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Diagnose, Fix and Optimize your Business Systems in order to unlock their full potential to assist your organization to thrive

Consulting Business Information System Engineers.

If you consider that you are NOT obtaining the FULL value of your business information systems OR if you are experiencing major problems or frustrations with your systems, we can help you.

Engineers do NOT design bridges to stand up...

Engineers design bridges NOT to fall down!

Dr James A Robertson PrEng has been applying Engineering principles to all aspects of Business Information System procurement, configuration, commissioning and operation since 1989

By definition an Engineering Approach is directed at achieving a high value, high reliability, cost effective and highly sustainable business outcome.

I do this by focusing on the Strategic Essence of the organization and Engineering solutions to support Business Executives and particularly the Chief Executive, to achieve high value sustainable business outcomes that greatly enhance competitiveness and profitability -- solutions engineered to support the business to thrive.

This website contains a large amount of reference material in the form of white papers, conference presentations, standards and other material relating to the way I do things and the way I advocate that the industry as a whole should do things, please visit the Article Catalog for a listing of all the articles on the website and the Table of Contents for all the other material.

My Passion

  1. Passionate about assisting clients to thrive through the effective strategic application of business information systems.  Particular emphasis on high value "thrive" executive level strategic decision support.  Deep understanding and interest with regard to the fundamentals of planning and executing strategy.  Creating competitive advantage through exceptional information at your fingertips;
  2. Business systems trouble-shooter -- business system NOT meeting your expectations? Within a few days I will tell you exactly WHY this is happening and HOW to fix it – The ERP Doctor;
  3. IT translator to executives – I speak business language and translate IT speak – you do NOT have to understand IT, IT people need to understand you – I interpret for you.  A very different experience of IT;
  4. Passionate about the value of people and the "soft issues" associated with the impact of business information system projects on people;
  5. Completely independent, NO product, vendor or implementer dependencies -- I am on YOUR side and your side alone.  Independent since 1989.  Tough procurement approach that enables you to have a contract that fully protects your interests;
  6. Results orientated, problem solver, inventive, proven own methods, the REAL issues in business systems. What is required to unlock the true potential of your business systems investment, achieving quantum increases in value delivery;
  7. Highly experienced taxonomist with deep experience of the value that really intelligent data unlocks. Classification of data and information and application of advanced classification techniques to ERP and business systems with dramatic value benefits. Application of these principles across the full spectrum of information including the General Ledger Chart of Accounts, products, people, etc;
  8. An engineer by training, registered Professional Engineer.  Deeply believe that the implementation and operation of business information systems is an engineering endeavor.  The ONLY way to achieve high value outcomes is by applying engineering principles informed by a thorough understanding of business, strategy, economics, data, psychology and technology.  Developed an entire range of unique own methods, standards, principles and practices through applying this principle.  When you appoint an engineer to design a bridge you get the bridge that you asked for and it stands up – I bring that certainty to business systems and IT.

NEXT SECTION: About Dr James A Robertson PrEng >>>

About Dr James Robertson

An engineer who has devoted his life since 1989 to developing innovative and robust methods of achieving high strategic value Integrated Business Information System (IBIS) procurement, configuration, commissioning and remediation that meets and exceeds executive expectations.  Special competencies in Strategic planning, business system problem diagnosis and business system (ERP+) implementation.

James has BSc and PhD degrees in Civil Engineering which included Computer Science and Computer Based Numerical Methods as subjects and has spent the last 25 years seeking to bring the disciplines of Engineering to the Business Systems industry – by analogy this translates to “if you appoint an engineer to design a bridge you get the bridge you asked for and it stands up long term and meets all your expectations”. Visit the About page for more information about James.

For more information about James Robertson visit his very detailed profile on LinkedIn.

Testimonials from various clients and associates are available on the Testimonials page.

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


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.

Overview of the website

This website contains a large amount of technical information that you can take away with you and apply WITHOUT engaging my services.  The market is so huge and I am only one individual so I cannot possibly service all potential clients. Accordingly I have decided to make all my articles, manuals, conference presentations, etc available on the website for you to read and download as you see fit.

Should you see the need for some assistance in applying these methods I would be delighted to provide you with advisory, facilitation and other services at whatever scale you consider appropriate, see the “Guide” page for more information.

At intervals down this webpage you will find summaries of the information available on various parts of the website following the structure of the main menu at the top of the page.

The main sections are as follows with more detail further down this page:

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

More information about myself together with a wide diversity of other items including a catalogue of major business information system failures, definition of what I mean by “The Engineering Approach”, some information on the value that I believe I add, the attributes of a high value business information system investment, discussion of how to recognized a failed business systems project (NOT as obvious as it sounds), The Critical Human Foundation – a very important analysis of human attributes that affect success and failure, a discussion of why old software IS viable much of the time, a bit about my South African connection, more detail on core competencies that I offer, about the work of Professor Malcolm McDonald and how this has influenced my thinking considerably, detailed Table of Contents, my relationship with the Almighty, comments on the business information systems industry (some quite blunt), some testimonials and some references.

List of Articles

There are well over 100 articles on this website in the form of white papers, standards, articles published in various print publications, handbooks, manuals and conference presentations.

These are listed on the Articles Page in random order and in the Articles Catalogue as a structured list by document type category.

Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes

The section on achieving high value business information system outcomes discusses this topic in some detail and contains child pages that discuss how to achieve executive custody, a series of articles on the REAL issues in business information system success, why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it and a copy of my IT project management manual focused on intense high value business outcomes focused projects.

Pulse Measurement

My premium experience based diagnostic service – quickly and accurately assess the health of your project, systems or IT department – I diagnose problems and prescribe solutions in as little as one day. This section presents information relating to the service.

Includes a video of an interview with a client, outline of the no-charge guarantee, examples of outcomes, answers to critical questions, the workflow of the service, how the Pulse Measurement ties in with my Critical Factors, indicative durations, more about what the Pulse Measurement really is, examples of outcomes over 24 years and samples of some reports.

If you are NOT entirely satisfied with your systems, project or IT Department I truly believe that you will gain value from engaging me to undertake a Pulse Measurement for your organization – either physically on the ground or remotely.


Discussion of the strategic planning facilitation service that I offer, a series of articles on the fundamentals of strategic essence, a video on developing actionable strategic plans, simple steps to increase the strategic value of your ERP or other business system investment, a free copy of my StratSnap strategic analysis and design toolset with manual and a presentation on strategy focused planning.

If you are NOT entirely satisfied with your corporate strategic plans I suggest that you have a look at the items in this section.

Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works

A major reason that business information system (including ERP) and other IT projects fail or do NOT meet expectations is that the initial procurement process is NOT tough enough.  This section presents in some detail a tough approach that has delivered excellent results.  There are a series of articles and a full set of my procurement documents, including Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel examples that you can download and adapt to your purposes.

Guidance and Advisory Services

An overview of the various services that I offer including light touch advisory services.  Also a discussion of the Art of project leadership and why regular communication with the CEO is critical on a business information systems project.

The Business Simulation Laboratory

A critical component of a business information systems implementation is the Business Simulation Laboratory – a robust and rigorous testing environment that is also used to specify workflow, develop and test reports and training material and train all staff.  My standard specification for this approach is provided.

Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture

THE biggest issue in sub-optimal business information project performance in the long run is what I term “sloppy configuration”.  This section discusses in detail, with examples, the entire spectrum of what I term “Precision Configuration”.  This section looks at Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies (SEPT) which is at the very heart of crafting a really HIGH VALUE business information system solution, the Cubic Business Model, a coding model that delivers a structured Group Consolidation General Ledger account structure and which makes use of specialized software unique to JAR&A to ensure the precision of the code scheme.  Discussion of my approach to creating a highly structured Chart of Accounts, discussion of the value that can be added by a well-designed product catalog (Product Class / Product Group …), a discussion of the value of strategically designed master data attributes, a range of case studies of notably successful projects with significant operational efficiencies as a spin-off of quality data and a series of articles on strategically enriching your business information systems.

There are also simple steps to increase strategic information yield and a full copy of my taxonomy manual plus my General Ledger Manual and a challenging article on “Business Process – irrelevant, distracting and dangerous” coupled to an article on what I consider to be the RIGHT approach to business information configuration INSTEAD of the business process approach based on Precision Configuration – really challenging if you are devoted to business process BUT the way to go IF you want real value from your business information system, ERP, CRM, etc.

Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction

A discussion of my diversity of experience specifying and managing the development of small high value pieces of custom software and some learnings along the way.  Also a copy of my software specification standards and discussion of “What is software?” specifically directed at executives who find themselves being inundated with stories that do NOT make sense about software.

IT Effectiveness

A discussion of the services that I offer with regard to overall IT effectiveness including general advisory, coaching and mentoring and related services.  Also a video on organizing Microsoft Outlook to get maximum value from the tool, a discussion of the Critical Factors for Success and a paper and presentation on “A Moral and Ethical Dilemma – Systems that Fail” which addresses the question of system failure on the basis that failure is ENTIRELY preventable.

Case Studies: Articles examing Business Information System failures

A series of case studies with regard publicly known ERP and other business information system failures tying the failure into my criteria to explain the REAL reasons the failure occurred.  This is an ongoing project at this stage with currently the BBC DMI project failure published. Article on the Bridgestone – IBM conflict planned soon.

Speaking and Training

I offer a range of speaking and training services, this section presents those including a showcase of those conference presentations that I regard as particularly noteworthy, list of presentations that have been particularly well viewed SlideShare, an overview of some of my briefings and seminars, in some cases with full sets of the slides, a listing of the roughly 90 conferences that I have spoken at with copies of around 40 presentations available for viewing and copies of the on-line seminars (Webinars) that I have delivered including a webinar on how to present a webinar.

Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited

The above gives the headlines of what is available on the site, there is more detail as you scroll down this page.

Why you should do business with James A Robertson and Associates

  1. You are frustrated with your current ERP investment and are looking for ways to unlock the value you were promised...
  2. You cannot get the answers you need to reasonable questions, despite the transactions being processed in the system – you are unable to make BETTER BUSINESS DECISIONS!!
  3. You are about to embark on a major new system procurement and are extremely concerned by the horror stories of failed and sub-optimal Business System Projects;
  4. Your Business Systems project is stalled and you do NOT know how to get it moving;
  5. You have serious concerns about a project in progress and you want an INDEPENDENT and impartial SECOND OPINION;
  6. You have been told you must replace a system that cost millions, but you are NOT convinced;
  7. You are looking for effective ways to increase the value yield from your existing Business Information System investment;
  8. You are looking for a better way of approaching the whole subject of Business Information Systems.

If any of the above describe your situation then this IS the place for you!!

James A. Robertson and Associates offer a range of focused services that address each of the above points, including a short duration, high impact diagnostic "Pulse Measurement" to identify what is wrong and what is needed to remediate the situation; Strategic Advisory services; Courses and Executive Briefings; Project Leadership services; and a range of specific services geared to achieving high value outcomes.  A robust engineering procurement facilitation service and materials are also offered. 

The services offered include:

The Pulse Measurement -- a short, sharp diagnostic that is guaranteed to identify the root cause of Business Systems non-performance, stalled projects, non performing IT Departments, etc, resulting in a clear specification of actions required to rectify the problem, all in clear language that is absolutely understandable to Business Executives;

Strategic Advisory -- a mature advisor who has been consulting to executives for over thirty years who speaks business language and translates technology language into simple to understand language that you can understand and act on

Strategic Facilitation -- a robust and proven suite of Critical Issues methods coupled to rigorous gap analysis and strategic action planning, leading to a measurable, actionable and prioritized plan to bring about strategic improvement and strategic change;

Engineered Procurement -- a robust procurement method coupled to a substantial master document pack, developed over years of assisting clients with Business Systems procurement.  Geared to achieving a robust and enforceable fixed price contract directed at achieving a high value project outcome.  Also applicable to soft issue procurement;

Strategic Project Leadership and Project Facilitation -- executive strategic level guidance with regard to the execution of Business Information System projects at a strategic as opposed to operational level -- run projects in a way that make sense to Business Executives;

Precision Configuration Facilitation, Methods and Tools -- proven methods of strategic precision configuration to engineering standards across the entire spectrum of Business Information System configuration, including specialized tools and proven methods including a robust approach to building enterprise level Charts of Accounts suitable for major corporations;

Public Speaking to Conferences and at In-House Events -- trained in Toastmasters and a Professional Speaker -- challenging presentations tailored to your business or technical event; and

Training in the form of Courses, Master classes and Executive Briefings -- targeted at Business Executives and Senior Managers who are seeking practical guidance with regard to how to manage Business Information Systems.

Origin of "The Business Information Systems Doctor"

James Robertson is a Professional Engineer who has devoted the last 24 years of his life to developing an understanding of how to bring engineering rigor to the IT and ERP industries.

In the process he has spoken at many conferences and written many articles, columns, etc and has developed a number of focused specialist services.

Soon after establishing James A Robertson and Associates, his Professional Engineering Practice specializing in Information Technology James was approached by a client to assist with a network installation that was not performing.  Not long after that he was asked to evaluate an ERP implemetation that was not performing.

In both cases, based on his early experience with Executive level engagement, his investigative experience as a Geotechnical Engineer and his Military Quick Attack training James undertook diagnostic interventions that took the form of a series of interviews, starting with the Chief Executive and working down to the people operating the systems.

In both cases he was able to diagnose the problem and prescribe the solution within a few hours.

Over time this technique was refined and, as James undertook more and more investigations resulting from his regular presentations to Public Conferences on the high failure rate of IT investments generally and ERP investments in particular, the techniqe came to be known as a "Pulse Measurement" -- a short sharp diagnostic intervention where James does a lot of listening and asks a few critical questions because he has found that the words used to describe the problem are vital to diagnosing the root cause of the problem

And so the metaphor expanded -- James listening (as in the case of the Stethoscope when a Doctor takes your Pulse), hearing the sounds of the heartbeat of the organization and arriving at rapid, accurate and effective diagnoses and treatments

Out of this over time the metaphor naturally extended itself with the play on words relating to James being a Doctor of Engineering and from this the concept of "The ERP Doctor" was born

This was in turn refined to "The Business Systems Doctor".

This website is intended to provide access to his articles and information about the services that James A Robertson and Associates offer.

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 fulfil 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 -- the frame 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 it 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 otherwise.

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.

The Essence of the Pulse Measurement

A concise high impact investigation that quickly delivers an accurate diagnosis of the cause of system problems in Business Language that makes sense to executives coupled to prescription of practical and actionable treatment

IF you have the SLIGHTEST RESERVATIONS about whether you are obtaining the full value from your Business Systems and ERP investments;

or are in the least bit concerned that your systems are HARMING YOUR ORGANIZATION;

or your project is stalled;

or you want a view on the best way forward;

or you want to embark on procurement of new systems and need high level guidance;

or simply want an independent second opinion on any business systems related matter;

then contact us NOW

The fees are MINIMAL relative to the savings that many clients have experienced

And IF you are NOT fully satisfied with the service after the first day you may terminate the engagement and pay ONLY travel and expenses outside of London


For more information visit the main Pulse Measurement page

Click here to email us now to discuss your requirements and obtain a proposal without obligation

What has Engineering to do with Business Information Systems? Surely that is the domain of Accountants?

Many people question why an engineer is involved in the implementation of commercial systems and ERP in particular -- "after all that is the domain of Accountants", they say

To answer:

Engineering relates to the analysis, design and construction of new systems and structures, Engineering is about designing and building things that work and therefore, the design and deployment of information systems is fundamentally a field of Engineering endeavor, so much so that James studied Computer Science as part of his first year University Syllabus in 1973 while studying Civil Engineering

It is James' contention that Business System implementation and other IT endeavours are fundamentally engineering endeavors and his dream is to see a class of Professional Engineer along the lines of "Business Sytems Implementation Engineer" and other related titles come into existence in his lifetime

James maintains his registration as a Professional Engineer as a statement of his commitment to the vision of Engineering as a fundamentally relevant discipline in what he does and as a statement of his commitment to clients of a standard of Professionalism that is inherent in the registration of Professional Engineers

The "Engineering Approach" is fundamentally different to traditional approaches to Business Information System and ERP implementation and is summarized by the dictum ...

