully aware of the sequence of events that is planned so that they can schedule accordingly
Web 04 On-Line Seminar (Webinar) on Presenting On-Line Seminars

This presentation discusses the preparation and presentation of on-line seminars
SNw 040 Strategic Essence: The Missing Link: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined

"Strategy" is a widely used, widely abused and little understood term.   This article offers a robust definition of strategy as the "essence of the organization and how it thrives"

Book -- The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success

In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.

Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:

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Detailed information about James Robertson on LinkedIn

James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.

You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor

James has an open networking profile -- click on "Connect" and use email address James@LinkedIn-at-JARA.com.

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Articles by James A Robertson and Associates

There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website

Please click here to visit the detailed listing of articles

ArticleTagCloud for Articles Published by James A Robertson and Associates

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Table of Contents


About Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- The Business Systems Doctor -- and Other Topics

Catalogue of Major Business Information System Failures

About the Engineering Approach

James Robertson's Value Add

Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution

Recognizing Business System Failure

The Critical Human Foundation

Old Software IS Viable

From South Africa

Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng

About Professor Malcolm McDonald

Table of Contents

About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing

Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics

Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson

Reference Articles

List of Articles

Article Catalogue

Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes

Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?

The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody

Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration

Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

IT Project Management

Pulse Measurement

CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement

No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes

Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™

The Pulse Measurement Workflow

The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement

Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations

What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?

Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years

Sample Pulse Measurement Reports


Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems

Strategic Essence: Overview

Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined

Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation

Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different

Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure

Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence

Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?

Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment

Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual

A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting

Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works

Robust Business Systems Procurement

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc

Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters

Procurement Documents

Guidance and Advisory Services

The Art of Project Leadership

Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital

The Business Simulation Laboratory

Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture

Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies

The JAR&A Cubic Business Model

Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal

The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration

Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask

Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration

092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013

088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa

026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf

018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf

011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng

Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems

Part 1 -- Introduction

Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering

Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations

Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment

The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual

Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples

Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software

Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References

Example General Ledger Manual

Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous

The RIGHT Approach

Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction

Standards for Custom Software Specification

What IS Software?

IT Effectiveness

Organizing Outlook

Critical Factors for I.T. Success

A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail

Case Studies examining Business Information System failures

The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle

The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict

Speaking and Training

Showcase of Conference Presentations

Most Viewed Presentations

Briefings and Seminars

Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it

ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results

The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success

Other Seminars

Conferences and Public Presentations

Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present

Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009

Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005

Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996

Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994

On-Line Seminars (Webinars)

Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars

Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited