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Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson

A collection of testimonials, recommendations and joint papers with clients
This page contains the following:
1. Quote and Video by clients endorsing my services
2. An Example of James Robertson's Engineering Achievements
3. Various endorsement emails
4. Joint conference presentations with customers which I regard as the most explicitly positive endorsement available
5. Recommendations on LinkedIn


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1. Endorsements by clients

Mr Anthony Lee, Managing Director and Shareholder of Transport Holdings, a client of James A Robertson and Associates discusses his experience of working with Dr James Robertson

"...  after 18 months we still did not have a solution ... they kept blaming us ... after engaging Dr James within 48 hours we had got our head around what the issues were ... totally inappropriate solution ... we knew what the way forward ... for the first time in 18 months there was clarity of vision regarding what had to be done"

Interview with Mr Hoosain Karjieker Managing Director of the Mail and Guardian

Mr Karjieker first attended the course "The Critical Factors for IT Investment Success" and then engaged Dr Robertson to undertake a Pulse Measurement with regard to sub-optimal general business and office system performance

James then provided advisory services with regard to appointment of a new IT support company, procurement of hardware and software and management of IT over a period of several years including upgrading of the workflow and publishing systems in use at the newspaper


2. An example of James Robertson’s engineering achievements – designing things that WORK – second year university student’s design and construct project

In 1977/78 in order to fulfill my tutoring obligations in terms of my PhD research grants I undertook a project to develop a comprehensive design and construct project for second year students in Civil Engineering

This involved taking a design from another university for a Gravity Load Simulator and revising it for local bearings and other key components and supervising the construction of the machine – the three triangle structure in the center right of the photograph

I also designed a full range of miniature structural steel sections and undertook comprehensive testing to produce structural steel load tables for use in British Standard 449 relating to design of steel structures

I then put together an entire second year project in which students undertook structural testing of the materials themselves to verify the design tables and then designed and built miniature steel truss bridges, above the Gravity Load Simulator in the photograph

The structures were then tested to destruction in front of the students and the failures analyzed

As of 2014 that project is still running in broadly the same form as 36 years ago when I initiated which I believe attests to my engineering ability

Please see email below in confirmation and also confirming the value that students have derived from this project.  Alan Kemp was the Professor who initiated the project.  Irvin is the lecturer in the white dust-coat in the center left of the photo

This example illustrates a KEY principle in what I advocate

Engineering structures and systems are TOTALLY intolerant of error, carelessness, lack of understanding or general sloppiness.  The Gravity Load Simulator was manufactured to tolerances of fractions of a millimeter and would NOT have worked other wise

There can be NO fudging of the results of the competition; everyone can see which structure takes the greatest load

This contrasts with the business information systems arena where one can simply hit “delete” or close down the project and no one is any the wiser of the failure

I would go so far as to say that physical construction projects of this nature should be an integral part of all university computer related courses that prepare students for the business information systems environment


3. Various endorsement emails

I generally do NOT think of requesting endorsements so the items below are largely unsolicited

Professor Malcolm McDonald -- letter of endorsement -- "outstanding intellect"

Marcus Williamson -- Owner of the CEO List UK -- "we are not aware of anyone providing such high quality business advice in the UK"

Carlos Schleich -- Consultant  -- "I have not met another IT person quite as professional as James Robertson"

Gabriel de Oliveira  consultant and sales executive -- "seriously impressive guy"

Rex Glanville -- Strategy Consultant -- "one of nature's gentlemen"

Peter Terbrugge -- Director and Former Employer -- "us old timers miss you"

Robert Priebatsch -- Managing Director of ASCO -- "stay on course" -- "your level of detail will only be understood / appreciated after installation"

Abdur Buckus -- IT Manager ASCO -- "the least I could do for all the guidance you have given us"

George Nel -- Conference Delegate -- "thank you for the fantastic presentation"

Lee Hall -- Delegate to two day Critical Factors course -- "two very well spent days"

Paul Leigh -- former client with regard to mentoring and courses -- "Your ideas have had a profound impact on my approach to my work"

Omar Essack -- delegate to Gordon Institute of Business Science Board Leadership Course lecture -- "yours was a stand-out session"

Khuselo Mngaza -- on my mailing list -- "your articles are brilliant"

Maureen Pillay -- "such an effective presentation"

Judge Mervyn King -- author of the King reports on Corporate Governance -- "very informative"

Robert Priebatsch -- MD of ASCO -- "thank you for the education that comes inside with your consultations!"

Mark Angus of Media Group -- found your workshop "to be of huge value"

Melody Fourie -- on mailing list -- "this is great stuff!!!"

Rick Raubenheimer -- "a significant contribution to keeping the computer industry on track"

See article: A Moral and Ethical Dilemma - Systems that Fail

Sean Stuttaford -- MD of EOH Applications re his experience of working with me

Robert Priebatsch MD of ASCO -- "the good work that you performed on our behalf"

Paul Leigh of HSRC -- "an inspiration"

4. Joint conference presentations with customers which I regard as the most explicitly positive endorsement available

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

By Dr James A Robertson PrEng and Robert Priebatsch MD of ASCO



1.   Overview of the business – marketing and brand management

African Sales Company is a moderate sized family owned business that imports and distributes fragrances, perfumes and related products.  They also provide a brand management service to their suppliers and distribute fine fragrances and luxury cosmetic brands like Dior, Givenchy, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Paco Rabanne, Carolina Herrera, Prada, Calvin Klein, Hugo Boss and others to retail vendors like Edgars, Foschini, Truworths, Stuttafords, Woolworths, Dis-Chem and others.  ASCO does this with prescribed service levels aiming at 98% fill rates and three day delivery times from receipt of EDI orders to goods being available at retail points.



In order to understand the business it is vital to understand the close juxtaposition of brand management and distribution.


2.   The challenge – overview of the situation before the investment

The challenge that gave rise to this project was an old customized software suite that had grown with the business on a tight budget.  The accounting with regard to brand related costs was handled by more than 20,000 accounts in the General Ledger.  Other aspects of Brand Management were manual.  Tracking costs and reporting on many brands to multiple Suppliers was a major challenge.


3.   The opportunity – implementing a new ERP and Warehouse System taking a strategic view

A point was reached where a new system was required and an integrated suite of ERP and Warehouse Management System was purchased.  Initially a comprehensive workflow (process) analysis was undertaken but the project stalled.  The project was then restarted with a strong strategic and precision configuration focus with tight project management and successfully brought to completion – the process maps were left on the shelf.

During the project it was identified that areas of the business that would benefit from a new approach – particularly relating to brand management expense allocation and a custom solution was conceptualized, designed, built and implemented in order to maximize the effectiveness of brand management.


4.   The solution – highly structured Product Class, integration with Projects Module, custom software

The total strategic solution comprised:

a. The Brand Hierarchy – a highly structured Product Classification of all products linking from Suppliers down to individual Brand Lines – this created a high value logical information platform that underpins every aspect of brand and business management;

b. A selection of fundamental highly structured custom product attributes that have opened up diverse strategic intelligence and analytical opportunities;

c. Intelligent Product Master maintenance that draws on the intelligence in the Brand Hierarchy and attribute lists to ensure that default values are cascaded down the hierarchy so that new product take-on generates high quality intelligent data that impacts every aspect of system operation and management information;

d. Rule based automated creation of Marketing projects linked directly to the brand hierarchy coupled to a highly structured cost taxonomy provided a comprehensive framework for Brand Management information.  This custom functionality, based on knowledge of the codes, opens the door for convenient and powerful marketing planning, cost analysis and reporting;

e. All of these components taken together have created a holistic and integrated intelligent information platform that has resulted in the business now having a much stronger analytical focus, capability and culture.


5.   The outcome – greatly improved brand management and other capabilities supporting profitable growth and competitiveness

Taken together this capability improved expense allocation accuracy, allowed detailed ROI analyses, increased competitiveness through informed allocation of resources, facilitated growth and stimulated profitability in significant measure through the investment in strategic precision configuration and associated custom development.  This capability assisted ASCO to grow significantly, take on new accounts and reach a point where a new distribution centre became a business necessity such that a new warehouse is currently in the design phase.

Associated with this capability has been the development of a highly analytical culture which has positioned ASCO as an industry leader in the management of information and therefore Brand Management in its specialized category.

It should be noted that as a consequence of the development of these capabilities there have been further changes to practices and ways of working (processes) which have flowed organically from the original analysis and decision making capabilities.


Download ASCO Case Study -- Creating Competitive Advantage -- Priebatsch and Robertson -- Presentation in Power Point pptx format

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Download ASCO Case Study -- Creating Competitive Advantage -- Priebatsch and Robertson -- Article in Adobe pdf format

Listen to live recording of: ASCO Case Study -- Creating Competitive Advantage -- Priebatsch and Robertson -- Audio in mp3 format






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

088 SMEXA Presentation -- Strategic ERP Investment -- ASCO Case Study from James Robertson


Download the SMEXA_Presentation -- Strategic ERP Investment -- ASCO Case Study -- Presentation in Power Point pptx format


Download the SMEXA_Presentation -- Strategic ERP Investment -- ASCO Case Study -- Slides in Adobe pdf format


Insourcing: Restructuring the I.T. Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness -- Outsourcing Information Technology Conference, Johannesburg, March 1997.

Armscor Case Study

By Mr Jof Nelson, I.T. Business Support Manager: Armscor and Dr James A Robertson PrEng


I.T. in business over the years has frequently raised expectations which have not been satisfied.  Frequently, organizations resort to restructuring the I.T. function in order to overcome management's dissatisfaction with the failure of I.T. to meet their expectations.  Robertson has over a number of years at conferences in South Africa, Munich, London and Tel Aviv reported that indications are that management of in excess of 70% of corporations are dissatisfied with the performance of their I.T. Departments.  At the same conferences, a diagnosis of the major factors has been presented and proposals made for addressing the "real issues".  In December 1995, the opportunity to test these concepts in practise arose when Differentiated Strategic Solutions was appointed by Armscor on open tender to develop the new Armscor I.T. Strategy.  Jof Nelson was the client Project Manager on the project.  This paper overviews the process that was adopted and reports on the results one year later.