"Engineers do NOT design bridges to stand up

They design them NOT to fall down

There is a fundamental difference between designing a Business System to succeed (the traditional approach) versus designing a Business System NOT to fail (the JAR&A Engineering approach)

Articles Published by James A Robertson and Associates

Std 008  Procurement:  00e File Table of ContentsStd 008 Procurement: 00e File Table of ContentsThe tender documents are issued in one or more large files, this is the table of contents for the file
Cnf 068  Discovery -- An Essential Element of SOA ImplementationCnf 068 Discovery -- An Essential Element of SOA ImplementationThe importance of effective discovery and the issues that arise from inaccurate discovery including understanding the importance of communication in the first hour of engagement
SNw 042 The Real Issues in BIS: IntroductionSNw 042 The Real Issues in BIS: IntroductionThis article provides an overview of the main components of the approach to Business Information System investment success as first detailed in my book in 2004 and elaborated on and taught since then

Our logo -- assisting clients to Thrive through the effective strategic application of Business Information Systems

Our logo is based on Professor Malcolm McDonald's Strategy -- Tactics matrix with Strategy -- "the right things" viewed from the Customer's perspective along the horizontal axis and tactics -- "doing things right" viewed from the Customer's perspective along the vertical axis -- an organization that does the right things well with thrive

Our goal is to assist YOUR organization to determine the right things to do assisted where relevant by your Business Systems and then assist you to do those things well, where relevant through your Business Systems, thereby enabling your organization to thrive

This approach has been significantly influenced by Malcolm's thinking and clear definitions for over 23 years and his influence is gratefully acknowledged, I would also like to acknowledge Iain Peters who introduced me to Malcolm's work and to Malcolm

Our benchmark for this is an organization that doubled its turnover in twelve months by being able to do things that organizations many times its size were unable to do thus enabling them to secure a number of new clients

Over the years James has refined the definition of Strategy to be "The Essence of the Organization and HOW it Thrives" -- this definition has proven invaluable in providing a concise means to understand the business of any new client and to identify measures that will add value

Letter from Professor McDonald

Upside down or back to front?

Many people think that the approach advocated by James Robertson with regard to Business Sytems implementation is back-to-front or upside-down – is it?

In actual fact no -- it is an engineering (that is a high reliability) view of Business Information Systems based on a strongly held view that Business Sytems Investment should have a lifespan of 20 to 50 years:

 1. Business process is almost irrelevant as an input
Many Business Sysem firms place huge emphasis on “as is” business process mapping and development of "as is" models yet most of the time these documents cannot be correlated to the final outcome giving rise to the conclusion that business process mapping at the start of a Business Systems project is a total waste of time – strategic discovery geared to understanding the essence of the business and how it works at a strategic level and feeding into precision configuration to model the fundamental first principles essence of the business is what really matters

2. Silo module by module Business Systems experience is a major hindrance
Many Business Systems firms place great reliance on personnel who are “experts” on specific modules and yet there is seldom a senior strategic solution architect with a holistic, integrated view of the system and the business which is what really matters

3. Junior consultants have limited application
The body shop approach of relatively junior consultants full time on site for months at an end is counter-productive, a more limited scale of involvement of highly experienced consultants to guide business personnel in the configuration of the system is much more important – thought leadership NOT contract labour is required

4. A gray haired client Project Facilitator is non-negotiable
The client needs to have a very senior Project Facilitator to advise the CEO and team from the client perspective.  Gray haired, at least in their forties, preferably in their fifties for medium or large projects with diverse business and systems experience, the ability to lead tough but fair negotiations with the contractor and employed directly by the client is absolutely vital -- must facilitate -- the overall direction and accountability must rest with the Implementer from a contractual perspective

5. Technology is almost irrelevant
Today technology is almost irrelevant – the minute the conversation gets into the merits of different brands of software products, the case for upgrading to the latest version, etc you can be sure that the participants have lost the plot – any Business System on the planet well implemented will deliver a better result than any other system badly implemented – Business Systems are about people not technology -- about how  people configure the Business System

6. Executive strategic decision support is THE issue
When it comes to making a significant Business Systems investment there is nothing more important than delivering a solution that provides comprehensive support for executive level strategic decision making – answers to the questions the executives have never before thought to ask

7. Precision configuration is the foundation
All the above funnel into strategic engineered precision configuration based on precision taxonomies – these are the essence of Business Systems configuration – the entire project should be focused on ensuring a high quality precision configuration that supports strategic analysis in any way that can reasonably be considered to be a requirement

8. A Business Simulation Laboratory is essential
A formal, rigorous laboratory for testing and fine tuning the configuration, documenting the system, testing the reports, training personnel and developing training materials is not an optional extra, it is an essential element of the project plan – even though it adds months to the time line

9. Rigorous contracting with severe penalties
Robust contracting is essential in order to focus the implementation contractors on ensuring that they mobilize their best personnel and keep them focused – concepts like a three stage procurement process geared to ensuring contractors have enough time to fully scope and therefore price the project are vital.  Delivery must be coupled to issue of certificates and penalties for failure on commissioning together with professional indemnity insurance – a lawyer on the project team is increasingly a significant consideration

10. Business Systems implementation is fundamentally an engineering endeavor
The implementation of Business Systems, including ERP’s is fundamentally an engineering endeavor but engineers lack most of the soft skills and the business knowledge and experience necessary to do the job.  In the same way, those who have the soft skills, business skills and Business System skills lack the engineering skills to deliver robust results.  Carefully crafted multi-disciplinary systems engineering teams are a vital necessity for a successful outcome

11. Implementer -- work yourself out of a job
It is the duty of the Implementer to work themselves out of a job – senior contractors on-site for years after commissioning (go-live) are a no no – by the time the system is fully commissioned the contractors should walk away leaving the client fully equipped to operate and maintain the system

12. 20 year plus design life
A well configured ERP and associated systems should run reliably for twenty years or longer with limited refurbishment about every five years to clean up the taxonomies, master data, etc – this assumes that the system is run as a precision machine with an expectation of a long life span.  We are fast approaching the point where continuous upgrades to Business Systems will be regarded as an unnecessary irritation to be avoided.

13. The right to maintain and repair
Coupled to the previous point, clients will increasingly demand the right to freeze the version of the System they are currently running for lengthy periods and will use the legal principle of “The Right to Maintain and Repair” to force software vendors to support “obsolete” versions of software for many years – remember that the vast majority of version X+1 is the same as version X and the business case for software change is becoming increasingly weak.

Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013 -- With Robert Priebatsch MD and Major Shareholder

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

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

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

What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?

Do you have concerns about your I.T. function or about a specific project?

Are you debating whether to replace your existing financial and operational systems with a new E.R.P.?

Are you concerned that your company is not keeping pace with I.T. or is going in the wrong direction?

Do you have an E.R.P. or I.T. project that is stalled?

Are you wondering where you can obtain an independent third party opinion?

An I.T. pulse measurement by Dr James Robertson may be just what you need.



Dr Robertson's pulse measurement is a structured, interview based investigation into a problem that YOU define.

The pulse measurement comprises:

1) One on one interviews with your executive team.

2) One on one interviews with key business users of I.T. at various levels as appropriate to the focus of the investigation.

3) Interviews with I.T. staff and service providers coupled with review of critical systems as appropriate to the focus of the investigation.

4) A structured analysis resulting in a concise structured report based on the factors discussed in Dr Robertson's book "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success".

This analysis identifies and prioritizes the "Critical Findings" and recommends prioritized "Critical Actions" arising from the investigation. This is accompanied by a concise evaluation of the problem under investigation in terms of the criteria presented in the book.

5) Optionally the report may be followed with a formal presentation or briefing to your executive team and possibly other audiences.

6) Optionally Dr Robertson offers a critical issues workshop process to formulate specific response to the findings, such as definition of critical business requirements for a system (new or existing).

7) Optionally Dr Robertson offers advisory services with regard to implementation of his recommendations. This can comprise ad-hoc consultation or scheduled consultation which can take place on a retainer basis if that is appropriate to your requirements.

The I.T. pulse measurement has been developed to give a concise assessment of the health of your I.T. or other organizational issue through a limited scope, limited cost professional intervention that will give you greatly improved understanding of the problem in question and how to resolve it.

The findings are presented in a practical, no nonsense, manner that cuts to the chase in terms of the action required.

The pulse measurement is tailored to your exact requirements and will typically require from one to ten days of Dr Robertson's time giving a cost effective, high value, high impact diagnostic intervention.

"The lights have just gone on" -- exclamation by Executive Director of a client organization at the end of the second day of a pulse measurement when Dr Robertson provided a summing up of the investigation to that point and diagnosed the root cause of a project that was nine months behind schedule.

Over the years Dr Robertson has conducted dozens of pulse measurements for organizations of all types and sizes with regard to the full diversity of business systems, ERP’s, etc.

Out comes have included turning around a decision of a client executive to scrap a system based on a one day investigation, turning around a failing four hundred million Pound Sterling project with a one day visit to London, identifying a fundamental defect in an implementation that was in the process of putting a client organization out of business and equipping the chief executive to take a new direction. There have been many other cases of IT departments turned around and major expenditure prevented


It is not uncommon for an IT pulse measurement to save a client millions and sometimes even tens of millions and sometimes even AVERT BUSINESS DISASTER


Click here to email us now to discuss your requirements and obtain a proposal without obligation

Precision Configuration -- a Highly Differentiated Offering -- unlocking the full value of your Business Information System investment

The configuration of ANY Business Information System, no matter how simple or how complex is THE most important thing -- the configuration is what endures long after the people have moved on and it is "sloppy configuration" (James' name for conventional practice) that severely prejudices the vast majority of ERP and other Business Information System implementations

JAR&A have developed robust standards for precision configuration across the entire spectrum of modules applicable to any enterprise with particularly sophisticated standards in the area of Enterprise Charts of Accounts for large and complex businesses with multiple commercial units

These standards and methods, coupled to limited creative strategic custom development to support the essence of the business and how it thrives can add huge value to the enterprise -- so much so that we claim that a precision configuration to our standards, coupled to some limited strategic custom development will yield a hundred fold increase in sustainable business value

The MD and major shareholder of a client organization recently stated "this has forced me to think about my business in a completely new way -- I can see this investment of my time paying dividends for the next ten years at least"

Business System Failure – HOW do you recognize it?

I have come to understand that many executives and business people do NOT know how to recognize business information system project failure.  In fact, many people with partially failed solutions actually think they are successful!

In most areas that an organization operates high levels of reliability and in most cases high levels of functionality and aesthetics are the norm, think aircraft, motor cars, etc.  Accordingly this should be the criteria for rating the value and success of business information system projects.  Refer to the discussion “Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution” for a discussion of what a system at the top right of the scale below comprises.  THIS is the benchmark for failure and, in terms of that benchmark the vast majority of business systems implementations (all the way down the curve to the bottome) are, at a significant level, failures.

This is over and above the extreme failures discussed in the Failure Catalogue.

So, HOW DO you recognize a failed business information system?

1.  Project aborted

The project was aborted before go-live.  Frequently because the project should NOT have been undertaken in the first place e.g. replace systems that do NOT need replacing.

OR the project was so badly conceived and managed that it had to end, or there was a lack of executive involvement and the system is totally misaligned with the core objectives of the business.

You might even have had a good project that was aborted for the wrong reasons such as a new executive who could not be bothered to do the hard work to evaluate the truth about the project.

Clearly this IS failure.

Sometimes such projects can be recovered.

2.  Catastrophic business damage

Catastrophic business damage that causes massive disruption e.g. Bridgestone – Tires stacked in the car park, BMW months long wait for spare parts, etc.

OR in the extreme case put the organization out of business – see for example the FoxMeyer Drugs Bankruptcy.

Problem is, as with Fox Meyer, it is hard to prove whether it was the business system that caused the failure or something else.

Well, actually, NOT so.

Once you understand the true causes of failure, things like mythology, lack of executive custody, lack of strategic alignment, lack of precision configuration, failure to address the soft issues, lack of an engineering approach (rigor, precision) and understand that technology is less than 3%, that’s right 3%  of what causes failure it becomes apparent that if a company puts in a new system and goes bankrupt it is almost certain that the existence of the systems project and all the ancillary and associated factors WAS responsible for the failure.

A systems project places HUGE stress on a business and this stress is entirely people driven and impacts people.  There is a HUGE need to understand the entire holistic picture of what is required to prevent failure and what is required to achieve success, see the section of the website on the REAL Issues for more information.

Accordingly, I submit that unless there is a massive unrelated upheaval in the market place, if a company goes bankrupt or close to bankrupt shortly after putting in a new system then the new system has failed.  After all, a well-run project should produce an outcome that IMPROVES profitability and competitiveness.


3.  Runs with kludges and lots of spreadsheets

The above two items are relatively easy to recognize although frequently masked by other factors.  It IS clearly possible to highly damage a business and in the extreme case cause it to wipe out.

BUT other failures are less obvious.

Consider – the system runs, sort of, with any number of kludges including unnecessary add-on software, quick and dirty Microsoft Access and other software and MASSES OF SPREADSHEETS, other tasks are performed semi-manually or entirely manually.

Tasks take unnecessarily long times or require extra staff, there is gross inefficiency.

That is a form of failure that is common to the majority of business information system implementations.

I have come across massive installations where almost nothing is done in the core system but management actually think that they have something of value and the software company uses the client for advertising purposes.

Are people lying?

Or are they just so dumbed down in terms of their expectations that they actually think their hugely inefficient monster IS doing something of value?

How honest are YOU being about YOUR system?


4. Executives and managers cannot get the information they need, WHEN they need it OR at all

Management and executives cannot get the information they need WHEN they need it OR at all.

Reports do NOT correlate.

Simple information requests take days or weeks to answer.  And then further time is required to drill down and / or the results are questionable. 

Overall executive and management efficiency and effectiveness is compromised.

That is failure.


5. The monthly board pack takes weeks to produce and drill down is manual

The monthly management and board packs take days or weeks to prepare and require highly qualified and expensive staff to sit for days or weeks every month preparing the pack in Excel or some fancy and costly other tool and the final result is NOT entirely trusted.  Drill down is time consuming and questionable.

Executives are flying by the seat of their pants to a fair degree.

THAT is failure.


6.  The audit takes MUCH longer than it should

This may seemingly be a small point but, in fact, it is a pointer to much wider problems – the audit takes MUCH longer than your gut feel says it should and you cannot establish why or how to curtail it, because it REALLY does take that long and the auditors may even have to take write-off’s in order to fit your budget.

A well running system should be quick and easy to audit.

A system that takes long periods of time to audit is a system that is inefficient to run generally, where there is little ownership of data, where reports are unreliable and not trusted, etc.

This is a form of failure!

Remarkably the audit in most organizations could be shortened dramatically coupled to a dramatic increase in management information and management effectiveness.  A system that is easy to use and is well used is easy to audit, see the V3 case study.


7.  The organization is fat and inefficient

This point flows from the previous points – the organization is fat and inefficient because “THE System” is fat and inefficient.

An inefficient business is frequently a pointer to an inefficient system in the same way that a lean, effective and profitable business is a pointer to an effective and efficient system – interesting that there are lean, effective and profitable businesses running so-called “legacy” or “obsolete” software and there are fat and inefficient businesses running the latest and greatest systems.

An inefficient organization and associated system IS a form of failure!

Effective systems are the consequence of rigor and discipline, of understanding of business and system fundamentals and applying systems in ways that work effectively and add considerable value, even at the most mundane levels – like all staff who use computers can touch type fast and accurately so the data is neat, clean, orderly, reliable and trusted, see the article on “Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution”.


8.  Your business system support bill is WAY bigger than reasonable

Your support bill to the implementers is WAY beyond what you consider reasonable.

Or your IT support team is way bigger than seems reasonable.

BUT NO ONE can tell you what to do in order to curtail these costs because the people REALLY are there and busy for that many days a month!

Badly designed, badly configured and badly implemented systems really are huge consumers of expensive implementer and IT staff manpower.  This is primarily driven by “sloppy configuration” as opposed to “precision configuration

A form of failure!

9.  The “old guard” say the old system was better

Many of your “old guard” say that the old system was better, some have resigned in frustration.

None of them have anything good to say about the system maintaining, often with good cause, that the previous legacy system was easer and leaner to use and gave the same or better results.

Fact of the matter is that the business grew and prospered with the OLD system, something that techno-sales people and tech-lovers lose sight of.  In fact the OLD system made the profits to PAY for the new system!

Many modern system implementations are so poor that the old legacy systems that truly were VERY basic but got the core job done WERE more efficient and more effective because they were built in partnership with the business to old fashioned rigorous software development standards by dedicated and disciplined professionals, and were far better aligned with the essence of the business.

This MAY be just unwarranted nostalgia in some organizations but, quite frequently, the old system WAS more effective because there is a massive overload of unnecessary functionality and gimmickry that weighs down the system.  Process obsession frequently drives this sort of overload.

This, again, can be an indication of failure.


10. You just KNOW you have been ripped off

And then there is that nagging feeling that you HAVE been ripped off, that the huge sums you paid really are NOT justified, that the new system IS massively inefficient, that you really DO struggle to get the answers, that profitability has been detrimented, that the old system was really NOT that bad after all.

And there is reluctance to talk about it because it reflects badly on management, and you do NOT want the shareholders to know, and, after all, it is fairly easy to keep it quiet because most people do NOT know where to look to identify failure.

And most people’s expectations have been dumbed down by several decades of mediocre outcomes that nobody believes the promises of the sales people and even if you DID believe them you are NOT surprised when they do NOT materialize, after all, why were you so foolish to believe them?

Could YOU undergo a comprehensive lie detector test about your system, say NOTHING but good things about it and come through with a clean score – NO LIES?

That is the acid test of a successful system, a system that has ALL the attributes of a high value solution, widely recognized by shareholders, executives and management.  A system that people speak highly of, on AND OFF the record!

Do YOU have a high value solution or, if you are honest, is your system a failure?


If you answered “yes” to one or more of the above points then get in touch with me to arrange a Pulse Measurement to evaluate the health of your system, diagnose what is wrong and prescribe the appropriate treatment to remediate it – it MIGHT be easier than you think!

Download Business System Failure – HOW do you recognize it -- White Paper in Adobe pdf format

Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years

Frequently on completion of a Pulse Measurement clients are comfortable to action my recommendations themselves, sometimes they engage me to assist further.  In some cases my findings are highly unpopular with certain parties and it is politically expedient for clients to disengage from me.

These examples have been selected from projects over the last 24 years across diverse industries in order to give an indication of typical situations and outcomes:


     1.   Transport Holdings – see material on webiste

Development project not delivering over eighteen month period.

In two days diagnosed completely inappropriate technology solution and lack of competence on the part of developers and enabled Chief Executive to see the way forward – see interview on the Pulse Measurement page of the website.

Subsequently assisted client with procurement and implementation.


     2.   Perfume Marketing and Distribution Company

ERP and warehouse solution stalled for several months.

In less than a week diagnosed inappropriate implementer project staffing, management and approach including a dishonest bid.

Subsequently assisted client to turn the project around and bring to completion in five months delivering substantial strategic value.  Client is highly profitable today.


    3.   Wholesale Chemical Distribution Company – JD Edwards and big brand implementer

Eighteen month JD Edwards implementation by big brand Consulting firm.  After five months of live operation warehouse output was still extremely slow and delivery promise was being consistently broken to just-in-time manufacturing clients.  The client was starting to lose their biggest customers.

Within five days established that the configuration was fundamentally flawed and that none of the consultants could explain why it was the way it was or what was required to rectify the problem.

Advised the CEO to return to previous system for business strategic reasons and initiated discussion with previous service provider.  Client returned to previous system in five weeks and six months later referred to the decision as “the best decision we ever took”.


     4.   International Gold Mining Company – SAP R3

Non-functional SAP R3 Implementation including Projects, Plant and Materials across two continents.

In a week established that that the configuration was so deficient that re-implementation was the only option and showed executives why this was so.

Client decided to re-implement but out of consideration for shareholder opinion went with big brand implementer contrary to my recommendations.  Client is now in Business Rescue having closed one mine because costs ran out of control. Shareholders have lost their investment.  I am confident that if they had followed my approach they would be profitable today.


     5.   Large Construction Company – SAP R3

Full house SAP R3 implementation using a team of free-lance consultants that was going way over budget and deadline with massive demands on time from in-house personnel.

In a few days established that the external Project Manager was incompetent and that entire project approach was inappropriate.  Recommended a revised approach.


     6.   Warehousing and Distribution Company

Procurement including ERP and warehouse solution stalled with Management unable to make a buying decision.

In a few days established that the definition of the requirement was fundamentally flawed, that the adjudication criteria were inappropriate (the defining requirement was the Warehouse solution and not the ERP) and that both of the offers were unsuitable.

Subsequently facilitated a rigorous expedited procurement process where the final decision was between Sage X3 and SAP R/3 with EWM with Red Prairie as an alternative warehouse solution.  Client finally opted for Sage X3 and Red Prairie because there was only one EWM implementation in  the region and it was immature and rocky at that stage and there was an in-house relationship with the Sage X3 implementers (I advised in favour of SAP with Red Prairie).


     7.   Major Mining House– major user of SAP R3

Overall health check on the IT Department with particular emphasis on highly ineffective management reporting – a team of Chartered Accountants spending three weeks a month producing the Board Pack in Excel.

In two weeks found major governance issues with regard to IT across the entire Group globally and major weaknesses with regard to the SAP configuration, particularly in the Materials Master and including problems in the SAP Business Data Warehouse implementation.  Subsequently assisted on a number of fronts.


     8.   Fertilizer Manufacturer – BPCS

High levels of Executive frustration with incumbent BPCS ERP and associated custom development.  Strong sentiment to scrap the software even though it had only been recently implemented anew.  Implementation included Warehouse Management and Manufacturing.

In one week established that the software was a strategically poor fit to the business and that the custom development outside the software was necessary but was seriously complicated as a consequence of an unwise “zero customization in the software” policy that had seriously complicated fitting the solution to the software.  Also found that the bad attitude at the management level was in part due to an extremely toxic attitude on the part of the IT Manager and partly due to extremely bad communication between the technical team and management.

In a further two weeks undertook a comprehensive audit of what was required to remediate the system and submitted a second report.

Facilitated a decision in which the CEO took personal charge of the system and issued a formal policy decision that the system would not be changed and that all staff were required to “make it work”.  Assisted management in a decision to replace the IT Manager.

Also facilitated a discussion with the software providers where the client locked out of upgrades and secured the right to the source code and a five year support contract on the existing software with the right to renew.  This was accomplished on the basis of “The Right to Maintain and Repair”.  The system lasted for another eight years until the business replaced the system in their time and to meet their requirements.


     9.   Steel Product Manufacturing Company –  (Baan / Infor)

Very poor operating performance and information gaps and distrust of information at the Executive and Senior Management level with Baan as long established ERP including Warehousing and Manufacturing management.

In a week established that the problems resulted from extremely poor system configuration and overly lean system operation and support and enabled management to see what was required to rectify the problems.  Provided further guidance.


     10.  Construction Company

Three different operating divisions running three different systems, one an in-house developed legacy green screen AS/4-- system, one an off the shelf industry specific ERP and Construction Management system and the third a new in-house developed application.  Goal was to select one system for the entire business.

In a week established that the in-house development was badly conceptualized, badly executed and should be terminated and that the off the shelf system was basically suitable for all three divisions.  Proposed a rigorous evaluation process to enable the business to accept these recommendations but the project was shelved owing to a downturn in the economy.


     11.   Clearing Agents

Called in to investigate a system implementation of an industry specific system from Australia which had been stalled for nine months.

In three days established that there was a total strategic misfit between the software company and the client company in terms of service standards and that fundamental mistakes had been made with the implementation.  Enabled the Executive Director to see that the new system was totally inappropriate and then facilitated the selection of a new system with a high level of strategic compatibility between the service provider and the client.

At the end of the second day of the Pulse Measurement when I briefed the sponsoring Executive on my findings to that point he exclaimed “the lights have now gone on, I can see exactly why this is not working”.


     12.   Risk Management Consulting Company

Called to investigate a stalled development project that had repeatedly missed deadline.  Client was facing a contractual deadline with severe penalties if they did not have the software operating three months from the date I was called in.

In two days I established that the developer was incompetent to the level of being fraudulent and that there was nothing to show for the nine month investment.  Then assisted the client to bring together a professional team to develop a simple piece of software that on an 80:20 basis enabled the client to meet their contractual deadline with the 20% of functionality that would deliver 80% of the required business functionality.  I was responsible for the high level strategic design of the solution and the Precision Configuration.

The solution was so successful that the client achieved major operational efficiencies and dramatic management information gains way beyond expectations as discussed in the Case Study.


     13.   Primary Healthcare Provider Network

Client had been advised that their character based DOS system had reached the end of its life and should be replaced.

Assisted client to evaluate options, undertook a comprehensive evaluation of alternative systems on an international basis and established that the cost of creating the solution the business said it wanted was not justified. 

Then conceptualized and specified a solution to strengthen the existing system and reduce risk associated with the software developer.  This was carried out and the system lasted for eight years before it was finally unsuccessfully replaced with SAP R3 and subsequently by another system.  Developer was killed in a flying accident six months after commencement of the project but by that time the measures that I had prescribed to improve system maintenance robustness had reached such a level that the impact was limited.


     14.   Mining Contracting Company– Movex M3

Client was unsure whether Movex M3 system was suitable for their needs and was running without an IT Manager.

In less than a week established that Movex was suitable but needed reimplementation and assisted them to develop the job description of a new IT Manager.  Subsequently assisted with the interview, selection and induction process and with other aspects of carrying out my recommendations.  Advised on re-implementation but they eventually went with a process focused implementation and did NOT achieve the expected benefits.  Highly sub-optimal General Ledger implementation.


     15.   Public Water Supply Utility Company– JD Edwards

Client was dissatisfied with their existing JD Edwards ERP Solution coupled to Maximo Asset and Maintenance Management.

In three days established that at an operational level the systems were performing well but that there was a major communication and understanding disconnect between the new executive team and operational managers on both the business and system sides.

Established that there was no reason to replace any of the systems but that measures to improve communication and to orientate operational managers with regard to executive information requirements were necessary.  Proposed a plan of action.


     16.   Insurance Broking Group

Client was extremely dissatisfied with their existing custom developed software and was facing a breakdown in relationship with the developers as well as regular system failures.

In three days established that the software was well designed and built and that the developers were highly competent.  The technology failures were a consequence of the adamant refusal of the responsible business executive to spend money on new hardware even though the business had doubled in size in the time the hardware had been in use.

The breakdown in relationship was a consequence of extremely toxic behavior originating with the same executive that had almost totally alienated a loyal team of people.

The business executive had a Human Resource and Marketing background and no technical knowledge or experience with the result that he was inappropriately qualified to manage the Business Systems function and was operating out of assertive ignorance.  Recommended that the governance of the service provider and the IT function be moved to another executive, that a substantial new investment in hardware should be made urgently and that measures should be taken to restore the relationship with the service provider.


     17.   High End Leisure Products Retailer

Client was being serviced by a small software development company which had custom developed the software in use.  Client was concerned with regard to sustainability of the system and service provider and was considering replacing it.

In three days established that the developers were competent and the software was well developed and managed but that despite dramatic growth the client was paying extremely low fees with the result that the developer could not invest in the software or provide manpower redundancy or better documentation.  This was placing the client at serious risk.

Enabled the client to see that they should invest in the product and service provider and undertake a systematic program of action to safeguard the investment.  Assisted subsequently.


     18.   Large Scale Wine Producer

Client was experiencing difficulties with an industry specific package from Australia and wanted to know whether to replace it.

In two days established that the software was technically well suited but that there were issues with the financial viability and integrity of the local representative.  Subsequently facilitated a number of discussions with the Australian principles but the relationship had broken down to such a level that the client decided to replace the system anyway.


     19.   Stationary Products Manufacturer

Seemingly unexplainable errors in financials, stock figures and production figures had caused management to suspect that they were being defrauded by their Financial Manager.

In six hours established that the Financial Manager was honest and was doing her best but that unwise staff appointments, particularly in the warehouse, coupled to lack of training and poor system disciplines were resulting in unreliable data that the Financial Manager had taken upon herself to try and remediate instead of escalating to the owners of the business to take more fundamental measures.


     20.   Domestic Appliance Importer and Distributor

Client was operating an ERP and Warehouse Management and Fulfillment solution that was based on a product that was in use in a small number of organizations but which had been substantially modified by an in-house team in order to meet business requirements.  Client was concerned that the system was at end of life and should be replaced.

In three days established that the software was well maintained and that there were effective disciplines but that there was a major problem in terms of IT reporting to Finance that was forcing the Finance view on the rest of the business and cramping development and support to other parts of the business.  The IT Manager had particularly weak business communication skills.

Subsequently facilitated the re-positioning of IT under the Chief Operating Officer, repositioning of IT as Business Systems and provided coaching to the new Head of Business Systems in order to better equip him for his new role.


     21.   Newspaper

Client was choking with old and unreliable business systems and office automation hardware that was at end of life and also questioning diverse aspects of its technology portfolio and not sure what direction to take.

In two days advised client to replace hardware on a large scale and to go to the market to replace the existing support service provider with a larger service provider with a more strategic view and capability.

Subsequently provided advisory services with regard to implementation of these recommendations.


     22.   Government Competitions Agency

Client was looking to raise the bar in terms of their Business Systems capability.

In two days identified the way forward.  Subsequently drew up a job description for an IT Manager and assisted in his appointment.  Also developed a Strategic Requirements Definition and tender documents for procurement of a new system, facilitated the procurement and advised during the implementation.  Managed to hold the service provider to a fixed fee and fixed business outcome even though the Service Provider ended up expending about three times the budgeted time at no extra cost to the client.


     23.   Major Bank – Oracle

Client was busy with implementation of Oracle suite.  Completely separate teams for Finance, Human Resources and Procurement.  No congruent integrated view of the information and lack of structure and logic within major classification schemes.


     24.   Fleet Contracting Company

Client was concerned that existing AS400 based green screen software application was obsolete.

In three days established that the system was robust and sustainable and represented a very substantial investment in leading thinking key staff members.  Enabled management to take a quality decision to remain with the system and invest in it.


     25.   Petroleum Distribution Company

Client was a start-up company and needed to purchase an ERP for their wholesale fuel sales and distribution business.

In three days headlined the requirement and provided role clarity of governance of the Business Systems function.  Client subsequently purchased SAP R3.


     26.   Dairy Products Manufacturer and Distributor -- BPCS

Client was dissatisfied with its BPCS ERP system including Warehousing and fulfillment and also with its IT Department.

In three days established that the system was basically well implemented and operated but that the IT Manager was extremely technology focused and was failing to communicate effectively with the business.  Recommended re-positioning the IT Function as a Business Systems Function and moving it from under finance to report directly to the Chief Executive.

Subsequently assisted in drafting a job description for Head of Business Systems and in interviewing and inducting a new appointment from the team of external consultants that was advising the business as Head of Business Systems.


     27.   Armaments Design and Manufacturing Corporation

Appointed to develop an Information Technology strategic plan and assisted the client to see that the Business actually required a strategic plan that was business aligned.  Facilitated the development of this plan.

There are other examples.

Pulse Measurements have almost universally resulted in a shift in client understanding at the Executive or Senior Management level and in new action that would not have occurred otherwise.

There are a number of client and other recommendations with regard to my services and approach on my LinkedIn profile at www.uk.linkedin.com/in/drjamesarobertsonerpdoctor

Should you require further information please do not hesitate to contact me.

Critical questions regarding my methods

I am continuing to see that virtually no-one is “getting” the value of what I am talking about.

I see a picture of something that is so valuable few people can grasp that it is possible

Following is a stab at some questions that you may want me to answer:

1. Is it REALLY different?
Why is the James A Robertson and Associates Strategic Engineered Precision Configuration approach based on Precision Taxonomies REALLY different?

Answer: Because it comes from a TOTALLY different point of departure – first principles engineering coupled with zoology, research, analysis of complex data, economics, software design and development, military combat planning training and administrative training, leadership, psychology, ore body modeling, mine design, etc – all mixed together without any formal exposure to the methods used by all the major players who have all cross pollinated one another with a particular paradigm that they are unable to see out of and which is producing shocking results http://www.BusinessInsider.com/IBM-rips-into-Bridgestone-over-600-million-lawsuit-2013-11

2. Who do you think you are James?
What on earth makes you (James) think that one man can have developed an approach that he claims is so much better and yet no one else appears to understand it or see the need for it?

Answer: Somebody who has only recently realized that what I do is substantially different and better to what everyone else is doing – I really only started to realize this was so much different and better about 2008 and it is only since 2011 that I have really come to start attempting to fully understand what I do and how I do it and how it creates value – so I have hardly marketed this at all

3. What about all the major players?
Surely all the massive firms out there are capable of figuring this out? – there must be something that James is missing!

Answer: They are virtually all locked into a paradigm that blocks them from understanding what I am saying – they cannot imagine that there is a significantly better way of implementing all the big brand ERP systems – it would be a massive admission of failure and most of them are not yet ready to admit that most of their implementations are failures – largely because they do not have this benchmark to compare against – nearly everybody is scared to hold up their ERP implementation against the promises that were made by the salesmen because nearly everyone knows they have fallen horribly short

4. What do you as an engineer know about these things?
What does an engineer understand about economics or accounting or about ERP and Business Systems generally – that is the preserve of accountants, computer science and MBA people?

Answer: As a consequence of a diversity of factors that saw me exposed to all the things mentioned above (first principles engineering coupled with zoology, research, analysis of complex data, economics, software design and development, military combat planning training and administrative training, leadership, psychology, ore body modeling, mine design, etc – all mixed together without any formal exposure to the methods used by all the major players) and saw me kept away from the traditional approaches used by the major players I have stumbled upon this approach over the last thirty years and finally am pulling it together today (2012)

Also, IF you are religious, I prayed to the Almighty for wisdom and understanding every day from the age of 12 to the age of 40 which is when I started doing this stuff and still pray that way today

5. Why does this not sell?
If this is so valuable why is it not selling like hot-cakes?  Why is almost no one buying it?  Why is James not a billionaire?

Answer: Because I only realized it was unusual a few years ago and only really started to try and sell it recently and I have been discovering that things that seem obvious to me are not obvious to anyone else and I have been doing projects and making mistakes and analyzing and learning lessons and writing.  I have also developed specialist software tools for General Ledger Chart of Accounts design and construction

6. Software?
What is this about software?  How can you need software to configure a ERP or other Business System and to manage that configuration?

Answer: The whole approach uses a gamut of standards and conventions that I first developed in 1990 and which have been refined and polished in the ensuing years – these standards of taxonomy and code design require levels of consistency and precision that can only be reliably built and maintained by using software and they lend themselves to the use of software to build more precise and powerful information models in the hierarchies and code schemes

7. So you are saying that the mainstream ERP and Business System products are not differentiated?
So, you are actually saying there is virtually nothing to differentiate ERP’s and so the reason that “19 out of 20 ERP Implementations are NOT delivering what was promised” is because 19 out of 20 ERP implementations are configured in a manner that is completely wrong?