The process involved a market focused strategic analysis of the I.T. environment at Armscor which gave rise to a user satisfaction rating of 42% in which it was found by the consultants that, while the Technology aspects of I.T. at Armscor were of a World Class standard, most of the soft issues identified by Robertson were not receiving adequate attention and this was the source of dissatisfaction.  A comprehensive Strategic gap analysis was undertaken and from this a detailed three year strategic action plan was developed.  Armscor have been engaged in the implementation of this plan since June 1996.

As a result of the I.T. Strategy, the Armscor I.T. Department has significantly refocused on business service and business effectiveness and significant improvements have been experienced.  The paper outlines some of the steps that have been taken and some of the benefits that are already being experienced.  It is concluded that the implementation of a market focused I.T. Strategy at Armscor has given rise to a situation where outsourcing is unlikely to be found necessary and where insourcing has been found viable.


The I.T. Strategy process applied in this particular case comprised the following major components:

a.    Executive Workshops

A total of five workshops were held with approximately 100 middle to senior managers.  In these workshops, the issues giving rise to I.T. underperformance were highlighted and a series of Critical Success Factor determinations for different aspects of I.T. were undertaken.  As a consequence of the market focused strategic analysis, it was determined that there was a considerable gap between the expectations of users and what was being delivered.  It was also established that the gap lay in areas not traditionally addressed by I.T. Departments.

b.   Systems and Technology Audit

A high level systems and technology audit was undertaken of all I.T. systems, processes, etc.  The conclusion reached was that there was little room for improvement and that the technical aspect of I.T. services was of a world class standard.  It was clear that the level of dissatisfaction expressed by users had very little to do with technology.  Accordingly, it was recommended that a number of technology projects should receive lower priorities than previously intended and the focus of the strategy project was directed at addressing the major shortcomings identified by the user workshops.  It was concluded that significant opportunities existed for improving user satisfaction without incurring major capital expenditure.

c.    Strategic Gap Analysis

Having determined that a strategic gap between actual and expected service levels existed in every I.T. service area, a series of workshops were held with I.T. management during which the detailed steps that could be taken to close the strategic gap were identified and documented.  Significant reference was made to the "real issues" identified by Robertson.

d.   Strategic Action Plan

Having determined the steps to close the strategic gap, an intensive series of workshops were held to develop the Strategic Action Plan.  This plan involved the systematic and iterative walkthrough of the gap actions in order to allocate responsibilities, time frames, required internal and external manpower requirements, capital expenditure implications and expected financial and service level benefits.  In the process of iteratively developing the plan with two alternative manpower scenarios, a high level of understanding of the implications of the plan was obtained thus resulting in a high level of plan ownership by the management team.  This resulted in a plan which, to date, has been implemented with no further external input.

e.  Implementation

The I.T. Management team have been involved with the implementation of the plan since mid 1996 and subsequent sections outline in more detail what has been done.


As a consequence of the I.T. Strategy Project at Armscor, the I.T. Department re-evaluated it's position and focus on a number of different fronts including:

a.    I.T. Position in Armscor

I.T. in Armscor is located in the Finance and Administration Division and will remain in this division for the foreseeable future.  As a consequence of this positioning, the I.T. Department had always regarded itself as purely a demand driven service provider rather than a partner with the business users.  The I.T. Strategy clearly identified that I.T. should seek to enter into a partnership relationship with the rest of the organization paying particular attention to it's role as a specialist advisor dedicated to identifying opportunities to add value to the core business operation.

b.    Type of Services Rendered

In the past Armscor I.T. concentrated on delivering services as requested.  A consequence of this approach was that projects were undertaken without consideration of the business benefit and in many cases, the nett effect was that the I.T. Department was perceived not to be adding value to the Corporation.   I.T. is now giving careful consideration to the business problem that requires solution and seeking to be proactive in identifying the business problem that the user is seeking to address and thereafter making recommendations as to the most appropriate value adding solution.  The possibility of a "do nothing" recommendation is now recognized.

c.     Tasks Performed by I.T.

I.T. previously provided technology services such as programming and technical support.  Today I.T. is seeking to be proactive in advising the business and understanding the business environment and business opportunities.  The medium term objective is to reach a point where I.T. identify business opportunities before the business user and assist the user to turn these opportunities into effective business solutions that truly add value to the stakeholders in Armscor.

d.    What are I.T. Starting to Do

I.T. are now starting to send staff to work with business users for a period in order to understand the business and the practical problems associated with using I.T. in the business context.  Recruitment is now focusing on personnel who have the ability to understand the business users and to communicate effectively with them.  Business users are being invited to spend time in I.T. in order to gain a better understanding of what I.T. has to offer and the practical constraints on introducing new solutions.  Business users are being actively involved in projects.

e.    What are I.T. Stopping

I.T. are actively seeking to stop thinking in a technology blinkered fashion and waiting for users to bring problems and requests to I.T.  I.T. is now actively approaching the business with possible solutions that will add value and with recommendations to eliminate value destroying use of I.T.

f.   How I.T. Should Do What They Must Do

I.T. are seeking to get away from the old, "conservative" I.T. Department approach and change to be more business benefit oriented with open communication with the business users.  The focus is on redefining the I.T. shop to be seen by the business users as value adding.

g.  Implement Business Case

I.T. are moving towards a model where projects are only undertaken if there is a clear business case to demonstrate that value will be added to the business by the project.  If a clear business case demonstrating value added cannot be developed and delivered, then projects are not undertaken.


After careful consideration of the impact of the I.T. Strategy on the I.T. Department, it became apparent that the old Department structure was no longer appropriate.  Accordingly, the Management Team undertook a detailed analysis of the existing structure and the structure that was appropriate to achieving the strategic objectives.  As a consequence, significant changes were implemented.

In particular, the department was restructured towards a business unit model with it's own administrative and financial sections.  The change in operational focus was also reflected by the introduction of a Business Support and marketing section.  The development section was refocused on the total system life cycle and a call desk was implemented in order to provide central liaison and communication irrespective of the service required.

Psychological testing was introduced in order to ensure that personnel were matched with different groups of users in order to minimize personality clashes resulting from incompatible personality styles and also to ensure that personnel were suited to their positions in terms of their natural personality preferences.


I.T. had always thought of themselves as purely a technology department.  As a result of the strategy, I.T. started to move towards thinking of themselves as business solution providers.  In particular:

a.     User Business Control

I.T. recognized the need to give the users control over the business direction of any project and to interact with them in order to determine exactly what the business problem and business objective were.

I.T. are also involving users in the project management of I.T. projects.  In this way, I.T. are able to draw on the extensive project management experience of the business users thus avoiding past suggestions that I.T. was doing a second rate project management job and ignoring the expertise of the business users.  As a consequence, business users are now gaining a much more realistic understanding of the realities of I.T. projects and are no longer making unreasonable demands in terms of deadlines and deliverables.  The user is now far more involved in establishing the project plan and in ensuring compliance.  The result is more realistic planning on both sides.

b.    Make it Fun

The more you know about anything the easier it is to contribute and give worthwhile input, this makes the work more enjoyable.  A job well done and well received is far more satisfying and enjoyable.  There is a lot of satisfaction to be gained to solving a user's problem before he realises that it exists.

c.   Understand the User's Problem

An I.T. person who understands the user's problem is able to offer meaningful solutions.  Many I.T. people spend much of their time trying to solve the technical problem they think the user has rather than understanding the business problem.  In many cases, the solution may not be a technical solution, changes in business process, implementation of better standards and many other business focused actions are often called for in order to solve a problem that was previously seen to be a technical problem.  A major benefit is that I.T. are no longer seen to be making the problem worse.


Flowing from the above, a fundamental paradigm shift is in process, the I.T. personnel are learning to STOP THINKING I.T. and START THINKING BUSINESS.  In order to do this, I.T. are starting to work with the users and learn business terms, the business of the business is the business of I.T.

I.T. personnel are participating in and managing non‑I.T. projects or subsets thereof such as the current BPR project.

Considerable emphasis is placed on encouraging and equipping I.T. staff to listen to users rather than telling business users how they should run the business.  As a direct result, I.T personnel are learning to speak the user's language.  The improved understanding is greatly reducing miscommunication and solving of non-existent problems giving rise to new problems that were not there in the first place.  End result : more satisfied users at lower overall cost, a WIN WIN situation.

The focus on becoming part of the business requires that I.T. stop trying to be different.  In the past, I.T. personnel tended to go out of their way to dress differently and behave differently.  There was a "them" and "us" mentality.  Today, that is being actively discouraged and the focus is on becoming an integral part of the business.  At the same time, by becoming part of the team, the I.T. staff are starting to get in behind the scenes in the business where the business of the business really happens.  This can only take place once I.T. has earned acceptance and respect as part of the team.


As indicated previously, a vital consequence of the new I.T. direction has been a recognition that the users have considerable expertise that is of value to I.T. and is necessary for a successful project outcome.  Flowing from this recognition, users are being invited to work in the I.T. Department and to run I.T. projects.  In those cases where the user has the necessary expertise, I.T. has even gone so far as to appoint the user as the chief system designer.  I.T. simply provide the necessary services to assist the user achieve his stated objective and advise as necessary.


The emphasis on becoming part of the business, improved communication and understanding has brought about a culture in which I.T. are now actively seeking to form relationships and even partnerships with the business community within the corporation.

By giving the users what they want in the way they want, it levels of user satisfaction are improving.  The number of satisfied users is steadily increasing.

In seeking to achieve user satisfaction, the I.T. department is seeking to reverse the normal I.T. tendency of over promising and under delivering.  Today the slogan is "under promise - over deliver".  I.T. staff are encouraged to be honest with users in terms of deadlines, problem understanding, lack of knowledge, etc.  Users value honest answers, the truth comes out eventually anyway.

At the same time, I.T. have recognized that there will be differences in opinion but that there is a responsibility on the part of I.T. to "sell the difference in opinion" where they can see pitfalls or uncertainties which the user does not recognize.

Working together with users to set deadlines and targets greatly improves the likelihood of achievable targets.


By stepping back from the situation and appointing outside specialists to evaluate the real needs of the internal markets, Armscor I.T. were confronted with a major gap in between the level of service that they thought they were delivering as compared to the user's opinion of the service.  

After the initial shock, the I.T. Department recognized that this presented a great opportunity for improvement and wholeheartedly committed themselves to developing the I.T. Strategy to a point where the action plan was sufficiently detailed for implementation.

The recognition of the need for user and market focus also caused I.T. to take their eyes off technology and place them on the business with a resulting reduction in technology spend and increase in efforts to understand the business and get to know the users.  The outcome to date has been a significant increase in the level of user satisfaction and a steady move towards I.T. being viewed as a business partner rather than technology freaks always seeking to spend money on new toys.

This has opened the way for the Armscor I.T. Department to deliver a quality, value adding service to the Corporation which is expected to largely eliminate debates about centralized versus decentralized I.T. as well as eliminating much of the pressure which might otherwise have built up for outsourcing.  The final outcome is expected to be a more integrated and effective business I.T. service than could be achieved by implementing an artificial commercial profit boundary between I.T. and the business which is the current trend with outsourcing.  The long term benefits of insourcing in this way are expected to be considerable.


Armscor is the main procurement and acquisition agency for the South African National Defence Force.  Armscor offers the SANDF a full range of procurement and acquisition services covering the full spectrum of concept development to final delivery of sophisticated custom weapons and defence systems.


Differentiated Strategic Solutions (dS2) is a firm of independent business informa­tion system specialists concentrating on offering I.T. and management consultancy services and bespoke system development on a project basis with a strong emphasis on strategic solutions and on creating and sustaining competitive advantage.  Through associates in The MaXus Group and other associated specialists they are able to provide a wide range of additional consulting and other services in support of the concepts outlined in this paper.  dS2 can be contacted on (011) 886-9863, fax 787-0132.


The permission of Armscor to publish this case study is acknowledged with thanks as is the contribution of the Armscor I.T. Management team to spent long hours on the Strategy development with fervour and commitment and who have taken the Strategic plan and run with it's implementation.


The contribution of our clients, associates and staff, without whom we would not have had the opportunity to evolve and develop these concepts is gratefully acknowledged.  The contribution of my partner and co-director, Ettienne du Preez is particularly acknowledged.

It is also dedicated to Ingrid and my children Alexandra and Struan and my parents, Angus and Thelma without whose support the knowledge shared in this paper would never have been acquired.


This work is dedicated to God our Father, His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit Who is the source of all wisdom, understanding and knowledge and the reason for our existence, without Whom this work would not be possible nor of any significance.  For The Lord is the God of Knowledge and by Him actions are weighed (1 Samuel 2:3).


44  Robertson, J A (1996) Use of IT to Create and Manage Market Driven Strategic Plans Presenta­tion to the Marketing Infor­mation Systems Confer­ence, Johannesburg, Sep­tember 1996.

41  Robertson, J A (1996) Why 70% of Corporations are Dissatisfied With I.T. : How to Avoid Dissatisfaction in Your Organization  Presentation to the Compuware Confer­ence, Tel Aviv, June 1996.

37  Robertson, J A (1995) The Reasons Why More Than 70% of Corporations Are Dissat­isfied With Their I.T. Investment : How Senior Management Can Respond Proactively to Overcome This Syndrome in Their Organizations Presentation to the Compuware/Uniface Executive Forum, Munich, Octo­ber 1995.

33  Robertson, J A (1995) Shaping the Future - Information Technology and Strategic Change  Presentation to the Strategic Planning Society Special Interests Group and the British Computer Society, London, September, 1995.

28  Robertson, J A (1995)  The Information Environment : Delivering Informa­tion Effectively  Keynote Address  Paper presented at the Annual Congress of the South African Institu­tion of Civil Engineers, Port Elizabeth, April 1995

14  Robertson, J A (1994)  A Market Focused Approach to Developing an Informa­tion Technology Strategy  Paper presented at Informa­tion Systems Manager Confer­ence, Johannesburg, March 1994.

12  Robertson J A (1993)  Differentiating between Strategic, Tactical and Operational Information Systems  Keynote Presentation to Com­puter Society of South Africa Strategic Information Delivery SIG, Johannesburg, July 1993.

7    Robertson J A (1992) Enhancing Information System Effectiveness : The Human Element  Paper presented at Executive Information Systems Conference.  Johannesburg, March 1992 and South African Institution of Civil Engineers Confer­ence May 1992.      


046 Insourcing -- Restructuring the IT Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness --Armscor Case Study -- by Jof Nelson and James Robertson from James Robertson

Download Insourcing -- Restructuring the IT Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness --Armscor Case Study -- Slides in Adobe pdf format

Download Insourcing -- Restructuring the IT Department for Better Business Focus and Increased Effectiveness --Armscor Case Study -- White Paper in Adobe pdf format

Information Architecture and Design of FIS --  Rennies Group Limited Case Study  --  Financial Information Systems Conference

By Kerstin Speer CA(SA), Group Financial Manager, Rennies Group Limited and Dr James A Robertson PrEng


The background to the introduction of a Group-wide financial reporting and management information system for Rennies Group Limited (RGL) is outlined in the context of current thinking on the application of Financial Information Systems (FIS). The status of the Rennies Reporting System (RRS) at the time the decision was taken to develop an information architecture and design is summarized.

The desired components of a three year FIS strategy are presented together with the FIS strategy already in place at RGL.

Considerations with regard to the implementation at RGL are given with particular reference to the fact that a clearly defined customer focused business strategy was already in place and that an EVATM programme was underway.

The procedure followed in undertaking the information architecture and design of the Rennies Group consolidation Master Chart of Accounts included extensive involvement of users and management, definition of a generic, structured business information classification scheme and building a framework to support future development. It is noted that provision is made for a future business model to be developed which will support full cascading of the chart of accounts down to the operational business unit level while maintaining the integrity of the consolidation process. Also revenue and cost driver classification was undertaken in a manner that was independent of individual business units and which will support restructuring, acquisitions, mergers and divestments in the final form of the business model.

A conceptual framework for inter-region, branch and subsidiary analysis has also been laid.

The manner in which RGL has integrated existing systems is outlined with particular reference to the upload of the financial intelligence of the software to assist with integration is described. The importance of the information architecture in achieving this objective is highlighted.

The benefits of implementing FIS are outlined and it is noted that certain flagship operations have leveraged the capabilities of the solution by moving their management reporting function onto the new system while it was still in pilot operation. These sites achieved considerable improvement in analysis and reporting capability with a resulting time saving that was used to free financial personnel up to undertake more effective analysis.

A summary of the benefits that RGL has obtained from FIS strategy is provided and it is noted that the current project has laid the foundations for a long term process of progressively improving management information delivery and decision support within the Group in a manner that has the potential to enable the Finance Function to add considerable value to the operating entities.

It is concluded that effective information architecture and design is vital to ensuring a return on investment in FIS and that, if this is correctly undertaken and implemented, it will enable the Finance Function to add considerable value to the organization at all levels.


The concept of Financial Information Systems is well established as a result of many conferences and other development. Robertson has addressed a number of aspects of this subject, most recently at the Financial Management Information Systems Conference, held in Midrand in September 1994 at which a paper entitled, Identifying Your Key Business Objectives to Develop a Coordinated FMIS Strategy that Meets Your Specific Needs was presented. As a result of the presentation to this conference, it was decided to introduce some of the concepts addressed in the presentation into the "Rennies Reporting System" (RRS), which was currently being planned.

RRS is a group-wide consolidation and reporting system using a commercial consolidation product, Hyperion. RRS objective is to consolidate information from the approximately 220 operations in the Rennies Group up to Group Head Office in Johannesburg in a manner that will support Group reporting requirements and support the overall business strategy of the Group. This paper presents some of the concepts applied in the project to date in the form of a case study.

As noted above, the solution was implemented using commercially available software. This was installed on a client-server database platform. The subject of this case study is therefore not the design or selection of a software and technology solution but the information architecture and design of the business solution implemented using the product selected. It is hoped that this paper will serve to draw readers attention away from technology and cause them to focus on the business design issues surrounding the use of Information Technology (I.T.) in general and FIS in particular.


Robertson, in the paper referred to above, recommends that a three year FMIS strategy should incorporate the following:

a. Determine broad business objectives.

b. Determine what financial information is required in order to give effect to these objectives

c. Determine what financially related business concepts should be introduced or enhanced in order to meet these objectives in support of improved management decision making.

d. Evaluate the fundamental changes to financial operating procedures and systems required to support the objectives including:

i.    First principles analysis of financial systems and coding systems.

ii.  First principles analysis of the business model incorporated into the financial systems to support unambiguous ownership.

iii.  Comprehensive review of up-stream and down-stream controls on the flow of information in the FIS.

iv. Evaluation of implementation considerations with regard to system acceptance.

e. Investigate use of multiple bases of accrual.

f. Develop overlay ledgers for different levels of adjustment, such as EVA.

g. Develop a culture of future focused management applying these concepts to create and sustain competitive advantage in a manner that truly adds value to the organization.

h. Consider the extension of the FIS to become part of a "Corporate Command Center"

This approach to FIS strategy is the vision of the Rennies Group and has the commitment of management. It also has the potential to truly differentiate the organization.


In the case of Rennies Group Limited (RGL), the project was undertaken as an extension of an existing project which was already underway. In particular, RGL had already clearly defined its strategic objectives as a customer focused service organization and had appointed Stern Stewart and Company to implement a comprehensive Economic Value Added (EVATM) program. In addition, the technology platform and software for the RRS had already been selected and a project plan had been drawn up.

The implementation was therefore undertaken on a limited scale with emphasis on first principles analysis of the information classification schemes and coding of the Group Consolidation Ledger to support the great diversity of businesses in the Group. The group ranges from well-known operations such as Rennies Travel, Rent a Bakkie, Renfreight and XPS to less well known trading and freight management businesses such as Manica which operates throughout Southern and Central Africa.

Basic consideration was given to conceptualization of the business model and overlays for management accounting purposes but these will be designed in detail as part of a later phase of the project.

Implementation was undertaken by way of a multiple pilot site deployment in terms of the original project plan under the guidance of Group Information Services.