Answer: Yes, I am – I have been exposed to a wide diversity of sub-optimal to highly sub-optimal ERP implementations measured against my benchmark and when viewed through my lens all these products are similarly badly implemented – the fundamentals of how human beings interact with each other and with products and the world around them are all at a fundamental first principles level the same so the big brand ERP’s are generally not highly differentiated in terms of what really matters – using my techniques I can understand how to configure any ERP within a few days because I understand the fundamentals and can therefore extrapolate from my past experience to new software products

8. A NEW WAVE???
So you are saying this is a TOTALLY NEW wave of business information management?

Answer: Well …

                         if you put it that way …

                                  YES, I AM :)

What I am advocating measures about 1,000 on a scale of 0 to 10 applied to other ways of implementing ERP – I am saying that what is delivered using my methods is at least 100 x better than traditional methods when measured on the basis of executive strategic effectiveness and efficiency and on the basis of operational effectiveness and efficiency and I am probably under estimating that ratio, the value could well be exponentially greater but at this stage I cannot prove it

It is a very different way of doing ERP and other Business Systems which offers very substantial benefits to those who are prepared to make the substantial investment that is required to do it this way (but long term it costs much less and generates much more value)

I hope my answers to these questions have helped you to better understand what I am saying

What does a HIGH VALUE Business Information System Solution look like

I find that most people are so accustomed to the mediocre operationally mundane and strategically inept Business Information Systems implementations that dominate the business landscape that there is little or NO vision of what is really possible.

I discovered some years ago that even the mainstream big brand software companies and implementers did NOT understand many of the principles that I regard as fundamental and NON-negotiable and regarded configurations that I regarded as extremely poor as acceptable and the norm and even used terms like “best-practice” with regard to some of this configuration.

I eventually concluded that the distribution of value looked as follows and that the industry norm, which I have seen repeatedly during my Pulse Measurement investigations, was at the bottom left of the curve below and that which I considered as desirable was at the top right of the curve:

I continue to find that clients have NO vision of what the top right of the curve looks like let alone a vision of how they might attain such an outcome.

This article sets out what I consider to be essential deliverables for a business systems project.  I hesitate to use the term “high value” because, in my view what I advocate here should be the NORM!

Following are the attributes that I regard as necessary:

1.  High level of ownership throughout the organization

Executives, managers and staff have a high level of ownership of the system, understand exactly how it works and have a HIGH level of independence from implementer support with associated operating costs savings.


2. Wealth of information available

Executives and managers have access to a wealth of information, literally at their fingertips – orders of magnitude more diversity and accuracy than ever before -- coupled to a huge diversity of powerful and effective reports and models with dynamic and immediate drill down to full detail.


3. Significant business efficiencies achieved

Diverse business efficiencies have been achieved including headcount reduction of administrative staff up to and including middle management level.  OR greatly increased organizational size with the same headcount.  Audit time and cost have been materially reduced.


4. Corporate awareness of data quality

All personnel are highly sensitized to the importance of neat, accurate and complete data with the result that the data is entirely reliable and trustworthy.  This leads to further efficiencies – including that the organization runs more smoothly.


5. Corporate leanness and efficiency attained

All the above lead to overall corporate leanness and efficiency such that the same white collar staff complement can manage a substantially larger organization highly effectively thus enabling substantial cost effective organic growth.


6. Better management decisions being taken faster resulting in increased growth and profitability

Greatly improved management effectiveness through greatly improved information immediately available.  This is coupled to MUCH great information diversity resulting in better decisions made faster at all levels.  This gives rise to dramatically improved competitiveness enabling accelerated growth both organically and through acquisitions.


These benefits are the consequence of applying ALL the principles and techniques that I advocate -- as presented on this website.

I look forward to discussing how I can assist you to attain this level of business outcome.


Download What does a HIGH VALUE Business Information System Solution look like -- White Paper in Adobe pdf format


Author and Thought Leader

Dr Robertson writes regularly on topics related to the subjects above and has written many challenging and thought provoking articles that stimulate new ways of thinking about established problems that are not currently being solved effectively

Please visit the Articles page for a list of articles

He is the author of "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which provides an in-depth analysis of the Factors that cause IT failure and the Factors for Success

Factors discussed in the book and on the courses include:

The Factors Causing Failure


The Critical Factors for Business System Investment Success

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

Why adopt the JAR&A approach to precision configuration

What are the main reasons you should consider using the JAR&A approach to precision configuration?

1. Substantial increase in decision support information
Exponential increase in decision support information from the simplest operational information to the most complex multifaceted executive level strategic analysis using the most sophisticated analytical techniques available.  Such sophisticated analysis is only possible with configuration’s developed using these methods.

2. Substantial operational efficiencies
Significant operational efficiencies at every level of the business – do more with less.

3. Significant system operational improvements
Significantly improved Business System effectiveness and efficiency including ERP, Business Intelligence and other operational sytems

4. Reduced system operating costs
Materially reduced system operating costs.

5. Strategic efficiencies
Noteworthy strategic efficiencies at every level of the business – think more clearly, ask more critical questions, get more reliable and effective answers to more diverse questions.

6. Leaner and more competitive organization
A leaner and more competitive organization at every level.

7. See the business differently and better
A different and better way of looking at the business.

CRM Risk Control Case Study -- Example of Dramatic Benefits Resulting from Attribute Taxonomies

The CRM Risk Control Case Study is a classic example of how massive benefits were achieved through a simple piece of software that made maximum use of taxonomies resulting in reduction of budgeted clerks from 12 to 4, massive increases in management information and capture of 90% of available data, far greater than expected Integrated Risk Management System.pdf

This sort of significant benefit is NOT always achieved but it is an indication of what can be achieved using the techniques that we advocate

083 - Strategic Analysis and Design -- An Engineering Approach to Strategic Planning

A rigorous (engineering approach) to strategic planning using critical issues based analysis techniques and structured gap analysis techniques to develop a comprehensive and rigorous multi-year plan that is measurable and actionable and traceable back to the original analysis in order to produced high value outcomes, requires effective strategic facilitation

Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

Cnf 064 Engaging the Board in Strategic Information Technology Decisions

The Governance of Information Technology is fraught with difficulties and presents real challenges to the Board of Directors and particularly non-executive Directors to determine whether the organization is running this element prudently and effectively, this presentation discusses a number of factors to be taken into account in managing the technology
Cnf 085 Precision configuration -- Information Technologies' orphan child

The single biggest "hard" factor in the under performance of business information systems relates to what I call "sloppy configuration", this presentation outlines a concept that I call "precision configuration" and explains how it can make a huge difference to business information system value delivery

Business Process – irrelevant, distracting and dangerous

Wikipedia statesBusiness process management (BPM) is a management discipline that focuses on improving corporate performance by managing and optimising a company's business processes”.

“Business Process” is arguably THE buzz word of the Business Information Systems world today.  Every major ERP product provides comprehensive support for Business Process including comprehensive workflow management and related capabilities.

However, this focus on Business Process, the vogue for at least the last ten years is associated with rocketing system implementation costs and escalating levels of project catastrophe and write off, see my Failure Catalogue.  Yet it seems that the industry does NOT stop to examine the correlation, let alone draw the uncomfortable conclusion that that consideration of this correlation calls for.

That Business Process, is, for the most part irrelevant, distracting and DANGEROUS!

Why should they?

BPM is a license to print money!

Bridgestone versus IBM

An example – Bridgetone Tires are currently engaged in litigation against IBM for damages resulting from a botched integrated business systems supply, development and implementation based on SAP technology.  See "IBM Rips Into Bridgestone Over $600 Million Lawsuit"

The name of the project? OTC – “Order to Cash” – a classic example of the meaningless gobbledygook that BPM proponents use to describe process orientated project activities.  Once one understands the implications the very use of the name “Order to Cash” is a pointer to a project with massive time overruns and high probability of damaging business outcomes – exactly what happened at Bridgestone.

In 2009, with a number of highly successful implementations under my belt – see the ASCO and V3 Case Studies, as evidenced by joint conference presentations with clients, the highest form of testimonial possible, I found myself confronted by a client who claimed that I did NOT know what I was doing because I did NOT “DO” business process.

They advised me that they would need to replace me with a consultant “who understands ERP”, which translated meant “a consultant who does business process”.  I did NOT know how to respond,  YES, I did NOT do Business Process, I never had and it had never been an issue.  Eventually, humiliated, I walked away and started to investigate and consider business process and BPM generally.

In the years that followed I have investigated and diagnosed (see “Pulse Measurement”) a number of disastrous Business Process centric ERP and other business systems projects with massive time and cost overruns, stalled projects, damaged client business being the regular experience.  In that time I have NOT encountered a single high value outcome or, for that matter, a single outcome that has met client expectations.  Some mediocrity? YES!  Success by my standards? -- see my article “What does a HIGH VALUE Business Information System Solution look like”? – NO, most certainly not!

Outcome of a successful business information systems project

Let me define success for an ERP or other business systems project in my terms:

1.  It goes in flawlessly without drama and works effectively immediately;

2.  It enables the business to run more smoothly and efficiently than it did before;

3. It strongly supports competitive strategic decision making and effectiveness such that three years on the client company is measurably more competitive and more profitable and is growing significantly faster than it was BEFORE the new system.

In other words, a quick call OFF the record, to the CEO results in a strong expression of satisfaction and perhaps some superlatives.

Why off the record?

Because many executives and managers LIE on the record and claim that their system is just fine because they do NOT want the shareholders to know what a mess it is and how much money they have wasted for little or no return.  I know of one multi-national with a SAP implementation on which they have spent over £50 million that is so useless that almost nothing is being done in it and yet executives have been led to believe it is working fine despite the army of contractors and staff who keep things running outside of SAP.

BPM over rated and overstated

Two years ago I presented a paper titled “BPM over rated and overstated” at the BPM Summit 2013 in which I criticised BPM severely – NO ONE objected and a few people agreed – an interesting experience.

In the ensuing two years I have seen further failures, including studying the Court papers of the Bridgestone – IBM case.  And I have finally concluded that in the context of business system, BPM, processing mapping and process language are irrelevant, distracting and dangerous!


Irrelevant because most parts of most organizations do NOT follow any relevant or meaningful workflow (the accurate meaning of process).  We have functional units that perform tasks to agreed standards, policies and in some cases procedures but generally NOT in terms of any discernible “flow”.

There ARE cases where workflow IS important and in those cases it should be optimized (or dictated by senior management), but most of the time we rely  on the intuitive initiative of well trained and responsible personnel to perform tasks in response to whatever circumstances life throws at them from minute to minute.

To perform these tasks staff work on computer screens that are logically organized with packages of related information and collated with menus or desktop icons that allow the staff member to gain quick access to whatever function they need to make use of in the moment.

An example – Workflow solution where flow charting was a waste of time

Some time ago I was involved in a project to implement a workflow management solution.

The consultants commenced by drawing flow charts and doing business process stuff – seemed reasonable at the time, after all we WERE implementing a workflow solution and I assumed they knew what they were doing!

However, once it got down to actually configuring the workflow software the fancy drawings that had taken months to perfect had to be all but totally discarded and the work redone because the REAL workflow was MUCH more complex, varied and finicky than the two dimensional diagrams could cope with.  The much more flexible and powerful workflow software was able to cope with this complexity, the text book process techniques not.

A powerful lesson that conventional workflow diagramming techniques with flow charts, etc as typically used are NOT sufficiently precise or accurate to in actual fact do anything but produce conceptual sketches of ROUGHLY how things work round here!  EVEN in the case of a process project!

From my engineering perspective, a total waste of time – a conclusion supported by a number of  failed and sub-optimal projects I have investigated.

Hence I conclude that traditional business process mapping in whatever shape or form it takes is IRRELEVANT!


Distracting because management consultants spends days and days in intense workshops producing diagrams that are difficult to understand because they are so abstract and inexact and try and capture real time “Process” that is  multidimensional rule based, complex, variable, discretionary and varies from person to person, situation to situation and day to day.

Flow Charts, Swim-lanes, Maps, etc – you name it the industry offers it – problem is that much of the time the consultant does NOT really understand the technique and is so caught up in their creative frenzy and drawings that they totally lose sight of the REAL  goals of the project!

And, because they are so busy drawing, be it on a white board, brown paper or computer screen, they waste huge amounts of client staff time AND miss the vast majority of the REAL information that they should be harvesting – see my article “Effective Discovery is Essential” for an approach that actually works.

The most extreme case I have ever come investigated was an ERP implementation which, after 2 years and over a million pounds had produced numerous large files of meticulous flow charts, swim-lanes, etc plus a number of tearful and frustrated client staff who had been marginalized because of their long hours of dedicated work away from the workplace such that their permanent positions had been filled by others.  The project had one of the most toxic project environments I have ever encountered.  People in tears, others refusing to speak to me except off the record.

The implementer blaming the client but inaccurately describing the client’s actual requirement!

The client intensely frustrated that their reasonably simple requirement for a small piece of clever web-based software was NO closer to being met than when the implementers were appointed.  The BRUTAL truth was that NOTHING that had been done in any way moved the client an inch closer to meeting their requirement.

The implementer? – the IT arm of one of the Big 4 Accounting firms – trusted advisors whose incompetence and indifference was breath-taking!

Hence I conclude that the entire business process activity on this project had totally DISTRACTED all involved from the REAL objective of the project and wasted huge amounts of time and money and seriously jeopardized honest and hardworking personnel!

Were the consultants incompetent and process obsessed or greedy and using process to milk the client?  That is a conversation for another day!


The above example massively compromised needed client competitiveness, cost the client major expenditure and removed the best personnel from the workplace for a large portion of two years.  They never went live so their losses were contained.

The Bridgestone example evidences what happens when a system designed on the basis of Business Process goes live, see the reference in the Failure Catalogue.  Tires stacked in the parking lots, a huge warehouse rented to store stock.  Orders unfulfilled frustrated customers going elsewhere for desperately needed supplies and, it is the nature of things that once you lose a customer that way they virtually NEVER come back – so long term sustained loss of revenue and damage to profitability and competitiveness.  See the Failure Catalogue for further indication of the things that are happening.

Business process is NOT the only culprit, it is but ONE component of consistently ineffective and unreliable methods and incompetent practitioners associated with a massive lack of accountability and questionable ethics.

There is a huge need for statutory regulation of the industry and licensing of practitioners.


Having hesitated to stick my neck out for over ten years I have concluded that to all intents and purposes business process related activities on business information system projects, an area in which I believe I can justly claim some expertise, is irrelevant, distracting and dangerous and should be avoided.

My next article, “What to do INSTEAD of Business Process” discusses the approach that I advocate to achieving high value practical system outcomes.

Should you be battling with a business process orientated project and needing to understand where you are and how the project can be turned around please email me or call me to discuss how I can be of assistance.

Dr James A Robertson PrEng

Download Business Process – irrelevant, distracting and dangerous -- White Paper in Adobe pdf format

The Alternative to Business Process – the RIGHT Approach

In my previous article, “Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous” I explained why the explosion in Business Information System and ERP implementation costs coupled to an explosion in high profile and very expensive failures is directly associated with what I term “Process Obsession”, perhaps THE greatest ill in the business information systems arena today.

In this article I would like to present what I think the REALLY important issues are in designing, developing, customizing, configuring and commissioning integrated business information systems including ERP’s.  This approach is directed at exceptional high value solutions that greatly enhance corporate competitiveness, efficiency and effectiveness and produce tangible value.

This approach comprises:

1.  Strategic discovery

Formal strategic discovery – get on the ground and study EXACTLY how the business operates – take lots of notes, ask lots of questions and constantly look for opportunities to improve.

Start with the CEO, then the rest of the executive team – this requires a lead consultant with deep business understanding AND deep business systems solution understanding who can ask the right questions and extract the right information and interpret it and add value it effectively.

Discover the strategic essence of the business – why it exists and how it thrives.

Then go away and document your findings in a formal structured written report which MAY include a few diagrams – flow charts are OUT unless there REALLY is a workflow of significance and even then a structured description will get the job done faster and better most of the time and be more easily understood.  The typically used diagramming techniques are FAR too superficial to capture the REAL complexity of the business.

2.  Logical and functional business entities

Precisely identify the logical and functional entities that make up the business – produce a structured list of high level functions that accurately reflects the current and future view of how the business is to be run.  I am talking of logical entities like Factory, Assembly, Accounts Payable, etc – things that the client personnel are familiar with, the way real organization REALLY operates.

3.  Data entities

Identify ALL major data entities (products, vehicles, creditors, etc) that must be modelled and supported and ensure that you have best fit software that caters for each component – in developing a fully integrated solution this may require several different software products.

Draw an entity-relationship model of the entire operation and get the challenging modelling issues resolved – needs an expert in this technique plus an expert facilitator.

4.  ALL possible classifications

Identify ALL possible classifications on ALL data entities that the business requires in order to comprehensively classify ALL logical entities as the business understand them towards being able to answer the questions we have NOT previously thought to ask”.

This means every possible validation list in every possible place so that as much intelligence about the business is captured.  See the section on “Strategically Enriching your Business Information System” for detailed information.

Always start with a BLANK sheet of paper and an executive or executives to define the way they REALLY want things to be – see the article on “The Power of an Executive with a Blank Sheet of Paper” (or spreadsheet).