Accordingly, this paper concentrates on the information architecture and design of a Group Consolidation Chart of Accounts to serve the full diversity of companies within the group.


Design was undertaken by way of a series of workshops with senior financial and operational managers of the larger divisions and companies within RGL. During these workshops, the following was achieved:

a. Widespread consultation with senior end users.

b. Development of a clear understanding of the diversity of businesses within the Group with a particular emphasis on determining business unit independent definitions of Revenue Drivers and Cost Drivers in a manner that would enable a generally applicable chart of accounts to be developed which would accommodate any change in organizational structure, including acquisitions, mergers and divestments.

c. Design of a highly structured information classification scheme that supported full hierarchical analysis and drill down within the guidelines given by Robertson (19949 and others).

d.  A design that supported both disbursement and expense orientated operations.

e. A framework to support monthly, year-end, tax, management and EVA reporting requirements, amongst others.

f.  A clear understanding of the business model that should be implemented.

g. Conceptual definition of a framework against which inter-region, inter-branch and inter-subsidiary analysis could be implemented at a later stage. This also provided a conceptual framework for definition of a market sector input : output analysis at the financial level.

h. Definition of a solution that could be "cascaded" through the Group to individual operating companies and eventually to SBU level.

i.  Definition of a solution that would provide the foundation for business modelling and a broad based "Executive Information System" (EIS) at a later date in a manner that would enable Group Finance to add considerable value to individual operating companies in time.

The information architecture and design of the RRS Chart of Accounts was spread over a period of approximately two months with a high level of involvement from the Group Financial Manager, Project Manager, Consultant and other team members throughout this period. Approximately ten workshops of from two to eight hours duration were held with users and management of groups of subsidiaries and individual companies. Further project meetings took place throughout the period. The end result was a consolidation chart of accounts with approximately 700 posting level accounts suitable for implementation across the entire organization at a business unit level.


Existing general ledger systems were integrated in the following way:

a. Existing general ledger charts of accounts were mapped onto the Hyperion consolidation chart of accounts in paper mapping exercises facilitated by the project team.

b. ASCII upload files were generated from the existing systems in a format that could be uploaded into the Hyperion software.

c. The functionality of Hyperion permitted a direct link between existing systems such as Accpac, Accountability and Millenium through account conversion and name conversion tables.

d. The upload used as building blocks groups of accounts classified into categories including:

i.   Income statement accounts (revenue, disbursement and expense).

ii.  Balance sheet accounts (intangible assets, assets, liabilities).

iii. Reporting accounts such as cash flow and budget.

iv. Balance and control accounts.

v. Non-financial, derived and other information for purposes such as tax, year-end, EVATM, etc.

e. A basic business entity model was implemented in order to provide systematic consolidation into Divisions and from Divisions to Group. This model reflects the organizational structure of the group.

f. Separate input and adjustment entities are defined for use in different stages in the process.

g. Input ledgers are maintained in the currency of origin and foreign currency translation takes place at the appropriate location in the organizational structure.

h. Reporting is performed using the reporting capabilities of the tool used together with dynamic linking to the Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet package.

The project team is currently busy with the deployment of the application to further sites and the extension of the application to more fully support all aspects identified.

Business modelling, market modelling, geographic analysis and the introduction of an EIS are scheduled to take place in the second half of the year.

Effective integration was made possible by the structured financial information classification contained in the Master Chart of Accounts referred to previously. This structure ensures that, while individual subsidiaries may apply different accounting treatments with regard to aspects such as disbursements, the Group consolidation figures are based on a uniform treatment which accommodates the diversity of business operations.



While the RRS system will only run live from 1 July 1995, it is currently in use for budget purposes for the 1995/96 financial year. It is currently deployed at the Divisional Level as well as at 18 major operations.

Benefits that are anticipated from the RRS include a saving in the production of the Group Tax statements of approximately three weeks at year-end, a saving in producing the year-end pack of approximately two weeks together with a considerable reduction in reconciliation and manual reprocessing effort. A monthly saving of 3 days per month at Group Level in producing consolidated Group Financial Reports is anticipated.

It has been found that all operations have been able to map their existing general ledger accounts onto the consolidation chart of accounts successfully, although individual entities have experienced some difficulty where more detail has been requested than they are accustomed to providing.

More tangible benefits have been experienced at certain pilot sites where enthusiastic and proactive involvement by financial management and the executive of the companies concerned has resulted in the full potential of the system being realised. In one notable case, a subsidiary moved it's management reporting off their existing bureau based general ledger systems onto the new system while still in the pilot stage because of the greatly improved reporting capabilities of the new system.

In this case, the time saving resulting from improved ease and effectiveness of reporting has been beneficially utilized in undertaking more detailed analysis in support of management effectiveness. This is expected to give rise to better decision making with regard to branch viability and competitiveness and an increase in market share is projected as a result.

In another notable case, a one-to-one link between the existing general ledger system and RRS has created a powerful reporting tool which is exploited fully by this operation. Furthermore, by efficiently using the name structure capabilities of the tool, reporting of profit centres by region, product type and executive is simple and flexible and is empowering the user in preparing financial information.

In flagship cases such as the above sites, a major benefit to Group Finance has been an opportunity to be seen by subsidiaries to be adding value to the operations of the Group. This demonstrates the potential synergy of a forward thinking central Group Finance Department anticipating the decision support information needs of subsidiaries.



The expected benefits of the RRS FIS and those experienced to date are set out in the preceding section.

In addition, Rennies Group has gained a platform on which a wide variety of value adding services can be delivered by Group Finance and financial management of individual operating companies. This business solution platform provides a basis on which:

a. Improved Group reporting can be built.

b. A corporate business model can be implemented.

c.  Group-wide EVATM analysis and reporting can take place.

d. Reporting of Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) including non-financial components can be undertaken.

e. Regional and market based analysis can be designed and implemented

f. Improved reporting effectiveness at the operational level and improved management decision support.

Significant further analysis and design of the business model and other components referred to above will be required before these can be implemented. Much of this is planned for the second half of 1995.


The background concepts and business environment surrounding the Rennies Reporting System have been outlined together with major considerations taken into account in the information architecture and design of the system. Particular emphasis is placed on the importance of effective information classification and the approach adopted in developing a Group-wide Master Chart of Accounts is set out in some detail.

Principal strategic considerations and factors to be taken into account in planning the FIS project have been summarized.

Certain initial benefits experienced by Rennies Group Limited, including dramatic improvement in financial management reporting capability of flagship sites are outlined. Other expected benefits are summarized. Opportunities to develop market focused analysis and reporting capabilities are identified as a particularly important component of future opportunities.

It is concluded that effective information architecture and design of an FIS can give rise to significant benefits and are vital if the Finance Function is to be seen as adding value to the organization.


The support of the management of Rennies Group Limited and their permission to publish this paper is gratefully acknowledged as is the contribution of all members of the project team.

The contribution of dS2's clients, associates and staff, without whom it would not have been possible to evolve and develop these concepts is gratefully acknowledged.



Rennies Group Limited is an investment and management company in a multi-business netork focusing on freight management, travel and other related services. The Group provides resource backing to autonomous operating companies operating in Southern Africa through ownership and internationally through alliances.

Rennies Group Limited is jointly controlled by two major South African corporations, namely Safmarine and Rennies Holdings Limited and Anglo American Industrial Corportion Limited.

The Rennies Group has operated in Southern Africa for 146 years and is a regional force in the transport services industry. Employing some 10,200 people, Rennies offers in excess of 30 different services through more than 350 locations in eight countries in Southern and Central Africa.

The Group's current strength and future strategy linges on three crucial factors:

- A single-minded focus on managing the movement of people & freight.

- The depth of its skills.

- The breadth of its network.

Differentiated Strategic Solutions (Pty) Ltd is a firm of independent business information system specialists, management consultants and software developers. They are able to provide the full range of professional services necessary to architect, design and implement financial information systems and to integrate existing systems including all aspects outlined in this paper.

Particular emphasis is placed on aspects of design and implementation necessary to improve business process and maximize information return on investment. Products and services include the information and systems architecture, design and implementation of financial information systems from a fundamental first principles basis, the conceptualization, specification, construction and implementation of integrated information systems, enterprise information systems (EIS), corporate command centres and other business information systems.

They also offer a range of services with regard to strategically focused financial management information determination and linking financial planning to business strategic and macroeconomics in terms of the capability of the balance sheet and economy to sustain strategic objectives. System audits, development of IT strategies and business system feasibility analysis are other services.

Together with associates in The MaXus Group and other associated specialists they are able to provide a wide range of additional consulting and other services in support of the concepts outlined in this paper extending to comprehensive Business Process Optimization services applying techniques developed through an international network of expertise. dS2 can be contacted on Johannesburg 886-9863 or fax 787-0132.


Robertson, J A (1994) Identifying Your Key Business Objectives to Develop a Coordinated FMIS Strategy that Meets Your Specific Needs Presented at Financial Management Information Systems Conference, Midrand, September 1994.

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026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS -- Rennies Group Limited Case Study -- by Dr James A Robertson PrEng from James Robertson

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Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Management System that Effectively Minimizes Your Exposure -- Integrated Risk Management Conference

By Dr James A Robertson PrEng and George J Paton, Director, CRM Risk Control Consultants


The management of risk in organizations today is becoming of increasing importance as insurance premiums and liability risks increase and as the hidden costs of risk in areas such as down-time, customer dissatisfaction and other factors increase.

Effective management of risk is therefore becoming a strategic necessity. Risk management in the area of physical risk is an aspect of business that is frequently overlooked or is approached on an ad-hoc basis. This paper sets out some of the factors that should be taken into account in implementing risk management solutions and identifies the need for such solutions to be holistic in nature. In particular, it is noted that the physical and financial components of risk management should be tightly integrated and that the management of maintenance on a risk containment basis is highly desirable.

It is concluded that the effective application of information technology in the form of an integrated loss acquisition database and management information system is vital to achieving the full potential of risk management in any organization. Some of the benefits of this approach are discussed together with a case history of a successful implementation.

It is concluded that the application of these techniques can give rise to a considerable improvement in profitability and should be a vital component of most organizations business strategy. Effective risk management supported by effective information systems can play a significant role in creating and sustaining competitive advantage.