5. Master Data classifications – Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies

Populate all the Master Data main classification lists – Product Class / Product Group / Item Class, Chart of Accounts, Employee Class, etc with highly structured Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies (SEPT) that accurately reflect the executive strategic view of the business.

Again, start with an executive and a blank spreadsheet.

6.  Clever software

Identify areas where there are opportunities to add pieces of clever custom software that enhance and strengthen the strategic essence of the business building on the highly structured classification data.  Specify and develop these pieces of software and, where appropriate, purchase suitable pieces of complimentary software or add-on modules that you can get to do clever things because of the clever data, see the ASCO Case Study “Doing things Differently and Better”.

7.  Strategic custom development

Undertake whatever major custom development is necessary to fit the solution to the business such that ALL strategic divers are full supported and that a highly aligned, fully integrated, precision solution is delivered.

8.  Business simulation laboratory

Assemble all of this in a Business Simulation Laboratory operated to Engineering standards of rigour and test the software and configuration to destruction until it is NO longer possible to break it.

Then only SPECIFY (dictate) the workflow (process) from the executive and senior management level and optimized it.

Develop reports and models, develop training materials and train ALL staff until they are fully competent and conversant with the software.  Do NOT release the system for live operation until all the above have been rigorously and exhaustively completed and a formal “Go-Live Certificate” has been issued.

9.  Deploy a robust solution that delivers REAL value

Finally execute a comprehensively planned and carefully managed deployment in an environment in which ALL staff are fully trained before deployment and rigorous controls are in place to ensure that the system goes in smoothly.


Please note that this is NOT in addition to Business Process, it is INSTEAD of Business Process.

The items listed above require the SAME people in the SAME room for similar amounts of time but with different facilitators and asking different questions about the same components of the business as for Business Process mapping, etc.  It is impractical for the business to make these people available for both the method described above AND business process stuff and staff become frustrated when forced to participate in both of these so it is necessary to CHOOSE – one or the other!

And, as I said in the article on business process, business process is irrelevant, distracting and dangerous.

I STRONGLY recommend that whether you are a business embarking on a business systems project or remediation or enhancement of an existing systems, OR a consultant who truly aims to deliver a high value outcome, that you engage with ALL the material on this site relating to the Configuration section and the ERP Success sections in particular.

Download The Alternative to Business Process – the RIGHT Approach -- White Paper in Adobe pdf format

Courses, Executive Briefings and On-Line Seminars


We offer a number of courses and Executive Briefings relating to our core disciplines, these include:

Executive Briefing -- Why your Business System is not delivering and how to fix it -- a concise summing up of the factors giving rise to Business System failure and under-performance and overview of the measures required to rectify the situation -- understand why your Business Systems are not delivering in simple layman's language, think radically differently and better about your systems

Executive Briefing -- Business Systems in Strategic and Competitive Management -- a concise briefing for Executives and Senior Managers geared at equipping them to better understand IT, ERP and Business Systems generally so that they can manage more effectively -- strip away the myths and learn that you do know how to manage IT

Two day course -- The Critical Factors for IT investment Success -- the basis of James's book -- how to manage and direct Information Technology, including ERP productively and effectively -- equip IT Management to better understand the Business and understand Critical Factors required to manage IT, ERP and Business Systems in a much more effective Business-Centric way

Masterclass -- Tough Engineered ERP Procurement -- how to go about undertaking a comprehensive and robust Business Information Systems procurement with tough contractual terms and robust business outcome orientated specification leading to an allowable cost Bill of Services based enforceable fixed price contract -- radically raise your game in terms of ERP and other IT and Business Soft Issue procurement

Masterclass -- The General Ledger as Financial Control Centre -- little known principles relating to the strategic design of Financial Charts of Accounts and the effective integration of financial information across the entire enterprise Business Information System -- radically change your view of the Chart of Accounts

Masterclass -- 10 ways to add strategic value to your Business Systems today -- drill down to the simple things that are almost always overlooked in Business System implementations and learn what you can do immediately to start easing the pain in just about any Business System -- simple steps to raise the game and ease the pain 

These events are run publicly from time to time and can also be run in-house either on a standard basis or tailored to your exact requirements

Public Speaking

Dr Robertson regularly speaks at Public Conferences and has spoken at over 90 during his career, he specializes in challenging presentations tailored to the theme of the conference

See Dr Robertson in action below

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

Executive Custody by the CEO of the ERP and other integrated business information systems is the single biggest organizational measure in order to achieve strategic value from an ERP

An ERP or other integrated business information system correctly implemented provides an integrated source of integrated information across the ENTIRE enterprise

Since the CEO is the custodian of the integrated view of the enterprise it follows that ONLY the CEO can be the custodian of the integrated business information systems

Download Executive Custody -- What IS it and how do you get it? -- Presentation in Power Point pptx format

Download Executive Custody -- What IS it and how do you get it? -- Slides in Adobe pdf format

Organizing Microsoft Outlook -- many executives are swamped with poorly organized email inboxes

Do you use Microsoft Outlook as your email software?

Do you receive dozens or even hundreds of emails every day?

-- relating to diverse topics, some customer related, some supplier related, some personal, some professional, etc?

-- plus a diversity of marketing emails, some of interest and others clearly junk?

Are you in a position where you need to keep some or many or most of these emails for reference and want them neatly stored away where you can quickly and easily find them?

-- often for contractual and legal reasons?

Would you like to locate emails almost instantly and effortlessly?

Do you have thousands or even tens of thousands of emails in your Outlook Inbox folder?

Are your IT staff constantly nagging you to delete emails because you are "taking up too much space"?

Is your "Outlook pst" data file "too large" and you have been warned of dire consequences if you do not delete emails?

Do you regularly have to sort your inbox on sender email address or scour your inbox in other ways to find a particular email?

Would you like this to be much easier and faster?

Do you manually maintain folders of correspondence relating to different topics with drag and drop and frequently forget to move emails?

-- or accidentally drop them in an adjacent folder only to be lost forever barring a frustrating and time consuming search?

Do you communicate with a whole spectrum of people on a particular topic or project and struggle to pull together all related correspondence?

Do you frequently want to locate your replies to particular correspondence or locate emails that you originated and have to dig through your "Sent Items" folder?

Have you previously "lost" important emails because you could not locate them even though you were sure they were there?

Have you ever been in a situation where your organization has been legally prejudiced because you could not locate a critical email?

-- from five years ago or longer?

Would you like to have a structured store of emails on your hard drive -- outside of Outlook?

Would you like to be able to locate emails, even from years ago, rapidly and with almost no effort -- on a consistent basis?

Would you like to send targeted mailings to selected groups of people based on the nature of their relationship with you or some specific service criterion?

Do you feel that you waste hours on Outlook every month because it is so clumsy and inefficient and you do NOT know what to do about it?

If you answered "YES" to some or all of the above questions then this video "Organizing Outlook" is for you

Please note that the above problems are largely solved using simple techniques that you will are taught in this video NOT with costly software -- in some cases low cost software will be demonstrated

Download Organizing Outlook in Power Point pptx format

Download Organizing Outlook in Adobe pdf format

Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- Introduces his Approach

Why engage with Dr James Robertson PrEng?

What are the main elements of why you might engage with Dr James Robertson, the ERP Doctor?

1. 27 years of ERP experience
27 years of ERP implementation and analysis experience and 32 years’ experience of applying information technology in business, with dramatic positive results

2. 25 years understanding “the engineering approach” to ERP and IT
Started explicitly systematically seeking to define and understand “the engineering approach” to ERP and IT solution development in 1989 – “if you ask an engineer to design a bridge you get the bridge you asked for and it stands up

Spoken at over 90 conferences, run dozens of diagnostic Pulse Measurements, documented methods, written a book, presents courses and provides advisory services on how to successfully implement Business Systems by designing against failure

3. Extremely diverse knowledge and experience
Very rich and diverse knowledge and experience including engineering, economics, software design and construction, military command and leadership, accounting, strategy, communications, speaking, management consulting, cataloguing, etc – synthesized into a  holistic view of what is required to prevent failure and achieve successful outcomes

4. Extremely diverse consulting experience
Consulting to the full spectrum of business operations from perfume brand management and distribution to correctional services, mining and construction to financial services, etc coupled to exposure to many of the mainstream ERP products and many on the fringe including in-house custom solutions

5. Highly focused critical issues approach
Intense Pareto (20:80) approach to problem solving, “critical issues” strategic analysis and design technique, focus on “the real issues”, “the essence of why an organization exists and how it thrives”, central to all he does, cut to the chase and accurately diagnose the root cause of problems and how to fix them with diagnostic Pulse Measurement investigations

6. 3 plus decades of experience advising at the executive level
Robust, mature understanding of the fundamentals of business, comfortable in the executive suite engaging in executive level conversations – understand your business quickly and accurately and then act as a translator between executives and IT and Business System professionals and techno geeks

7. Broad cognitive span, excellent listening skills, exceptional creative ability – high value solution concepts
Extremely strong critical thinking and analytical skills, ask the right questions and listen attentively, techniques to ensure a high level of recall coupled to exceptional creative ability leads to high value solution concepts developed quickly and efficiently.  Highly developed abstract thinking skills enable to rapidly understand the business and technology and formulate solutions

8. 50 plus years designing and building things that work
Over fifty years designing and building things since childhood leads to a robust, practical approach to conceptualizing and building solutions that work – a hands-on engineer

9. Polished communication and leadership skills
Highly developed communication and leadership skills coupled to a solid understanding of psychology enables James to serve as a change agent and change leader whether in a one hour consultation, an executive briefing or leading a long term ERP implementation

10. Highly results orientated operational style
Highly results orientated, fast work pace – moves fast and motivates others to move fast – get things done

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

What is this thing we call strategy?

How do we determine it?

How do we measure it?

How do we analyze it?

How do we translate the above into measurable and actionable plans that produce tangible results?

How do we implement these plans effectively?


This video answers these questions and demonstrates a practical planning method

In 1990 I wrote a paper on the importance of aligning IT and ERP with business strategy -- and THEN I found that I could NOT define strategy concisely

I also found that there were no robust and reliable methods of undertaking strategic analysis and design (also known as Strategic Planning)

So, I set out on two parallel journeys, one to discover a concise and reliable definition of strategy and the other to develop a robust and reliable method of developing measurable and actionable strategic plans

In the process I studied the work of a number of international experts in some detail and finally distilled what I consider to be the essential definition of strategy. I also developed a planning method that met my stringent requirements

This Webinar shares those findings -- I will headline my journey and explain how my definition enables strategists and executives to more concisely and more accurately define this thing called "strategy"

I will also walk you through the headlines of the process and demonstrate the tool.

If you are wondering how to improve your strategic analysis and design methods or simply to better understand the essence of strategy this video is a MUST

It discusses:

What IS strategy really?

Strategy defined in one sentence that everyone understands

How to define the strategic environment?

How to measure strategic performance

Driving strategic performance through to measurable and actionable plans

Driving strategic performance through to Key Performance Indicators


Download Strategy -- What is it and HOW do you develop actionable plans? -- Presentation in Power Point pptx format


Download Strategy -- What is it and HOW do you develop actionable plans? -- Slides in Adobe pdf format

Integrated Business Information Systems -- IBIS

For more than a decade the label applied to Business Systems is "ERP"

"ERP" stands for "Enterprise Resource Planning"

Many organizations do NOT do Resource Planning or, if they do, they do not do it within a module of the ERP

Frankly, most of the time ERP is a fancy name for "Financial Suite"

Where the ERP IS more than the Financial Suite it is often a kludged (bad force fit) extension

The fact is that in terms of business solutions the Financial Suite and therefore in most cases the ERP is not the place to start

The first thing is to identify the core or essence (strategy) of the business and then craft the requirement around this

With this approach one will generally arrive at a requirement that will be filled by an industry niche specialty product and vendor and will then tack on whichever ERP (Accounting System) is most conveniently suited to the situation

This approach will almost universally result in a solution that is a combination of software systems from different vendors assembled to craft a tailored (Engineered) solution to the exact needs of the business

While many ERP aficionados will claim that this cannot work Dr Robertson's experience is that this is frequently the only way to achieve a high value sustainable solution -- subject to a single prime contractor and tough contractual terms as are inherent in our procurement and contracting approach

With this understanding it is also immediately apparent that all in-house software development by the Finance Department -- in Excel Spreadsheets -- must also be brought under proper Systems Engineering control  

It is also fundamentally so that in this day and age a Data Warehouse and associated "Business Intelligence" solution should be mandatory -- assuming of course that the data is of such a standard that there is actually support for "Intelligence"

This points to the need for our Precision Configuration services to create exceptional value in the data thereby opening the door for sophisticated and powerful strategic analysis (thrive analysis) in the "Business Intelligence" environment

The Real Issues in Business Information Systems: Introduction

Business Insider reports "IBM Rips Into Bridgestone Over $600 Million Lawsuit"

Frank Buytendijk, vice president of research at Gartner Inc, at the firm's Business Intelligence Summit in London said "most organizations are not making better decisions now than they did five years ago."

Some months ago Bloomberg Personal Finance and many other websites reported "BMW Owners Vent Anger at Months-Long Wait for Spare Parts" relating to a SAP Warehouse implementation in which IBM was also involved.

Mark McDonald of Gartner reports "McKinsey Report Highlights Failure of Large Projects: why it is better to be small, particularly in IT"

What is notable about the above reports is that they all originate from highly reputable international sources and relate to mainstream products implemented in leading global corporations, clearly something is not right!

The McKinsey report is interesting in that it recommends small projects as being safer, seemingly oblivious to the reality that the construction industry regularly successfully executes mega projects with little fuss and consistently reliable outcomes.

I live less than a mile from one of many constructions sites on the £16 billion Crossrail project in London that is building a new railway line end to end under London, billed as the largest construction project in Europe at present.  There is little fanfare but consistent reports of steady and reliable progress and no indication of the sort of problems experienced by Bridgestone and BMW.

No one is suggesting that Crossrail should be scaled down because big projects are difficult.

Crossrail also dwarfs the Bridgestone and BMW projects.

So what is going on?

On one hand engineers just get on and make things work, consistently, reliably, day in and day out and we take it for granted that our roads, railways, buildings, factories, etc will be built and will work.  Yes sometimes there are overruns but the level of failure that is at epidemic proportions in the Business Information Systems arena is entirely unthinkable.  If engineering structures failed the way Business Systems projects fail and under-perform we would all be living in wattle and daub structures in the country and riding horses in order to keep clear of the massive failure levels that characterize Business Systems projects.

What to do?

I am a Civil Engineer by training, schooled in the use of computers for engineering applications, coupled to formal qualifications at the Regimental Commander level in the Army Engineer Corps.  As a consequence of a series of unexpected events I found myself involved in running projects to design and implement Business Information Systems.  In the process I gained experience in economics and in general business management as well as working as a practicing Professional Engineer for a number of years.

As I gained more experience with business computer systems I concluded that the business information systems industry lacked engineering rigour and that there was an opportunity to "bring the disciplines of engineering to the business systems industry".

I have been on that journey since 1989 and, in the process have learned a huge amount about what works and what does not work.

Because I had the benefit of never being exposed to the methods and thinking of the business information systems industry, I developed my methods from a first principles engineering perspective built on the fundamentals of the application of computers in rigorous engineering practice and self-taught business computer software design and development methods.

The result has been that my methods are significantly different and my world view of business computer systems is also different and, since they are based on deeply ingrained engineering disciplines and practical experience, I hold them to be better as well.

In 1990, having started out in business for my own account I rapidly came to understand that many IT projects, as we called them then, were failing, in fact about 70% were never commissioned and only about 10% actually met expectations.  Statistics which the Bridgestone, BMW, McKinsey and many other examples suggest are unchanged or worse today.  I started to speak about these statistics at conferences and found myself called in to investigate failed and sub-optimal projects and at times, turn them around.  Accordingly I built up a considerable body of experience.

In 2003 I analyzed all this information and developed what I termed "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success", I developed a course and wrote a book which is available on my website

Since then I have continued to consult and present courses with regard to these principles.  I have also gained considerable hands-on practical experience in the application of these factors.

Recently I have refreshed the fundamental analysis.

This article is the first of a series of articles in which I plan to share the different facets of this approach and, I hope, afford you the opportunity to take a fresh and better look at the way you relate to business information systems.

Whether projects or your existing operations.

The Factors for Success comprise two elements, the factors that cause failure that must be managed out of the project and the factors for success that must be managed in.  Managing the factors causing failure is, I suggest for your consideration, one of the key differentiators in what is being discussed here.

In this article I will give the headlines and then in the series of articles which I plan for you to receive in the months ahead I will discuss these components in more detail and give guidelines on how to manage them in order to achieve high value outcomes.  Articles in other threads that I intend to publish will elaborate on some of these themes as, for example, the thread relating to Strategic Essence that I started publishing recently.


Succeed by Engineering against Failure

A fundamental principle of engineering is that engineers do not design for success, they design against failure.  In other words, " engineers do not design bridges to stand up, they design bridges not to fall down".

It is a fundamental principle that a well-designed system that does not fail will succeed yet success is achieved by preventing failure as consideration of any undergraduate engineering curriculum will show.  "Factor of safety" and "probability of failure" are concepts that student engineers learn in the first weeks of their education and spend the rest of their lives understanding how to apply.  This is one reason why IT people struggle to understand engineers.  IT people are prone to hyping up their projects with road shows and flashy presentations, engineers insist on focusing on what is not working and then making it work.

The result?

Engineering structures stand up while companies like Bridgestone launch $600 lawsuits against mega IT companies for failed and sub-optimal project outcomes.  In the process the IT industry focuses on getting better and better at doing the things that got them in the mess in the first place and no one seemingly steps back and questions whether they are getting the fundamentals wrong.

I will leave you to read on and form your own view of whether there is something being presented here that is different from what the business information systems industry practices.  It is my deep conviction that if you engage with these articles and look for what is different not what seems the same, you will find some useful principles that will help you to push your business systems to a higher level.

The percentages in the points that follow are indicative of the relative importance of these factors in my experience and are also roughly indicative of the relative frequency of these factors in causing sub-optimal and failed outcomes.  I plan to discuss each of these items in more detail in subsequent articles:


1. Mythology, hype and tradition -- 30%

This is a huge subject.  The business systems industry is rich in mythology, hype and tradition and light on delivery.  Perhaps the biggest myth is a seemingly deep conviction that the current ways of doing things, that have such a poor track record will, one day, if executed really well, turn around and produce different results.

What I term "process obsession" is perhaps the single biggest myth around.


2. Inappropriate or ineffective executive custody, governance and corporate policy -- 19%

The governance and policies of major business information systems projects is frequently flawed.  Projects which are directed at business outcomes are handed over to the Chief Information Officer to run when, in fact, the Chief Executive as the custodian of the integrated view of the business is frequently the only person with the mandate and the insight to give direction to the project.

The level and mandate of other key project members is also frequently defective.


3. Lack of effective strategic alignment and strategic solution architecture -- 16%

If you have not read my series of articles on "strategic essence" you might consider doing this now, the full article is available on my website

As the examples in that article demonstrate, clear understanding of the strategic essence of the enterprise and how to translate that into practical components of system configuration, software customization and overall commissioning and operation are vital to successful high value business information system investments.  In fact, without support for the strategic essence your massive high end business information system will be little more than a glorified clerical transaction processing system -- a major factor in why Gartner reports that organizations are not making better decisions.


4. Lack of Precision Configuration -- 14%

A major distinction between the average business information system and the average engineering design is that engineering systems are designed literally to the last nut and bolt.  Business systems are generally configured to inexact tolerances with limited or no strategic insight by mid-level personnel on both the implementer and client side who have no grasp of the fact that the precision of the configuration of a system can result in variations of at least a factor of 100 in level of value and performance delivered.  Process obsession is a factor that gets massively in the way of precision configuration much of the time.


5. Failure to address soft issues, business engagement and change impacts -- 12%

"Change management, we do that!" I hear many IT people cry losing sight of the fact that change management as traditionally applied is frequently a blunt instrument to force intelligent staff to do stupid things because the system is badly configured and badly commissioned.  True engagement with the business results in systems that are easy to use, require little training and work consistently and reliably.  Yes, there is a need to train, including training standard methods of working, policies, protocols, etc but I am really talking about system configurations that are harmonized with and flow with the enterprise.

I am also saying that putting in systems to cut head count instead of putting in systems to grow the business with the existing headcount is an intensely negative and massively destructive morale and loyalty destroying practice.


6. Lack of an Engineering Approach -- 6%

The only reason the Engineering Approach has such a low score is that the other aspects have greater impact and, that said, the rigour, discipline and design against failure of the engineering approach must permeate every element of the project.


7. Technology Issues -- sub-optimal or defective software, hardware, network, etc -- 3%

Technology is virtually never the problem today and when it appears to be the problem it is generally the consequence of the other factors that are discussed in this article that manifest in bad technology decisions, configuration or commissioning.



The Critical Factors for Success

Having managed failure out of the project we can now focus on success.

Incidentally, you should have a senior project team member who has as a key project responsibility, to manage against failure.  They should sit in project meetings and listen for the factors causing failure, trap them and manage them off the project.  They should also review all project documentation, ranging from the requirements definition through to eliminating the hype from the presentation to the Board.

The factors, weighted as above, are:


1. Effective Executive Custody -- 25%

The right organizational executive in charge of the project.  A strong single individual as client project leader.  An equally strong single individual on the implementer side as project leader.  A strategic advisor to the executive sponsor who is not caught up in any other aspect of the project and, above all, NO steering committee!

Simply put, if you boarded an aircraft and found a steering committee in the cockpit I suspect you would run to get off the plane!


2. Effective Strategic definition and alignment -- the Essence of the business -- 22%

The extension of the point on strategy above, work the strategic essence into the entire fabric of the project, the configuration, the customization, the testing, the commissioning and the operation of the system.  Do not allow any person who does not demonstrate a deep and empathetic understanding of the strategic essence to give overall direction to any aspect of the project.  Capture the strategic essence in every validation list, every classification table, the Chart of Accounts

Enable the system to support the organization to do the right things well and thereby to thrive.


3. Effective engineering solution design and implementation approach -- 17%

Introduce the rigours of standard engineering practice into your project.  Problem is that most engineers do not understand business systems and business and business systems people do not understand engineers so they miss each other totally if you are not careful.

Also be careful as to what type of engineer you engage with and who you commission to brief them and induct them.  Things can go horribly wrong but if you get it right they can go really right.


4. Effective Precision Configuration -- 16%

Precision configuration as opposed to the "sloppy", inexact configurations that commonly occur in business systems are vital.  Your multi-million pound business software system is a precision machine, ensure that it is configured with extremely precise strategic information that is extremely well structured and which makes use of structured code schemes to model the hierarchies and logic in the lists.  I plan to produce a separate thread that will discuss elements of precision configuration.


5. Effective Business Simulation Laboratory operation -- 12%

An engineering laboratory is a place where key parameters of the real world are precisely modelled.  It looks nothing like the real world but it models the real world.  The business simulation laboratory is the same.  It is designed to test the configuration to destruction until it can no longer be broken, then all reports and business intelligence can be developed and tested, workflow can be optimized and embedded, training material can be developed and training can be delivered.  All this in a robust environment to engineering standards which simulates real business operations with war game type exercises that deal with all the exceptions and unusual circumstances.

The final goal is that all staff are fully conversant with the system before it is commissioned to run live in the business, analogous to the exhaustive performance tests that are applied to an engineering system before it is put into public operation.


6. Effective business integration, training, change facilitation, process specification -- 6%

Business engagement, integration, training, helping people to change, prescribing, configuring and adopting workflow (process) elements, etc.  These flow from the business simulation laboratory as a natural extension of the approach.

Handling the reality that sometimes people do become redundant.


7. Reliable technology -- 2%

Reliable technology is essential, never cut corners here.  Your goal should be exceptional response times and no compromise should be tolerated.  Do not allow some technology specialist with a mistaken idea that they need to save money here specify your hardware.  Demand high performance and specify accordingly.

The knock-on costs of under-performing hardware, networks, etc not only in terms of direct headcount cost but also morale, accuracy, etc cannot be under estimated.





If you address all the above in conjunction with a high quality technical team who know the software and a high quality business team that know the business and you treat your major investment as one of the most far reaching projects your business is likely to ever undertake you will find that application of these principles will have a huge beneficial impact.

I offer advisory services with regard to the application of these principles and would be delighted to discuss how I might be of assistance.  I also offer a light touch diagnostic service to diagnose the root cause of problems and how to fix them for both operational systems and projects that are not meeting expectations.

Yours faithfully


Dr James Robertson PrEng




Tools to assist us and our clients in what we do

Over the years Dr James Robertson has developed a number of software tools to help him in what he does, and to help clients

These include:

The StratSnap and StratGap strategic analysis and design suite

The GL Builder Enterprise Chart of Accounts Assembly Tool

The Engineering Procurement Document Pack

Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems: Part 1 -- Introduction



This article introduces critical principles that every executive and manager should know in order to be able to derive full value from their business information systems investments.  These principles apply to your ERP and other financial systems, your business intelligence systems and your general operational software systems.

These principles, correctly applied, will enable most organizations to substantially improve the strategic and operational decision support information yield of their business information systems facilitating better decision making and more effective and more profitable enterprise operation.

They are equally applicable to nonprofit and governmental organizations.

This article discusses actions you can take immediately and other actions that will require careful planning and whose implementation will take some time.  It headlines a number of typical problem areas and steps to correct them.  Further articles are planned that will define the fundamental principles that underpin the application of these recommendations and provide recommendations with regard to implementation.

Factors which will indicate whether it is worthwhile to read this article include:


Ten steps you can take to strategically enrich your business information systems

These notes apply to differing degrees to every module of every business information system from every software vendor on the planet.  They do not relate to technology, they relate to how information is organized to make maximum sense to human beings and in order to facilitate maximum ease of electronic processing.

They relate to principles that are well understood in certain quarters but hardly understood, or if understood, imprecisely applied in the majority of business information system installations.  These factors are the most significant factors behind Gartner's finding that "most organizations are not making better decisions now than they did five years ago".

These suggestions apply whether we are speaking of financial transactions or product records, whether we are dealing with the General Ledger Chart of Accounts, the Product Class, the Item Master, the Materials Group, Personnel Class or any other database table large or small in any system.

I will primarily use examples from the Chart of Accounts as this is more universally applicable than any other information list and any other Master Data.

Many technologists will look at what is presented here and tell you "but FRED (the name of your system), is so powerful it can handle this!"  Do not listen to them, this is not about technology it is about organizing information in meaningful ways that accurately model the real world so that the full potential of the technology can be unlocked and the data is easily and quickly interpreted by managers and executives.

If you follow the steps set out below and systematically and progressively apply them to your systems you will find in a few years' time that you are getting much more information faster and easier and that your business is running smoother and better.  You may even find that some of your mid-level administrative personnel are much more gainfully employed or that somehow the headcount has reduced without you really planning it.


The principal requirements of executives

In considering what follows I suggest that the principal requirements of executives for any business information system include:

  •  The answers to questions I have not yet thought to ask;
  •  Enable me to run the business MY way;
  •  Accurately model every aspect of my business;
  •  Totally integrated solution;
  •  Entirely reliable and dependable;
  •  Fundamentally support the essence of the business and how it thrives (strategy);
  •  Fully support my day to day operational functions

What is presented here is designed to assist you to reach the above goals.

All that follows relates to the classification lists, attribute lists, Chart of Accounts and other classification and grouping lists that exist in all software to varying degrees.  These are the classifications that are used to order, group and analyze data.  If they are well structured, well designed and well maintained the software is a pleasure to use, if not ...!

I stress that this information is relevant at the executive and senior manager level -- once you understand the real issues then you can manage the problems referred to above out of your systems.


1. Ambiguous item names

Account or item names are ambiguous resulting in different personnel posting differently e.g. "Smelting and refining" -- Asset or Expense?  Clean up the lists and make names unambiguous "Smelting and refining operating expenses".


2. "Clumping" of transactions

A single item or account covers substantial numbers of diverse transactions monthly e.g. the "Smelting and refining operating expenses" example above is a £100 million asset with hundreds if not thousands of expense transactions monthly.  Break this down into five to ten major categories and, in this particular case, break each of those down into between five and ten categories.  Assemble this into a very carefully designed hierarchical list (taxonomy), code it using structured codes and immediately you will be able to analyze your expenses much more exactly.

The level of detail should model the real world at the finest level of detail that you will ever ask questions on.  The computer can only drill down automatically to the finest level of detail that you capture and maintain and it can only group automatically to the extent that there is logic in your code scheme.  Well-designed lists and codes = easy to post accurately, easy to analyze, electronic drill down and summarization.  The opposite = lots of manual work in Excel or complex reports or both.

Consider the following real world example:


Typical Credit Note Reason Codes


They look reasonable ... don't they?


Versus Strategically and Systematically Designed Reason Codes


With the first list you will struggle to answer most management questions, with the second you will answer almost any conceivable management question -- same software, same business, different classification data.


3. Cannot get answers to simple questions easily

The example above gives you the answer.  Survey your staff, find out where they are struggling to get answers, examine the classification lists, make changes in line with the example above.  I intend to give more guidance on how to do this in subsequent articles.


4. The information you need is not there


You are asking questions that are important, for example with regard to market trends, and you cannot get the answers without putting a fairly senior person onto spending days with Excel and direct research to arrive at an answer that no-one has confidence in.

Add the relevant characteristics to the master data e.g. buying patterns for golf clubs are influenced by the sound they make relative to the sound of the clubs used by the top players on the circuit.  Fashions change and it is desirable to monitor trends.  Add "Golf Club Sound" as an attribute on your Product Master record -- an hour or two to add the attribute to the database, some days to classify all the products and immediately you have real time tracking of trends for ever at almost no extra cost.  Just make sure you do the job properly first time -- the Engineering Approach!

You can quickly and easily add any number of attribute lists to your master files in this way and with a bit of effort you can classify all your products and capture the extra data.  This applies to personnel data, to production data, to equipment spares, you name it you can add attributes and it costs almost nothing to do this relative to what you have spent in total on your systems thus far.  And the return on investment is very substantial!

Vital to do this to a high standard or rigour and precision in order to experience the full return.

The key question to executives and senior managers should be "what are ALL the possible attributes that you can possibly think of to describe a ... (e.g. golf club)" -- brainstorm, classify and, if in doubt, add it anyway.


5. Duplicate items

Quite frequently different departments define their own sets of classification codes to suit their purposes.  For example I once found an Item Master where exactly the same earth moving machine tyre occurred in three different places.

Evaluate the logic of the list, select a single instance of the item and close the others down.  If you keep getting incomplete reports or reports from different departments do not agree this is frequently the answer.


6. Lots of spreadsheets with manual manipulation

You have a significant number of mid-level and even senior staff with spreadsheets producing the monthly Board Pack and other management reports.  When you question the numbers the query has to cascade down through the ranks until the operator at the bottom extracts required data and the hierarchy of managers and accountants process the data back up through their spreadsheets.  Expensive, frustrating and a total waste of time.

Look at the data that is giving the problems and develop overarching logical code schemes from first principles that accurately model the real world.  Introduce these into the Transform layer of a new instance of your data warehouse and transform the data into logically structured hierarchical classifications that you can roll up electronically.  A significant project but will give substantial benefits and probably reduce administrative costs.  I plan to discuss how to do this in more detail in future articles.


7. Different departments have different definitions

I once came across a large multi-national organization where operations, finance and human resources had three different systems -- SAP in the finance domain, another instance of SAP in the human resource domain and a completely different operational system used by those who actually produced the output of the business.  The employee classification and grouping in the three systems did not agree at all to the extent that even the most elementary employee category related analysis was to all intents and purposes impossible.  It is vital to have a single harmonized standard across the enterprise, this standard needs to be driven from the office of the Chief Executive as the custodian of the integrated view of the business and must be extremely well engineered to the highest standards of what I am advocating here.  Once in place huge benefits will result.


8. Cannot correlate measures of customer satisfaction with the hard data

Soft measures like customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, etc are seldom correlated with actual production and sales data for all of the reasons given above and others.

Modify your customer satisfaction instrument (questionnaire post card, etc) so that it is issued in such a way that it has a unique bar code or other identifying code discreetly printed or in some other way linked back to the specific transaction associated with the issue of the questionnaire.  Scan the results back into your system and use the unique code to join the customer satisfaction data with your operational data.  You will immediately be able to monitor performance of a wide range of matters electronically in ways you previously might only have dreamed of.


9. Your major lists are badly structured and a nightmare to navigate


Point 6 above will start pointing you in this direction.  Critically examine your Item Class, Product Class, Material Group, Employee Group, Chart of Accounts and other major lists in the light of what you read here and what I plan to share with you in the months ahead.  My experience tells me that you will almost certainly discover that they are extremely badly organized with little or no logic, innumerable haphazard groupings, if there are any groupings at all.

If you dig further you may well find that it takes ages for new staff to learn how to post accurately, that new staff may even give up and leave, that posting errors are prevalent, that supervisors and even managers expend significant time working around the badly ordered data, that no one actually trusts the data and that the people who get the job done rely on their own pieces of software and spreadsheets outside of your core systems.

The extract from a Chart of Accounts shown here is an example of an extremely badly designed Chart of Accounts, so much so that the client was running their business almost entirely with Excel.

Interestingly the software vendor told me that his software, call it FRED, "is so powerful it can handle this data".  The client failed to take my advice and is now in Business Rescue.

The answer is not to buy new software, it is to build new classification lists -- by doing this you will dramatically raise the quality of management information and realize the true value of your systems.   This is a classic example of the underlying fundamental behind "most organizations are not making better decisions now than they did five years ago."


10. Allocation of overheads to production business units is approximate and highly manual and financial reporting generally is cumbersome

Finally you may find that the allocation of overheads is a source of contention and uncertainty.  You may find that your managers are managing off Excel spreadsheets with little or no regard to the financial system.  In extreme cases you may find that from an operational point of view only the Accounts Department and the Auditors really make use of the Financial Suite.  You may also find that the audit costs much more than you would like it to and takes much longer than you think it should.  Look no further than a badly designed Chart of Accounts that does not accurately model the real world with numerous management journals that have no place in the core financial records.