The management of risk in business today is a many faceted and complex task. Traditional approaches to risk management have focused on funding and financial issues rather than managing risk at source. As with maintenance, risk management has tended to concentrate on treating the symptoms rather than the cause. Events giving rise to large losses tend to originate from apparently insignificant occurrences with regard to wear and tear, maintenance and personnel which, with time, escalate to a point of giving rise to a major incident. The use of appropriate techniques to track small losses in a manner that enables management to analyze trends in such a way that proactive action can be taken to anticipate and prevent major losses and to identify the true cause of recurrent losses is vital to effective risk management that offers bottom line benefits.

In developing and implementing a risk management solution, it is important to recognize that a prime objective of the risk management function is to create a risk awareness culture in the organization in which there is an understanding of the adverse effects that risk exposure will have on the organization. As a consequence of this awareness and understanding, deliberate measures to minimize the potential impact on the organization should be implemented. A fundamental principle of risk management is a change in emphasis from an approach of contingency planning in the event of occurrence to proactive management directed at preventing risks from materializing. Risk management is therefore primarily a management function aimed at dealing mainly with uncertainties whilst taking cognizance of the consequences of pure risk and it's impact on business activities.

In designing a risk management solution, a number of tasks must be performed:

a.  The potential impact of hazards on the effective operation of the business must be considered.

b.  Steps necessary to achieve predefined objectives must be defined.

c.   Risk improvement programs to reduce the probability of occurrence of risks must be developed.

d.  Alternative strategies for controlling the consequences of risk and their impact on the organization must be developed.

e.  These strategies must be integrated into the general decision framework of the organization.

Management activities associated with this process will include risk identification, risk evaluation, risk control and risk monitoring. Risk control involves selecting and implementing the solution most appropriate to achieving the given objective while risk monitoring focuses on determining the outcomes in order to assess the validity of the decisions made. Risk management must take place at all levels in the organization.

In determining the cost of risk, in order to measure the effectiveness of a risk management programme, factors such as insurance premium costs, retention costs such as risk control expenditure, maintenance programmes, training costs, fire protection, security and administration costs must all be taken into account. An optimum risk management solution will maintain a balance between the cost of risk improvement and the level of risk financing with the objective of achieving lower levels of risk in conjunction with greatly reduced overall levels of expenditure as shown in figure 1.

In accomplishing these objectives, a means of acquiring and analyzing comprehensive and detailed loss statistics in order to determine the impact of risk management decisions and to identify problem areas requiring attention, is highly desirable. In fact, it is unlikely that the full long term benefits of a risk management program will be achieved unless the risk management program is supported by a comprehensive information system capable of recording all relevant loss information in a manner that supports comprehensive analysis and enquiry.



In discussing risk management in the context of designing and implementing a solution, the following terms are applicable (Valsamakis, Vivian, du Toit, "The Theory and Principles of Risk Management" 1992).

a.  Risk management

Risk management comprises a comprehensive range of activities for dealing with risks. As a science it identifies the methods that can be adopted to handle risks and to show the interdependence between the available alternatives. As a management function, it is used to plan, direct and coordinate activities in the pure risk area.

Figure 2 illustrates the relationships between business strategy, risk management and external influences.

Figure 3, based on the work of the Society of Risk Managers, illustrates the areas covered by risk management and the overall objectives of an organisation.

b.  Pure risk

Pure risk is a risk which results only in loss, damage, disruption, injury or death with no potential for gain, profit or other advantage.

c.   Risk control

Risk control comprises the provision of appropriate levels and standards of protection for people and assets to avoid, transfer, control of or acceptance of the pure risks which have been identified and evaluated.

d.  Risk financing

Risk financing involves the provision of funds for recovery from potential losses that do occur.

e.  Risk evaluation

Risk evaluation is the expression of identified pure risks in an organisation in quantitative / qualitative terms in order to gauge the potential severity and frequency of occurrence of these risks.

f.   Risk identification

Risk identification is the identification of the pure risks to which an organisation is or could be exposed.

Risk can be defined as the difference between what is expected and what is experienced. In figure 4 item (a) has a greater uncertainty than item (b) and there is therefore a greater probability that the outcome of item (a) will deviate significantly from the expected value with the resultant impact on operations and severity of loss.

g.  Pure risk improvement techniques

Pure risk improvement techniques are those techniques which are used to provide appropriate levels and standards of protection for people, assets and earnings. The four main techniques are as follows:

Avoidance - taking action so as not to incur the risk in the first instance.

Retention  - acceptance of the risk in its current make-up or character.

Transfer    - insurance, non-insurance or contractual transfer of the consequences of risk.

Control      - reducing the risk by controlling its frequency and its severity.

h.  Risk finance

Risk financing is intended to provide funds to assist the business to survive and recover from losses that do occur. The two main risk financing components are internal and external financing.






Traditionally, the focus of risk management has been on the recording and reporting of claims as they relate to insurers. As a management tool, this did not really identify the real risk exposure of the organization. The tendency today is to focus on the overall cost of risk in an organization which is not only the insurance related cost of risk.

Physical factors that can exacerbate risk are diverse and include maintenance issues, health, environmental and other issues. A few aspects are discussed below.

The maintenance of complex plant, particularly in the production environment is often undertaken on a basis of maintaining the most visible items rather than on maintaining those items that have the greatest potential to give rise to losses or increase risk. For example, a decision to save money on the price of a valve or other low cost component can give rise to greatly increased down-time or even catastrophic failure of the plant. Most maintenance programs do not take account of these factors. An effective risk-focussed maintenance management system will focus on the loss implications of failure of a particular component and prioritize maintenance accordingly. This approach requires a different mind-set in the maintenance department and the provision of appropriate tools to enable the maintenance manager to allocate maintenance resources according to the loss implications of failure rather than traditional criteria. Sophisticated computerized information systems are required in order to accomplish this objective.

In practice, it is not uncommon for losses to result from apparently unrelated circumstances. A recent example involved a major transport operator where it was found that a disproportionate number of drivers suffered from diabetes and that their blood sugar levels were dropping in the afternoons as a result of inadequate diet to a level where serious accidents were more frequent than the industry norm. In another case, drivers were waking at 1 am in order to get to work on time and were losing concentration by mid-morning as a result of exhaustion. Many of these situations are never identified or are only identified in response to a decision from insurers to increase premiums because of poor claims history.

With appropriate information systems it is possible to monitor loss experience and identify unusual trends at an earlier stage. Under certain circumstances, it is also possible to identify relationships for more direct investigation thus reducing the time required for manual investigations.


Experience has shown that major incidents are normally preceded by a number of minor incidents over a period. Typically, such minor incidents do not attract attention and, in many cases, are not reported so that their occurrence is only highlighted during the investigation that follows the major incident. Appropriate use of a loss information recording system will enable these trends to be highlighted in terms of aggregate cost of risk, frequency of occurrence, etc. Such a system will also enable management to track the full scope of losses occurring and in some cases may highlight that the real cost of small losses exceeds the cost of the high profile losses which constitute the normal focus of attention.

Conventional loss reporting concentrates on the amount claimed from insurers rather than the hidden costs associated with the loss which includes down-time, management time, lost production, lost market opportunities, customer dissatisfaction, unremunerated overtime, staff dissatisfaction and other factors.

Compounding the above difficulties, it is frequently found in many organizations that the personnel responsible for risk control and risk improvement rarely communicate with the personnel responsible for making the financial decisions regarding insurance and self-insurance levels. In order to make strategic decisions with regard to the financial component of risk management, there is a clear need for organizations to restructure these functions resulting in a single line of responsibility for all risk related management as indicated in Figure 1. Tightly integrated risk management information is a vital component for achieving this objective.

In order to fully accomplish the objectives set out above, it is necessary to establish effective communication between the risk improvement and financial functions in order to ensure an integrated approach to risk management. The effectiveness of this communication can be greatly enhanced by having systems which will enable the full financial implications of past losses to be reported thus enabling the full implications of proposed risk management decisions to be accurately projected. This will, in turn, give rise to far better decisions with a long term impact on the profitability of the organization.

A prime requirement indicated by the above discussion is the need for a single integrated database of all risk related information in order to support a single basis of risk related decision making. In addition to information pertaining to incidents that occur, this database should include planned maintenance information, risk audit statistics, information about unaccounted losses, (those losses normally recorded elsewhere but which contribute to the cost of risk such as wear and tear) and other statistics normally recorded separately.

As an example, an organization involved in the introduction of ISO 9000 certification concluded that they were not being particularly effective in their maintenance programs. It was therefore decided to create a database of all major items such as boilers, pressure vessels, etc as well as all other equipment and to associate this database with a database of all relevant legislative requirements. Based on this database, maintenance of all plant and equipment was prioritised and scheduled and it was found that, whereas when the idea was first mooted, increased costs were anticipated, the overall cost of running the plant was reduced and plant efficiency was increased.


The business case in favour of establishing an integrated loss database has been set out above, some of the benefits of such a database are listed below:

a. An integrated loss database will make it possible to introduce a holistic and consistent risk improvement program across the organization in order to enable a standardised approach to be adopted toward financial, and physical risk management.

b.  Accountability for losses and risk management can be effectively established by incorporation of an appropriate business model and business rules into the database in such a way that every item can be uniquely associated with a single responsible person who has final accountability. Consideration of these factors during the implementation of the system will frequently cause the organization to identify issues for which accountability has not been effectively defined.

c.   The true cost of risk, including hidden costs and high frequency, low value, unaccounted losses, can be established so that management can adopt a pro-active approach centred on reducing the total cost and not only the visible cost.

d.  The quality of pure risk management will be greatly improved and duplication of effort will be avoided.

e.  Early identification of adverse trends will minimize the probability of the occurrence of catastrophic loses and improve the ability of management to isolate those aspects of business operation that are most at risk of catastrophic loss. This in turn will enable informed decisions to be taken with regard to the need for disaster recovery and business continuity.

f.   Accurate centralized information will simplify risk management and reduce risk management costs for comparable results or, more importantly, give rise to a greatly improved return on the risk management investment.

g.  Accurate loss and risk management information, centrally available, will give rise to more effective decision making and enable management to see "the big picture". A well designed information system will also support distributed operation so that unit, plant, regional and corporate management will all have access to the components of the database of relevance to them. This will also enable management to benchmark similar business units across the organization in order to identify favourable and unfavourable trends in certain units. This has the potential to greatly improve the dissemination of information with regard to risk management practices that are delivering particularly noteworthy returns.

h. These facilities will also greatly enhance the ability of risk managers at all levels to adopt a coordinated approach to risk management.

i.    By providing effective summarization and drill down capability, it will be possible for management to focus on the key issues in risk management within the organization at any time.

j.   An effective risk management information system will also provide the tools necessary to ensure that insurance policy endorsements and limitations are constantly monitored thus greatly reducing the risk of policies being revoked due to non-disclosure or other considerations. A comprehensive risk management information system will include policy information at a level that allows full insurance policy management including aggregate management and other funding factors to be taken into account.



Paton (1993) has discussed in detail the requirements for implementing a risk management system while Robertson (1992 1&2 and others) have discussed the implementation of computerized information systems. These publications and other work undertaken by the authors comprehensively document the approach necessary to undertake a project of this nature.

In summary, the requirements for the implementation of an effective risk management system include the following:

a.  Develop a risk exposure profile of the organization.

b.  Identify core business activities impacted by risk management.

c.   Analyze past losses and loss trends.

d.  Determine market factors influenced by risk exposure.

e. Integrate risk management with business strategy and introduce a program to make risk management part of the corporate culture.

f.   Address environmental issues as part of the cost of risk.

g.  Restructure the risk management and risk finance functions of the organization.

h. Implement a centralized loss information acquisition system and database and associated risk management information system.


A major South African corporation which had previously self-insured all losses recently undertook the introduction of a comprehensive risk management program including the implementation of an integrated risk management information system addressing many of the aspects discussed in this paper. The information system implemented was the prototype of a more comprehensive system proposed for future development. The system was developed and implemented in late 1992 and has been successfully used since then to acquire comprehensive loss statistics and as an information base for introducing comprehensive risk management and risk financing practices throughout the organization.

The system is currently being used to process in excess of 10,000 loss incidents from five regions around the country using four operators. With the statistical base that has now been developed, the basis of risk funding between insured, self-insured and uninsured losses is being optimized and a comprehensive risk improvement program is being implemented. The system is also being used to monitor the progress of insurance claims submitted. It is estimated that a staff of about 12 would have been required to process the same information using conventional techniques without providing any of the management information that the computerized system makes available. Major enhancements to the system are envisaged based on experience to date with the objective of developing a commercial software system aimed at the corporate market.


A wide range of factors applicable to risk management with particular emphasis on the management of the physical factors contributing to risk have been discussed. The need to directly associate the financial implications of losses with the physical factors giving rise to risk is identified as is the need to record losses which are traditionally not accounted for. It is concluded that this can only be effectively accomplished using a comprehensive, integrated loss database and computerized risk management information system. Some of the benefits of this approach and conceptual considerations are addressed and brief case histories are presented.

It is concluded that the effective management of risk in organizations in a manner that will produce significant improvements in loss reduction will also give rise to significant improvements in operational efficiency and substantial overall profitability improvement. These benefits will only be achieved if an holistic approach to risk management and risk finance is adopted that takes account of hidden, as well as visible costs and is associated with a restructuring of the risk management and risk finance components into a single area of accountability. The application of leading edge information technology is a vital component of this solution but must be associated with practical and effective implementation within the organization.


CRM Risk Control Consultants is a firm of specialist risk management consultants within the Price Forbes Group of Companies which specializes in providing a comprehensive risk management consulting service to clients. CRM Risk Control Consultants can be contacted on (011) 637-2148.

Differentiated Strategic Solutions (dS2) is a firm of independent business information system specialists concentrating on offering information systems consulting, software development services and strategic software products with particular emphasis on the fields of decision support and management information. They place particular emphasis on innovative solutions which enable clients to create and sustain competitive advantage and on the effective implementation of such solutions and have been involved with CRM in the development and implementation of the information system on which the case history is based. Through associates in The MaXus Group and other associated specialists they are able to provide a wide range of additional consulting and other services. Differentiated Strategic Solutions can be contacted on (011) 886-9863.

The contribution of our clients and associates without whom we would not have had the opportunity to evolve and develop these concepts is gratefully acknowledged.


Robertson (1992(1)) Effective Implementation of Executive Information Systems. Paper presented at Executive Information Systems Conference, Johannesburg, March 1992.

Robertson (1992(2)) Enhancing Information System Effectiveness: The Human Element. Paper presented at Executive Information Systems Conference. Johannesburg, March 1992.

Robertson (1994(4)) A Practical Approach to Implementing Integrated Information Systems in Real Companies. Paper to be presented at SAICE IT Division Conference on Integrated Information Solutions in Engineering Practice, Johannesburg, October 1994.

Valsamakis, Vivian & du Toit (1992) The Theory and Principles of Risk Management. Butterworths.

22 to 23 June 1994

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The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Annual Conference on Computers in Civil Engineering

By Dr James A Robertson PrEng & Reg M Barry, Financial Director, V3 Consulting Engineers


The advent of commercially available practice management software for the South African Consulting Engineering Industry some years ago, introduced the possibility of introducing far reaching, tailored, management information systems into the professional practice. This paper sets out to highlight some of the experiences and particularly the benefits derived from one such installation two years after implementation. The system comprises an integrated job costing, billing, debtors and creditors system linked to a comprehensive financial management system and an executive information system offering a wide range of management reports and graphical analysis.

Benefits experienced include the reliability and timeousness of the information, financial results are typically available within ten days of month end and year end financials within the same time frame at reduced audit cost and greater precision. A wide variety of reports are available and the organization can be viewed as a "Rubics Cube" of information in which the information can be grouped and examined in a wide variety of ways allowing project, client, profit center and other views of performance according to management's needs. Full activity based financial analysis and overhead distribution is supported eliminating the approximations typically made in assessing profit distribution and recognizing marketing and management contributions.

Senior management have had their workloads on mundane analysis greatly reduced while obtaining more accurate information faster. Information is also available at different levels of the organization at different levels of detail. Enquiries from a very summarized executive view to a very detailed transaction level analysis allow effective management by exception with drill down to specific problems. The variety of analyses possible offers great scope for effective management and directed marketing in a manner which should allow the company to create and sustain competitive advantage.



The evolution of computer technology in the late eighties gave rise to a situation at V3 Consulting Engineers in 1989 where the existing projects system was becoming obsolete and no longer able to cope with the demands of the firm. Over the period 1989/90, the management of the firm undertook a number of preliminary reviews of commercially available software and subsequently commissioned a detailed study of the firm's requirements in which the relative strengths and weaknesses of the commercially available software packages was evaluated (Robertson 1990).

It was established that neither of the major packages available were ideally suited to the needs of the firm and further analysis was undertaken to establish in greater detail the scope of modifications required. Following negotiations with the vendors, a scope and budget for the required changes was agreed and a final decision taken as to which system to purchase. The selected system was a South African developed package already in use at a number of consulting engineering firms.

A period of software enhancement by the developers was followed by testing and pilot operation, the system was commissioned and ran live in the Cape Region of V3 in October 1991. Thereafter the system was installed in the Free State and Transvaal regions, running live from March 1992.

This paper outlines some of the experiences with the implementation with particular emphasis on the benefits derived from the use of the system.


The system selected comprised a number of major components:

Projects System

The projects system comprises a suite of programs including projects and personnel databases, salary and rates information. A company parameters module allows configuration of the system to model the organizational structure of the practice to take account of offices, departments and associated companies as well as to define the nature of the general ledger interface. A variety of set-up options allow further customization of the operation of the software.

The projects system provides full features for the entry and processing of time and expense information with comprehensive analysis of Work in Progress (WIP). WIP is maintained on an open item basis such that once captured, all items remain in the system until they are either recovered through billing to the client or written off. Full audit trails and analysis reports are available on the WIP. The project system includes a largely automated billing system.

The projects system also provides a wide range of facilities for structuring up to 5 levels of project detail and associated analysis together with activity codes and a variety of project budgeting and reporting options.

The projects system is integrated with debtors and creditors modules to allow full management of these accounting functions with project related reporting in debtors and both project and non-project expenses posted in the creditors program.

All financial components of the projects system are integrated on a batch basis with a commercial general ledger package.

Financial System

The financial system comprises a commercial general ledger package together with integrated cash book software. This is linked on a batch basis to a commercial salary package. The financial system has recently been extended by the acquisition of an integrated assets register package and barcode reader. The financial system replaced 24 column manual cash books.

The general ledger chart of accounts accommodates a comprehensive, fundamental analysis of all income statement and balance sheet items in a manner that is linked to the business model of the organization in terms of cost and profit centres including physical branch offices and administrative, technical and support departments. A hierarchical, structured coding scheme is employed in order to facilitate allocation of expenses on an activity basis, and to allow progressively more detail in enquiries. Associated with the chart of accounts, a variety of financial reports allow summary or detail reporting for the region, office or department as required, including summary and detail income statements, balance sheet, cash flow projections and ratio analysis.

The financial system is linked directly to the projects system in a manner that is designed to support activity based costing and allocation of income and expenses in a manner that permits clear definition of ownership of information with a view to achieving a high level of internal auditing and a resultant improvement in accuracy and reduction in audit delays.

National Consolidation

In the past year, procedures have been implemented to permit all financial results to be consolidated nationally at the detail level, thus permitting the extraction of a wide variety of detailed and summary analyses. Various controls on inter-region charges have also been implemented together with procedures for accumulation and distribution of corporate overheads.

Executive Information System

Recently a graphical Executive Information System (EIS) has been developed to operate on the underlying operational projects and financial systems. This EIS has been developed using a commercial, windows based tool and provides a high level of graphical summarization of certain key values in the projects and financial systems. Development is continuing.