A Chart of Accounts should accurately model the business in a sophisticated compound code scheme that incorporates every element of the business in distinct code segments comprising Divisions, Locations, Functions and Accounts.  These are fundamental logical entities with information management rules as hard as concrete that must be rigorously and precisely defined in highly structured hierarchies and coded to engineering standards of precision.  I use custom developed software to ensure the consistency of the code scheme when I build such Charts of Accounts.  Be aware that people will tell you that their Chart of Accounts complies with what I have just said.  In my experience they almost never approximate the level of engineering rigour that I regard as non-negotiable.

This model then forms the basis of how the entire business is represented to the diverse computer systems that form the administrative backbone of every organization.  Application of this approach can take place in the Transformation layer into the Data Warehouse and, in time, the operational Financial Suite can be reimplemented.


To follow

I aim to follow this article with further articles discussing in detail the principles to be applied in this field of Strategic Information Architecture.

I also aim to provide guidance on the approach to be used in implementing these recommendations.




If you recognize that there is NOTHING more important than the configuration data that we have been talking about and that, correctly addressed, remediation of all the above items can make a huge difference.  And your recognize that this should be undertaken to high standards of precision, as you would in any engineering endeavor, you will open the door to add very substantial value to your organization and unlock huge value from your existing business information investment. 

A hundred fold increase in information value is entirely achievable and, coupled to this, greatly improved management efficiency and business competitiveness leading to increase profitability and growth.

I offer advisory services with regard to the application of these principles and would be delighted to discuss how I might be of assistance.  I also offer a light touch diagnostic service to evaluate the state of your information tables and advise how to remediate them.

Yours faithfully


Dr James Robertson PrEng

Read More >>>


Previous articles:


Critical Lessons from the BBC DMI Debacle

A brief analysis of the failed BBC DMI project advocating that such projects are fundamentally of an engineering nature and should be managed accordingly and that there is great need for Government to introduce statutory controls on the conduct of the Business Information Systems industry

What is noticeable about the BBC’s failed Digital Media Initiative (DMI) is the comprehensive reporting of management failure to manage effectively and management’s apology to the public.

What is noticeably absent is any comment on the performance of the suppliers, Siemens who presumably were supplying the physical technology or the performance of any of the supposedly professional service providers, who consumed the £125.9 m (before recoupment).

The breakdown of expenditure is instructive:

  • Contractors - £46.7m
  • IT - £37.2m
  • Siemens costs - £24.9m
  • Consultancy - £8.4m
  • BBC staff - £6.4m
  • Other - £2.3m

There is NO reference to a prime contractor, only “contractors” which seems to suggest that these were individuals NOT a large computer systems contracting entity.  There is also reference to “Consultancy” but no reference to which firm or firms and then “IT” presumably applies to other computer technology not supplied by Siemens – overall an interesting mish-mash that already points to the reasons why failure occurred.  Not that having a large IT company like IBM necessarily guarantees a better result, as BMW (BMW owners vent anger at month’s long wait for spare parts – Bloomberg)_ and Bridgestone (IBM Rips Into Bridgestone Over $600 Million Lawsuit – Business Insider) have both learned in the recent past.

And the fact that IBM have seemingly walked away from BMW unscathed, in its own way, offers an interesting insight into the business computer systems industry, an industry characterized by more high profile investment failures than ANY other area of human endeavour in the commercial arena.

While these major IT failures are taking place the Crossrail project in London with its 10 new stations and 21 kilometres of twin railway tunnels under the centre of London dwarfs these projects in scale and complexity, yet the most superficial inspection indicates that the tunnels are where the designers said they would be and they line up with the stations.  Further, global experience with projects of similar complexity indicates that Crossrail WILL deliver what it said it would, more or less on time and more or less on budget and, even if it does go over budget and deadline it will still work as planned.

So, what is different?

Ø  Large highly specialized contractor organizations with a track record of delivering;


Ø  Large highly specialized design organizations with a track record of delivering;


Ø  A close to zero social tolerance for failure of projects of this nature;


Ø  Statutory regulation and corresponding professional regulatory bodies that prevent inadequately trained and inexperienced engineers and technicians working on such projects and which impose harsh sanctions for incompetence or negligence.

“Incompetence and negligence?’ – YES! Ultimately the failure at the BBC has to be the consequence of incompetence and negligence, amongst other factors – incompetence being the lack of knowledge and experience necessary to successfully execute a project of this nature and negligence because it is negligence to embark on a project of this nature without the technical certainty that you know what you are doing and have the necessary checks and balances in place to ensure a successful outcome.  Notice that I say “ensure a successful outcome” NOT “fluke a successful outcome” – success is the necessary consequence of a systematic, disciplined and informed engineering endeavour that is designed NOT to fail.  Failure is the inevitable consequence of incompetence and negligence.

There is a fundamental principle that should apply in a case like the BBC’s failed DMI project in order to prevent failure – there should be a lead solutions architecture company conceptualizing and framing the solution design; a lead systems engineering company designing the solution; and a lead solutions construction company building the solution.  All three of these organizations should deploy teams of highly experienced personnel with formal training and certification in the disciplines necessary for engineering solutions of this nature.  And there should be tension between these three organizations, because all three (but particular the solution architecture firm) should be looking out for the best interests of the client.



“James, this is the IT industry, NOT the engineering industry!”

That is precisely the point.

The design and development of systems of ANY sort IS an engineering endeavour

The American Engineers' Council for Professional Development has defined "engineering" as “The creative application of scientific principles to design or develop structures, machines, apparatus, or manufacturing processes, or works utilizing them singly or in combination; or to construct or operate the same with full cognizance of their design; or to forecast their behavior under specific operating conditions; all as respects an intended function, economics of operation and safety to life and property.” (Wikipedia)

This is EXACTLY what the BBC embarked on with DMI, the engineering of a solution for managing their digital material.

The fundamental problem is that they failed to embark on the project as an engineering project and they failed to use engineers to manage the project.

But there IS a catch and that is that engineers do NOT know how to manage this sort of IT project and so, if you let engineers loose on their own, you get problems as well.

You see, Information Technology projects are extremely abstract.  They involve software that is effectively invisible working with human beings who are for the most part, unstructured and work in unpredictable ways and there are many other complexities such that “IT Mythology” constitutes 30% of why such projects fail – IT Mythology is the mistaken belief that computer systems are in some sense magical and work on their own, provided you sort of hack it, see my website for a discussion of this and the other factors that cause IT investment failure.

What is particularly notable about the reports concerning the BBC’s DMI project crash, like so many project crashes of this nature, is that there is NO evidence of any professional body or statutory body investigating the failed project in order to establish what went wrong and to develop policies, disciplines, training material, licensing requirements and other safeguards in order to prevent recurrence – there is NO “air crash investigation” to cite the popular TV documentary.

There IS a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers which finds “"PwC has concluded that weaknesses in project management and reporting and a lack of focus on business change... meant that it took the BBC too long to realise that the project was unlikely to deliver its objectives," it said in a statement” – this hardly points to a rigorous and tough engineering root cause assessment of why failure occurred!  But then PWC are NOT an engineering company and they are deeply involved in the IT industry themselves with their own history of failures, so hardly in a position to deliver an objective assessment of the situation.

What I am referring to is a statutory body with teeth and the willingness to call a spade a spade and name incompetence when it encounters it.

In fact, there is NO indication of any intention to establish such a statutory body or such a professional body, presumably because it has NOT yet occurred to government that they have an obligation to promulgate such legislation and institute such controls.  And the industry is in part too fragmented and in part making too much money out of failure to care about doing anything about the situation.  After all, of the order of 70% of IT projects fail outright, as in they never see the light of day, and a further 20% materially fail to meet the requirements of the customer, partly because 70% of the components of the 20% are a total failure.  This leaves us with 10% of all projects that at some material level meet client expectations and even then the indications are that less than 5% of ALL projects MEET or EXCEED the expectations held by clients at the time that the project was authorized.

So the IT industry is enormously wealthy in significant measure out of gross inefficiency and incompetence – after all, if 70% of projects die before they see the light of day it is easier to bury them quietly than to make a fuss about it and expose one’s failure to one’s shareholders and competitors let alone a drubbing from the Public Accounts Committee.

Until government and industry join forces to form a body to fully dissect failures of this nature AND establish suitable professional training, certification and licensing of consultants and vendors, the carnage will continue.  Attacking and condemning the responsible executives is well and good, but if they have NO resource to prevent such failures failure WILL continue to be the norm!

I have been investigating and documenting the causes of business information system failure and what is required to prevent failure from an engineering perspective for 25 years.  I formally published my findings in 2004 and have been applying these findings since then.  The challenge is for someone with influence to decide that failures of this nature are NO longer acceptable and start the ball rolling to produce legislation introducing strict and onerous regulation of the business information systems industry and its practitioners.

Such failures as the BBC’s DMI project are ENTIRELY preventable and high value successful outcomes are ENTIRELY achievable.

Dr James Robertson PrEng

Robust Business Systems Procurement: Part 1 -- Introduction


Links to previous articles at the end of this article

In my recent article on "The Real Issues in Business Systems ", I mentioned the recent bad experiences of Bridgestone and BMW with business systems implementations.  These situations highlight the fact that even the most successful businesses experience difficulties with regard to system implementation.

The parallel "Real Issues" series of articles will discuss the factors that give rise to the problems experienced and specific measures to prevent the problems.  The series commencing with this article will address the question of how to go about procuring systems and initiating the implementation of new systems in a way that takes account of the Real Issues principles.

This article is directed at informing executives and senior managers with regard to methods that are really important in order to be able to manage the procurement and implementation of new systems effectively.  These same methods have application in the procurement of general business improvement services as well, and some of them can be applied to contract renewal with regard to ongoing support contracts.

In this series of articles I will set out to explain a robust business systems procurement approach, which is directed at achieving robust and enforceable contracted outcomes for a truly fixed price.  This approach is based on the manner in which large construction projects are contracted, something that I term "the engineering approach".  Inherent in this approach is a requirement that the entire procurement, configuration, customization, testing and commissioning process is undertaken to standards that permit effective litigation by the client in the event of non-performance.

Fundamental to the engineering approach is the reality that engineering construction takes place within the framework of tried and tested procurement methods with tough, enforceable contracts.  There is also a clear understanding by all parties that litigation will follow negligence, non-compliance or default.  Because litigation is entirely practical in such situations litigation is virtually never required.

The approach to business systems procurement outlined in this article is directed at achieving this same level of robust contracting such that successful litigation is entirely possible and therefore not required.  This will be discussed in more detail in subsequent articles.

Fundamental to this engineering approach to business systems procurement is an emphasis on requiring the implementation contractor to accept responsibility as the expert in the implementation of their software.  This is done in such a way as to transfer all appropriate risk to the contractor while clearly delineating the responsibilities of the client organization.  This is achieved through a robust procurement process with clearly defined governance and results in a tough and robust contract, leading to an effective implementation (configure, customize, test, deploy, commission) which delivers the agreed realistic business outcome.

The approach comprises the following major components, which will be discussed in more detail in subsequent articles.  The discussion focuses on major projects but can be down-scaled to even the most basic business systems or even business services procurement:


1. Strategic Facilitation and Executive Governance

For large projects which operate across operational divisions in the organization, the Executive Sponsor of the project must be the Chief Executive.  The Chief Executive is the custodian of the integrated view and function of the business and is therefore the only person with the perspective and authority to perform this role.

In order to ensure that the Chief Executive can perform this role effectively and with limited time commitment there are a number of other roles that are critical:


a. Strategic Advisor to the CEO and Strategic Project Facilitator

An expert in the field of business systems procurement and implementation, with the ability to serve as an advisor to the sponsoring executive and guide the project.  NO alliances or allegiance to any product or contractor organization.  This person must be able to operate at the executive level.

Analogous to the senior architect on a prestige building construction project.  This person must interpret the requirements of the business, express these with a far-reaching long term view of where the business is going and ensure that the new business solution is geared to this future" view.  This person should not have any line responsibility in the business.  They should monitor the "Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" that are discussed in the separate series of articles on "The Real Issues in Business Systems".

This will generally be an independent specialist advisor.  It is sometimes challenging to plan their time since they are largely dependent on the rest of the people working on the project for day to day workload.  It is therefore generally best on larger projects to appoint them on a full time basis for a fixed monthly fee for the duration of the project.

It is generally not practical for the CIO to play this role, they are too caught up in the day to day pressures of the business.


b. Business Team Leader

A member of the executive team who is responsible for ensuring that the right people in the business are consulted at the right time.  Also ensures that the right people are in the room for workshops, testing sessions, etc.  This person carries the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that the business is fully consulted and engaged in all stages of the project.


c. Contract Manager

Also an executive or at least a senior manager one level down from the executive suite.  Responsible for all the logistical and contractual arrangements with regard to the procurement, assisted by the procurement department as necessary.  Also responsible for all contractual matters during the implementation.

This can be the CIO.

Note that there is nobody on the client side who carries the title "Project Manager" or "Project Leader" -- there should be one Project Leader and they should be supplied by the successful contractor as part of the package of services.


2. Robust Request for Proposal (RFP)

The Request for Proposal document is the heart of the procurement process.  It should be a well proven document that contains all necessary clauses to manage both the procurement process and lay the foundation for the project.

It should set out the stages of the procurement process and the specific contractual requirements for the configuration, customization, testing, deployment and commissioning of the system.  The RFP should form the basis of the final contract.

Note that it is pre-requisite that the Client will define the contract with amendments to accommodate the contractor, using the contractor's preferred contract is not an option.

One of the objectives of the RFP is to scare off fly-by-night operators.  Another is to allow as many different bidders as possible in the first stage of the tender process in order to ensure that the best possible combination of software and Implementer is selected.

By way of example, the RFP document that I typically use runs to over 60 pages. This is available as a template to purchase together with templates and instructions for the full set of documents referred to in this article.  Email me for information .

A key objective of the RFP is to make it clear that the client is purchasing services from the successful bidder on the basis that they are experts in implementing their software and will be held fully accountable for the project outcome.


3. Strategic Essence based Business Requirement Specification

Refer the separate thread on "Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems " for more information on this point.

The Business Requirement Specification should be drawn up by the Strategic Advisor to the CEO (Strategic Project Facilitator) in close consultation with the executive team and operational management.

This strategically focused requirements document focusses on documenting the essence of the business, the "right things done well" that have caused the organization to prosper.  This should be done within the context of clearly stating a twenty year view of what is required from the system in terms of business outcome.

Components of the requirement should be prioritized on a percentage weight basis over not more than about nine primary categories.

This is not a technology document, it is a strategic business outcome orientated document -- based on what is required from the investment in order for the organization to prosper.  This document is the heart and the art of the final outcome.

It must be worded in such a way that the onus for the outcome rests with the contractor (Implementer), subject to close cooperation by the business.

In this regard it is vital to understand that operational business personnel lack the long term perspective to define a long term solution.  They must be consulted but they must not dictate the solution.


To Follow

4. Detailed Bill of Services

5. Precision Configuration

6. Business Simulation Laboratory

7. Formal "Go-Live" Certification

8. Prescribed Certificates

9. Client Compact

10. Executive Engagement

11. Facilitation of Change

12. Bid Compliance Checklist

13. Bid Adjudication Schedule

14. Prescribed Bid Table of Contents

15. Comprehensive Pack of Reference Documents

16. Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence

17. Three Stage Procurement Process

a. Stage 1: Narrowing the Field

b. Stage 2: Select Preferred Bidder

c. Stage 3: Detailed Discovery, Finalization of Project Plan and Contracting

d. Configuration, Customization, Testing and Commissioning




I have used this approach successfully to conduct fixed price fixed business outcome projects, and hope that you will find it of value.

If you are embarking on any form of business systems procurement, large or small, this approach can be adapted appropriately.  It also has application to procurement of other soft business improvement services.  Some of these principles can also be applied when entering into negotiations to renew contracts with existing suppliers.

I offer advisory services with regard to the application of these principles and would be delighted to discuss how I might be of assistance.

I also offer sets of electronic template documents for the above, one set suitable for small to medium size projects and another suited to larger projects, these are available for purchase, email me for details .

Yours faithfully

Dr James Robertson PrEng

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Previous articles:

Strategic Essence -- The Missing Link in Business Information Systems
Part 1: Strategy Defined
Part 2: Differentiation
Determining Strategic Essence

The Real Issues in Business Systems

Strategically Enriching your Business Systems



Some important principles and dictums

Over the years James has developed a diversity of principles and dictums which guide his thinking with regard to the effective application of Information Technology in general and Business Systems in particular.