The EIS system has been developed with the objective of enabling senior management to see key values summarized graphically in a meaningful way that allows them to rapidly identify potential problems and drill down to the detail in any way that they may consider necessary. Particular emphasis was placed on achieving a user interface that was intuitive for senior management and did not restrict enquiries on the basis of simplifying assumptions made during construction. The EIS also provides an interactive mechanism for overhead distribution on an activity basis, whereby all income and expenditure relating to non-production business units is distributed over the production units on an agreed basis. The model has been designed with a view to providing management with the means to examine the effect of alternative allocation formulae on the profitability of individual business units without altering the underlying data which has been allocated on a fundamental basis.

The ultimate objective set for the EIS is to support a "paperless board meeting" in which all relevant information is projected onto a screen in the board room so that managers can analyze and query information interactively and pro-actively thus facilitating management by exception rather than tabling large volumes of information.


A number of short term and long term strategic objectives were set for the system at the time that the initial investigation (Robertson 1990) was undertaken. Particular emphasis was placed on specifying the objectives and requirements for the system with the objective of meeting the long term strategic requirements of the firm with a view to avoiding the need to replace the system after a few years. Objectives set included:

- Provide tools to monitor and improve productivity and profitability.

- Enable profitability to be measured on a project, department and office basis using the cubic model proposed by Robertson.

- Assist the firm to offer the highest possible levels of service to it's clients.

- Ensure that charges for work were realistic and that work was performed effectively for the client.

- Provide comprehensive budgeting facilities for projects and financials.

- Assist in the evaluation of current and future directors with respect to appointment and promotion.

- Provide concise management summaries.

- Permit a global view of the practice.

- Permit detailed enquiry on all aspects of operations and job costing.

- Require minimum management time and manpower to operate system.

- System must be affordable.

All of these objectives have been met at the current time although costs have been greater than expected and would be handled differently if the project was undertaken today. Certain specific benefits are discussed in more detail in subsequent sections.


The implementation was undertaken in a phased manner, as outlined previously. Problems were experienced in terms of availability of senior personnel in-house at certain times and in terms of commissioning the system in other regions using in-house personnel. This was undertaken with a view to cost containment but ultimately gave rise to increased costs associated with correction of problems experienced.

With hindsight, more use should have made of outside assistance in the implementation in the second and third regions. In-house staff were not experienced enough and the time they spent in other regions placed pressure on their own region's operation.

Time taken to achieve understanding and commitment to the new system by managers and staff at all levels proved to be greater than anticipated and required focused and firm action by top executives before all required information was provided by project leaders and other staff and proper use was made of management reports. Experience tends to support the widely reported view that a paradigm change of this magnitude requires between three and five years to become permanent in an organization.


The projects system has now been in operation in the Cape Region of V3 for close to two years and in the rest of the country for eighteen months while the financial system has been in use country wide for eighteen months. As stated above, the objectives set three years ago have all been met. Specific benefits are discussed in the sections that follow:

Reliability and Timeousness of Information

Information is readily available, in many cases almost instantly. For example, analysis of time sheet data and other data captured to projects is available within two working days of the end of the month.

Full analysis of project performance for the month is available immediately data capture is completed including a wide variety of budget, costing and profitability reports. Up to date sales journals are available at any stage as are debtors and creditors age analyses. The EIS projects analysis can be made available within twenty four hours of month end or updated more frequently as appropriate.

Full financial statements including summary and detailed income statements, balance sheets and cash flow projections are generally available ten days after month end and include all closing and balancing adjustments for the period in question so that there is considerable confidence in the reliability of the information. The EIS financial analysis can be made available at the same time.

Because of the wide variety of combinations and groupings in which the information can be presented and the wide variety of controls built into the system, it is possible for all information to be reported in a manner which allows recipients to accept full ownership of specific sets of data. This facilitates verification and control and allows senior management to operate on the basis that, "if all subordinate managers have accepted the accuracy of their figures, the consolidated figures must be correct". This ensures a high degree of reliability and confidence in the information.

As a result of the detailed analysis contained in the general ledger, it is possible to operate the financial system in such a way that very little additional processing is required at year end over that required at month end. While some difficulties were encountered at the end of the first year of operations since not all procedures were fully in place, it was still possible to table the year end figures 17 days after the end of the year and they were signed off without qualifications by the auditors approximately five weeks later.

The Cubic Business Model

The business model referred to earlier allows the databases to be viewed as a multi-dimensional "Rubic's" cube which can be rotated and viewed in a wide variety of different ways. This permits the financial and production information to be grouped and summarized by office, department and region. Production (project) information can also be viewed by project leader, technical director, marketing director, client market segment, project discipline and client thus providing a fully market focused information capability. This information can then be used to focus marketing efforts and identify different marketing and management styles required for different market sectors as well as enabling management to evaluate the performance of individuals in terms of marketing and management contribution as well as production contribution.

In conjunction with these facilities, the activity based allocation of administrative overhead contribution by technical staff permits an accurate measurement of true profitability of individual business units or sub-units at a level which permits "level playing field" comparisons of business units. This eliminates the traditional problem of professional service organizations where the business units of those involved in management and marketing are penalized since only the production contribution is measured. Through this approach, inappropriate management decisions resulting from incorrect cost allocation can be avoided.

The system also supports attribution (allocation) of income from professional fees to the business unit employing the person doing the work. This permits the profitability of business units to be measured in terms of true, salary linked, revenue contribution as well as by the traditional method of project profitability and reduces the dependence on relatively arbitrary, rates based, costing approaches.

Senior Management Work Load and Effectiveness

Senior management have had their work load on mundane analysis greatly reduced as many of the analyses previously performed using spreadsheets have been incorporated into the system and are therefore available automatically with greatly reduced effort. Time spent resolving problems of mis-allocation and addressing queries with regard to year end has also been considerably reduced.

The multiple levels of summarization in conjunction with the high level of detail of the underlying data enable management to receive very summarized reports for routine management while affording them the capability to rapidly "drill down" to progressively more detail in order to answer queries.

Strategic Advantage

The wide variety of analyses available and the ready availability of information have freed management to be more effective while devoting less time to management and administration. At the same time, management have greatly improved scope to identify opportunities to improve operational effectiveness, increase delegation and improve profitability. They are also able to identify market related factors that can have a bearing on marketing strategy, product mix and other matters. These factors all enable the firm to offer innovative and competitive services in a competitive market. This is expected to assist the firm in creating and sustaining competitive advantage over the medium- to long- term as part of it's commitment to providing relevant, appropriate and cost effective services.


The components of a management information system (MIS) and associated financial and executive information systems have been summarized based on the experience of V3 Consulting Engineers. Certain experiences during implementation have been summarized and the objectives set for the system at the outset are reviewed. It is noted that these objectives have been met.

The benefits experienced by the firm are discussed with particular reference to issues such as timeousness and reliability of information, flexibility of analysis and control. It is noted that the work loads of senior management have been reduced while more accurate and detailed information is made available more rapidly. The ability to summarize the information in a great variety of ways while providing the ability to undertake enquiries at a very high level of detail when required, is noted as a further benefit.

It is concluded that the system has met most of the objectives set for it at the outset and that it is assisting the firm in it's objective of creating and maintaining competitive advantage through the provision of focused, appropriate and cost effective consulting engineering services.


Robertson J A (1990) Report on Investigation Into Professional Practice Management Information Systems for Vorster, van der Westhuizen and Partners Unpublished report, October 1990.

September 1994

Download the V3 Consulting Engineers: The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice -- Article in Adobe pdf format

011 The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice -- by Dr James A Robertson PrEng from James Robertson

Download The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice v 003 -- Slides in Adobe pdf format

Download The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice v 003 -- Original Paper in Adobe pdf format

5. Recommendations on LinkedIn

  1. THE BUSINESS SYSTEMS DOCTOR -- Business Systems troubleshooter James A Robertson and Associates

    CEO at GREEN MIND CAPITAL - Boutique executive placement, coaching and entrepreneurial training

    Dr Robertson is an expert in the field of implementation and accessment of IT systems and hardware. He focuses on getting the maximum out of existing IT investmenst rather than rushing into aq huge additional spend on system upgrades. His processes are unique and his thinking is cutting edge. It is highly recommended that a interview be undertaken with James to hear what...more

    April 2, 2012, CLIVE was James's client

    Ferdi Dippenaar
    Ferdi Dippenaar
    CEO at Village Main Reef Gold Mining Company (1934) Limited

    James did great work in identifying the needs and shortcomings of the ERP system previously used. The solution was scoped, designed and subsequently implemented.

    January 18, 2012, Ferdi was James's client

    Hoosain Karjieker
    Hoosain Karjieker
    Chief Executive of M&G Media Limited

    Dr Robertson's intervention at our firm was a phenomenal success. His competencies are displayed both in his demeanor and his analytical approach to problem solving. He has an amazing ability to grasp complex issues quickly, unpack them, analyse, and propose solutions that take into account the overall business objectives.
    I would certainly recommend him as a consultant...more

    January 16, 2012, Hoosain was James's client

    Carlos Schleich
    Carlos Schleich
    Information Technology and Services Professional

    I met James while attending his Taxonomy course, and after all these years in the IT industry I cannot agree more with what he advocates, both regarding successful systems implementations and taxonomies. As for the Taxonomy course, it was an eye opener. Someone has finally taken the time to learn, comprehend and communicate why it is so important to clearly define the...more

    December 19, 2011, Carlos was James's client

    Brad Abbott
    Brad Abbott
    Principal Consultant at Velrada

    James is the the first person I have met in the ERP space who understands the importance of taxonomies and the role they play in maximising the business intelligence one can get from an ERP system.

    November 18, 2011, Brad was with another company when working with James at James A Robertson and Associates

    Faye Reagon
    Faye Reagon
    Independent Consultant & Photographer

    I highly recommend Dr James Robertson for advice and consultation for any systems related work. He is one of the few consultants that I know who has a clear understanding of the operations of business and how it should be supported by technology, systems and people. He has exceptional business analytical skills and thinks out of the box when required. I will not hesitate...more

    November 17, 2011, Faye was James's client

    Stephen Rogers
    Stephen Rogers
    Experienced Strategy, Process, Performance, Capability Consultant and Facilitator

    James is a highly committed simplification practitioner who uses his considerable intellect to demystify ERP and cut to the chase. He enables clients to focus their information management and utilisation thinking.

    My work finds common ground with his because he also understands the impact of the human factor which is often under managed in the technical and...more

    November 15, 2011, Stephen was with another company when working with James at James A Robertson and Associates

    Paul Leigh
    Paul Leigh
    IT Manager at PANNAR SEED

    I met Dr Robertson in 2004 when I heard him speak at the IT Service Management Forum conference. I was struck by his challenging message to the group of IT practitioners at this event. Over the years, I have engaged Dr Robertson in various roles as client: keynote speaker, troubleshooter, project manager, trainer but mostly as strategic advisor. What sets James apart from...more

    November 15, 2011, Paul was James's client

    Tony Sham
    Tony Sham
    Owner of Interactive Direct

    I have deep admiration for James as an astute expert on ERP systems and how to make them work.

    I also admire him as a person of integrity and reliability.

    November 14, 2011, Tony was a consultant or contractor to James at James A Robertson and Associates

    Chris Reay
    Chris Reay
    Owner, Engineer Placements

    James is a Professional Civil Engineer and brings to the IT industry the thinking processes and logical analytical skills developed in the engineering profession. I have had the pleasure of working with him on a number of network formed groups on projects where he has spearheaded interventions into major ERP implementations and upgrades. ERP and any major IT projects have...more

    November 14, 2011, Chris worked directly with James at James A Robertson and Associates

    Angelo Kehayas
    Angelo Kehayas
    Faculty Member and Supervisory Coach at SACAP

    James is a highly intelligent and articulate thinker. He has a very high work capacity and will burn the midnight oil to get things done. The value of his approach is often underestimated and it takes a while to see the real results but they are worth the effort. What I value most about James is his integrity, work ethic and his passion for what he does.

    November 14, 2011, Angelo was with another company when working with James at James A Robertson and Associates

  3. STRATEGIC INFORMATION ARCHITECT -- James A Robertson and Associates
  4. Dale Rosenberg
    Dale Rosenberg
    Divisional Director at EOH

    We hired James to assist us with a major project within the business where we were looking to replace our ERP application.

    James provided excellent, sound advice that allowed us to explore multiple options, one which we had not considered which turned out to be advice which saved the company money and disruption.

    I would recommend James and the knowledge he...more

    January 17, 2012, Dale was James's client

    Kerstin Speer-Bockelmann (CA) SA
    Kerstin Speer-Bockelmann (CA) SA
    Senior Adviser to Executive Director UN Women

    Dr Robertson consulted the Rennies Group ( now part of Bidvest ) on the conceptualisation of the chart of accounts for the Hyperion Enterprise financial reporting system comprising of more than 400 legal entities in over 50 countries. Dr Robertson's expertise and extensive experience was pivotal to the success of the Hyperion Enterprise implementation project which became a...more

    January 16, 2012, Kerstin was James's client

    Deonie Botha
    Deonie Botha
    Business Development Manager

    Dr Robertson has an extensive knowledge of the importance of the business or financial value of effective IT (ERP) implementations. I can recommend him in the area of taxonomy development which is most certainly the "tipping point" for value-add IT. There is a wrong way for IT and then there is the James A Robertson way...I certainly choose the latter!

    December 5, 2011, Deonie was James's client

    Patrick Cooke
    Patrick Cooke
    Non Executive Director

    James was required to analysis an ERP application that was not delivering in a highly political environment and presented a well balanced and objective report on the reasons for the failures together with cost effective solutions and a workable implementation plan to effect the necessary changes.

    December 1, 2011, Patrick was James's client


    Allie Payne
    Allie Payne
    Creditors Supervisor at Aurecon

    We consulted James during our change-over of data systems and the design and implementation of a tailored ERP system.
    Highly professional and an expert in his field, James's understanding of complex data systems & the organisations' vision for the end result, ensured a successful implementation!
    I would highly recommend James as an asset to any organisation.

    October 24, 2012, Allie was with another company when working with James at James A Robertson and Associates

    Larry Borok
    Larry Borok
    Owner, Vantage Point

    I've known James since 1999, when my company submitted a proposal for a healthcare IT system in South Africa, and James was leading the evaluation. I have never had our system so rigorously dissected! We both gained a great deal of respect and admiration for each other, and have maintained a friendship ever since. James understands the challenges of IT systems development...more

    December 2, 2011, Larry was with another company when working with James at James A Robertson and Associates

    Gabriel D'Oliveira
    Gabriel D'Oliveira
    Business Development at Oracle

    James is a visionary, a clear thinker who can quickly get to the root of complex problems and correctly identify they key causes and more importantly measures to correct them. Fortunate are those who engage with James as the outcome will always be positive.

    December 2, 2011, Gabriel was with another company when working with James at James A Robertson and Associates

  6. PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER -- challenging custom presentations relating to Business Systems and Strategy -- James A Robertson and Associates

    Paul du Toit, CSPGlobal
    Paul du Toit, CSPGlobal
    ✔ Customer Service Speaker ✔ Presentation Skills Coach ✔ Public Speaking Author ✔ CSP

    I have had the pleasure of working with James on more than one occasion. I know very few people who apply their minds as diligently as James does when asked for genuine feedback, help or advice. He is brutally honest in telling you what you need to do to become better and more effective - and he has helped me substantially.

    November 30, 2011, Paul was with another company when working with James at James A Robertson and Associates

    Janelle Barlow, CSP, PhD
    Janelle Barlow, CSP, PhD
    Owner, TMI US

    I got to know James while attending a conference in South Africa. His ideas around why CRM programs fail so frequently in large companies resonated with my ideas and my experience. But James goes way beyond just thinking about this. He's got the facts, the evidence, and then the solution to avoid the problem of lack of implementation. He definitely deserves to be listened to!

    November 17, 2011, Janelle was James's client


    James A Robertson and Associates

    Neri Credo
    Neri Credo
    Independent IT Consultant

    Dr Robertson is extremely knowledgeable when it comes to data - particularly in ERP systems. He has in depth knowledge on structure, content, cleansing and all other topics related to data.
    In this world, where data is growing exponentially, it is extremely useful to learn about what he knows in order to have stable, reliable information.
    His method of training is very...more

    December 15, 2011, Neri was James's client

  8. BUSINESS SYSTEM "PULSE MEASUREMENTS" --  James A Robertson and Associates

    Ian Du Toit
    Ian Du Toit
    Director at Insure Group

    Dr. Robertson has a solid understanding of his field of expertise and the ability to apply this strategically to a bussiness environment. His expertise is very helpfull to get a high level strategic overview of an environment in a limited time, which can identify and open areas of weakness to management that may need further investigation.

    December 29, 2011, Ian was James's client

  9. CHIEF EXECUTIVE -- Differentiated Strategic Solutions

    Ian Jones
    Ian Jones
    Developmental Facilitator and Coach ✔ Executive Strategy Development ✔ IT Key Account Sales Training and Coaching

    James and I worked together on a public sector development programme of huge complexity.

    James made a major contribution to the significant achievements of this programme by his meticulous attention to detail and in depth programme management skills.

    I highly recommend James for situations that require these attributes.

    January 15, 2012, Ian was with another company when working with James at Differentiated Strategic Solutions


    Class of 76 -- Civil Engineering Class

    Joan Joffe
    Joan Joffe
    CEO at JJ Investments

    Dr James A Robertson has had a brilliant career starting as a student and continuing right through his professional career, reaching the pinnacle of all his endeavors.

    December 4, 2011, Joan worked with James at Class of 76 -- Civil Engineering Class

Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

Cnf 077 A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting

Strategic change focuses on the essence of the business and how it thrives and undertakes activities directed at achieving lasting competitive advantage, an approach to budgeting is presented that seeks to bring the fundamentals of strategic analysis and design into the budgeting process
Web 01 Simple steps to increase the strategic value from your ERP investment

Video discussing simple techniques that can be applied to drastically improve the strategic decision support information yield from your existing Business Information Systems

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

Cnf 076 The Problem of IT Mythology and Mystique - Bringing IT Audit Down to Earth

The real issues in IT Audit, cutting through mythology and mystique to examine the factors that should really be examined in IT Audits, ranging from strategic alignment and governance through to effective IT staff alignment with the business through boots in the mud socialization
Std 002 Standards for Custom Software Specification

A set of outline standards for the specification of custom software
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 023 What is computer software? REALLY? and ERP? And what determines the sustainability and maintainability of business software?

Many people have mistaken ideas regarding what constitutes computer software.  This article seeks to provide understanding

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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knowledge management      laboratory      lack of an engineering approach      lack of precision configuration      lack of strategic alignment      lawyer      leadership      legal agreement      legislation      lies      list of required software      listen carefully      litigation      logical entities      loss information      low road      loyalty      MacDonald      maintain code schemes      maintenance      maintenance management      Malcolm McDonald      management      management information      managing contractors      manual      marketing hype      master data      master data classifications      master test data      mature facilitation      mature facilitator      measurable      measures of alignment      mentoring      Microsoft Outlook      misrepresentation      missing link      mistique      morals      Munich      mystique      mythology      new future state      New South Africa      no drill down      non-disclosure      NOT classic project 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procurement timeline      professional speaker      Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa      profitability      programming languages are for the programmer      project facilitation      project leader      project leader -- CEO communication      project leadership      project management      project management IT project management      projects      prove it works      PSASA      psychology      psychometrics      public conferences      public presentations      public speaking      Pulse Measurement      quality      REAL issues in Business Information Systems      REAL value      recognizing failure      redaction      reduced audit costs      reduced head count      reference documents      Reg Barry      regulatory body      relationship Almighty      relationship orientated      remediation of existing systems      Rennies Group      reports      reports not reliable      request for proposal      requirements specification      results orientated      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System success      things right      third party suppliers      third world countries      thrive      time      tipping point      tough certificates      tough contract management      tough contracts      tough procurement      tough terms      training      training material      treatment code      understanding of data      understanding the engineering approach      Uniface      unlocking value      use different languages for new components      V3 Consulting Engineers      validation data      value      versus process      video      webinar      webinars      weighted factors      what is executive custody      what is strategy      what is the essence of this organization and how does it thrive      what to do      where is IT going      why executive custody is required      why the organization exists and how it thrives      why your business information system is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it      why your ERP is NOT delivering and how to fix it      workflow      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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