These are listed here and will be explained in more detail elsewhere on this website:

-- Engineers do not design bridges to stand up -- they design them not to fall down -- design for success by engineering against failure

-- The design, configuration, commissioning and operation of Business Information systems is fundamentally an engineering endeavor and should be undertaken using personnel trained in engineering practice

-- The "soft" issues are  harder than concrete

-- The critical principles for success include "create competitive advantage" and "measurement determines behavior

-- Systems are built and operated on the critical human foundation which includes knowledge and experience of the business and the solution

-- People who are good with computers are bad with people and people who are good with people are bad with computers

-- The critical factors causing failure include mythology, lack of executive custody, lack of strategic alignment, lack of an engineering approach and sloppy configuration (the opposite of precision configuration)

-- The critical technology components include systems to capture measurements of soft performance (customer satisfaction, etc) and people

-- Technology failure is almost totally insignificant as a cause of Business System and other IT failures today

-- Just about any ERP product well implemented will work for just about any operation

-- The essential executive questions that must be answered before embarking on a Business Systems project in order to be able to sue the vendor and implementer in the event of failure include "do I, the chief executive, have a clear understanding of how the value of the investment will be unlocked and how the project will be executed

-- Executive custody is the single most important requirement for a successful outcome, followed by strategic alignment

-- Executive custody is about leadership "this is my Business System and my business" -- CEO speaking

-- Essential IT knowledge for business executives -- a computer is an adding machine, a word processor is a type writer, a database is a filing cabinet and a network is a postal service -- see -- you do understand computers

-- Essential business knowledge for IT professionals -- people determine the success or failure of organizations and computer systems not technology

-- Barring a very old, very badly designed and very badly maintained system it is improbable that your organization will be able to develop a business case to replace your current ERP

-- Your current ERP and other Business Systems should be operated and managed with a view to lasting at least another 20 years

-- Refurbishment and enhancement of your current systems and not replacement is almost certainly the way to go

-- A business simulation laboratory is not negotiable for any major Business Systems project today

-- Essential components of executive custody: Engagement -- Prove it works -- make it work

Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems: Overview

Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems

1. "Strategy" widely abused and seldom understood

I continue to encounter sub-optimal Integrated Business Information System implementations.  I sit through big brand and not so big brand system vendor and implementer presentations, sift through their marketing material and visit their websites.  The word "strategy" is scattered all over the place in absolutely inappropriate contexts.

If one reads the context of every place that the word "strategy" occurs, one must conclude that there is NO single, coherent, consistent, congruent definition of the word.  To some it is wheeling and dealing, to others it is a plan or a way of doing things, to others it is an important sounding word to impress people.  The result being that strategy is, in fact, a widely discounted word.  Very few people agree what strategy is, very few people know how to determine strategy, let alone do strategy, whatever that means.

When it comes to business software I am not sure that I have ever seen the word "strategy" used correctly.

2. The essence of the organization and how it thrives

What is "strategy"?

Back in 1990 I wrote a paper for a conference on the importance of aligning business information systems with strategy, and then found that I could not define strategy.  So I started to research the definition of strategy.

Professor Malcolm McDonald says "strategy is doing the right things, viewed from the perspective of the customer" and "tactics are doing things right, viewed from the perspective of the customer".  He goes on to say that if an organization "does the right things well, it will thrive".

Michel Robert defines "strategic driving force" and asserts that every organization has a single driving force that will seldom or never change.  If one gets in the way of that driving force, one will compromise and damage the organization.  If one enhances it, the organization will thrive.

Professor Michael Porter asserts that "differentiation" is the essence of strategy.

All three of these authorities significantly influenced my thinking to the point where I concluded that "strategy is the essence of the organization and how it thrives".  It is what is unique, that which differentiates the organization, what makes it stand out so that it attracts and retains customers.

It is that essential something that has brought the organization this far and will propel it into the future.  It is the right things that cause your customers to buy from you.  It is the fundamental element that if you damage it, you will destroy the organization and if you do it right the organization will thrive.  Strategic essence is unique to every organization.

3. Underpin and enhance the essence

Once you understand the concept of strategic essence, you begin to understand that this should be the reason you invest in new systems.  It should guide and direct the procurement and implementation of new systems and business improvement projects because the concept of the essence embraces the very core of what makes the organization successful.

This strategic essence originated intuitively from the founders recognizing a market need and filling it.  It embraces differentiation and competitiveness.  Organizations thrive because they are different and yet just about every systems implementation I have seen, just about every management consulting intervention, focuses on operational "me too" stuff and gets in the way of the essence and therefore the competitiveness of the organization.

4. Differentiation

As mentioned above, an essential element of strategic essence is differentiation -- that which enables the organization to compete and thrive.  Without differentiation we do not have customers.  When an organization cripples that which differentiates it, it loses customers, when it enhances it, refines it, takes it to the next level, customers flock through its doors.

The absence of understanding of these factors is what makes most integrated business information system projects frustrating to executives.

Understanding and applying strategic essence is the great opportunity for any organization embarking on a business improvement project today.  It is also the opportunity for any organization whose systems and operating procedures are slowing it down and getting in its way.

Introduce strategic essence thinking and methods into everything that you do, refocus your efforts and your investment and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish.

5. The essence is different

Fundamentally the strategic essence is different.

Strategic essence thinking is a total turnaround on traditional systems implementation thinking.

One of the things that floors me every time I come across it is why otherwise intelligent executives select business information system software on the basis of what their competitors are doing!

Exactly the same approach applies to appointing any firm of management consultants for any form of business "improvement" focus on the essence, lead from the front and do not abdicate to "IT" or anyone else.

An Integrated Business Information System implementation is probably the most far reaching business improvement project you will ever embark on.  Done right it can add huge strategic value.  Done wrong it can put you out of business.

6. The essence should be comprehensively communicated

The strategic essence of your organization should be comprehensively documented and communicated.  Every member of staff, right down to the person who cleans the corridors, should know the essence of the organization and how it affects their role.  In the early days you might go so far as to put up posters, put a banner on the wall facing the desk of ever executive and manager, talk about it constantly until it is totally known and totally understood.  Just doing that will improve the competitiveness, effectiveness and profitability of your organization.  That is if profit is your motive, IF you are a "not for profit" or a Government organization, the strategic essence is every bit as important in delivering whatever service it is that you deliver.

7. The essence should be the point of departure for EVERY project

By now I hope that it is apparent to you that the strategic essence is the point of departure for every business improvement project.

If you cannot clearly define how a business system procurement, or much more mundane project will strengthen the essence of the business, do not do it!

Remember Malcolm McDonald's massively important definition "if you do the right things well your organization WILL thrive".  The essence IS the right things, operations is about doing the essence of the business very well indeed.

Make your people more effective in terms of the strategic essence of the business and the REST will FOLLOW!

8. Enhancing the essence should be the focus of every project

Every step of the way, focus on the essence.

In every decision, ask yourself if you will be enhancing the essence.

Once you are focussed on the essence, sterile debates about what aspects of the business should be "BPR'd" fall away.  In fact, the whole concept of "Business Process Re-engineering" will fall away.

Incidentally, how do you "re-engineer" something that was not engineered in the first place?  I am an engineer and I have to say that I regard the whole concept of "Business Process Re-engineering" to be an entirely inappropriate use of the word "engineering"!

The essence is not about process or workflow, it is about doing the things that are central to the way the business works better and better and better and, IF there is workflow involved, optimize the workflow.  Note that the way to optimize workflow is not to spend thousands of Pounds / Dollars / Euros / ... on "as is" process mapping -- what a lovely way for consultants to make money and a total waste of client money!  "We are going to build a new bridge and demolish the old bridge so we will document the way the old bridge works in minute detail"


Focus on the essence!

9. One size fits all cannot work

By now I hope that you realise that choosing a business systems product on the basis of what your competitors are doing is a big mistake.

Choosing a system just because it is the "best of breed" for your industry is an even bigger mistake unless, of course, you are the defining player in your industry in which case you are clearly not doing the essence well.

The same applies to your choice of consultants and the type of business improvement projects you undertake.

Understand your essence and then go out and carefully head-hunt the firm that aligns with your essence, the firm with the essential cultural fit, the firm whose service promise aligns with your service promise, the firm that specializes in optimizing the products or services that constitute the essence of your business.


The above is a summary of a much more detailed article, please email me if you would like a copy of the full article.

I also have a video on strategic planning techniques, email me for the link.

I hope that I have challenged you to think differently about your organization and its systems.

I would welcome the opportunity to assist your organization to put any and all of the principles discussed in this article into practice in order to assist your organization to thrive.

I offer a one day intervention through to assist you to lift our the essence of your organization, please email me should you require information.  I also offer a comprehensive strategic planning service to engineering standards.

Yours faithfully,


Dr James A Robertson, PrEng

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The Engineering Approach

"The Engineering Approach" advocated by James A Robertson and Associates is based on Dr Robertson being an Engineer

In 1989 he left the Practice of Engineering because he saw a major gap in the market to "bring the disciplines of engineering to the IT Industry"

At that stage "ERP" as a label had not yet  been thought of

James has spent the ensuing years understanding what it means to "Bring the Disciplines of Engineering to the IT Industry" and more recently to the ERP and Business Information Systems Industry and what he now terms "Integrated Business Information Systems"

In this process James has learned a large amount about Psychology

He has pulled in his earlier experience in Zoology, Document Management and Cataloguing Schemes, Military Command and diverse facets of Engineering, including a very large and complex laboratory investigation, field investigations and Mine Design to name a few

All of this has been mixed with an intense analytical bent and passion for Engineering "solutions that work" and willingness to try things, make mistakes, learn from the mistakes and refine methods

He has also brought these skills to bear in critically examining dozens of failed and sub-optimal IT, ERP and other Business System projects and Implementations, diagnosing the causes of failure, prescribing solutions and then executing those prescriptions to the point that he now claims that as an Engineer he has a solid understanding of what causes Business System failure and a solid understanding of how to achieve success by preventing failure

JAR&A claim that the Business Systems industry at large, certainly in the area of Business Information Systems, lack this grounding and approach and therefore are constantly getting better at doing the wrong things as evidenced by the massive failure rate of ERP and Business Systems projects around the world when viewed from the Executive Suite -- see http://www.BusinessInsider.com/IBM-rips-into-Bridgestone-over-600-million-lawsuit-2013-11


as examples of recent projects which experienced problems

James A Robertson and Associates offer an Engineering Approach to your Business Information System problems and project needs


NEXT SECTION:  About Dr James A Robertson PrEng >>>

The Critical Human Foundation

Business information systems, as with most aspects of computer based systems, are abstract, intangible and difficult to understand.  The final system outcome is the outworking of diverse human endeavor that results in a system that works to some level of effectiveness.

Everything about creating a business information system solution is about people.  Without people there will NOT be a system and the working of the system is an integral reflection of the activities of people.

This results in what I term “The Critical Human Foundation” which is described below.

1.  Abstractness

A large computer based business information system and its related project is abstract and invisible.  The existence of the system can only be verified by painstaking and systematic investigation and the activities on the project must be carefully monitored to have certainty as to what is happening.

It is only possible to evaluate the system one screen at a time, one report at a time.  Given the size and complexity of modern systems this is comparable to taking a person, putting a paper bag over their head with two small holes in it and dropping them off in the middle of a strange city to find their way around.

This learning process is extremely difficult and unless one has an aptitude for this sort of thing and works systematically it is very easy to “get lost” and draw wrong conclusions.

A huge amount of what goes wrong with business information systems and their associated projects relates to abstractness.

In the same way the project itself is abstract.  A large amount of what is happening is happening in people’s heads.  In the first weeks of a new project the consultants are being paid to gather information about the business.  While some of this MAY be documented in a useful format on most projects this does NOT happen effectively or is associated with near valueless business process mapping and other exercises, see “Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous

If the consultant leaves and a new consultant joins the team then all that tacit information is lost and the new consultant will have great difficulty working effectively.  For this reason tough contracts which enforce consulting team retention are vital.

2.  People are PART of the system

It is vital to understand that computers associated with business information systems do NOTHING unless a human being does something.  I frequently encounter organizations where management are ready to trash their computer system when the problems are associated with lack of discipline, lack of precision, wrong actions, etc by staff members or consultants.

A simple example, I once did a Pulse Measurement where the system was “losing data” it turned out that the manager concerned was putting an incorrect project number on all of his claims, drawings, etc and a data capture clerk thought she was being very helpful by correcting his errors.  But did NOT think to advise him of what she was doing.  All the “lost” information was allocated to the project she had redirected it to, exactly as the computer had been instructed to do.

Thus, when one points fingers at a computer based business information system one must be aware that three fingers are pointing back at you!

Frequently the person criticizing is part of the problem so it is a desirable practice to first examine one’s own usage of the system so see if you are part of the problem and this relates to having sufficient understanding AND sufficient discipline.


3.  Maturity and Wisdom

There is a mistaken belief that because younger people are generally more adept at learning new technology gimmicks they are better qualified to work in the business information systems industry.  This is NOT the case, business information systems are about business, people and other NON-technology issues.  Business information systems is about 3% technology and the rest people.

It is vital that your project team includes some mature individuals.  On a large project the Project Leader and Strategic Solution Architect should probably both be over the age of 50 and have spent most of their career in business systems.

This wisdom, the ability to accurately determine the REAL issues, understand the business of the client thoroughly and make wise decisions and recommendations is VITAL to a successful outcome.


4.  Business knowledge and experience

When a business information systems project commences the business personnel collectively know all there is to know about the business and the consultants know nothing other than general knowledge relating to businesses of that general nature.

A systematic and comprehensive strategic discovery method is a vital first step in any new project.

This entails first and foremost understanding the strategic essence of the business at an executive level and then using this information to prioritize and direct discovery throughout the business.

A key element of discovery is to undertake systematic walkthroughs of every component of the business which includes the physical components, warehouses, factories, transport yards, etc.  It is NOT necessary to visit every facility but it IS necessary for the leadership of the external team to walk through a representative sample and, for key team members like senior analysts, solution architects, etc to be part of this.  I call this “boots in the mud” discovery – get out there and understand how the business works in order to ensure that you understand how the system must work.

This applies as much to understanding white collar businesses as to understanding mining, construction, manufacturing, etc.

Every business is different, each has its nuances and the choice of the person who conducts the walkthrough is also key.  For initial walkthroughs of senior implementer personnel my preference is for the Chief Executive to conduct the walkthroughs and make sure that the consultants see the business through his or her eyes.

It is vital to realize that the consultants will be constantly learning about the business and it will be a long time before they fully understand it and in fact they probably never will.  Thus it is vital for consultants to remain open and teachable and questioning what they know.

Note that Business Process orientated investigations are fundamentally flawed in most cases because the consultants dive into producing flow charts, maps, etc on white boards, brown paper or computer screens.  By doing this they are so stuck in their tools and methods that they are NOT listening effectively AND they have lost the client personnel who are struggling to understand the method and the diagrams.  Note that these things called Business Process Maps are NOT maps, they are very basic diagrams for the most part.  Drawings that a cartographer would regard as children’s drawings.  They contain so little meaningful information.

In the process of focusing on these drawings the consultant misses a wealth of detail that is resident in the heads of the group AND wastes so much time on the drawing that delegates quickly become bored and frustrated if not thoroughly confused.

See also the article “Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous

It is the nature of human beings that they do NOT want to look stupid, so generally they will keep quiet and play along with the consultant and even agree with the consultant about the interpretation of the diagram, even when it is fundamentally flawed – they have disengaged so the process is all but valueless.

Contrast the above crude diagram with a real 1 in 50,000 geographical map.

This map is associated with a complex and detailed legend and presentation conventions in terms of line thickness, line type, numerous standard symbols, etc all of which combine to present a huge amount of information on a single diagram.

For this reason I assert with confidence that all the business process maps I have ever seen have been a waste of time.  They contain insufficient information to understand the business and the manner in which they are generated prevents the facilitators from gaining the required information.

The correct approach is interviews and walkthroughs, take lots of notes, ask lots of questions and then go away and compile a meaningful structured English report that anyone in the business can read and validate that the details of the business have been accurately recorded.

Note that such a report can take two to three hours per contact hour to write IF it is done properly.  Alternatively a Critical Issues approach should be used to lift out the headlines.  Note that the documentation is LESS important than that the people who will do the work take part in the walkthrough and interview and REMAIN on the project for the duration.  See the Procurement Documents for a Request for Proposal directed at ensuring that key staff members remain on team for the duration.  This obviously requires that the project is run efficiently and effectively and that team members are managed in a manner that keeps them enrolled and motivated.

If this step is NOT executed effectively the ENTIRE project is placed in jeopardy.

Note that this also assumes that the consultants have the basic grounding to understand WHAT they see, to ask meaningful questions, internalize information and translate that information into meaningful and constructive action downstream on the project.

This means, of necessity, that the lead consultant who conducts the interviews must be senior, experienced and qualified.  A business degree coupled with training in analytical, investigative and interviewing techniques should be a minimum requirement.

This is the foundation analysis of the building, you dare NOT cut corners or use under qualified staff or lose the key information or key personnel further down the project.


5.  System knowledge and experience

At the start of a project the consultants hopefully know the systems that are to be implemented well.

A key component of the procurement and contracting process must be to ensure that the consultants put forward are knowledgeable about the products being proposed.  If the bidder does NOT put forward contractually named individuals who you can interview and establish that they have considerable experience on the product, then choose another implementer or another product or tell them to come back with more experienced personnel.  By experienced I mean at least three to five years of hands-on practical experience with verifiably successful outcomes – NOT that easy to find but worth setting as your goal.

You are now faced with exactly the reciprocal challenge to the previous point – you need to introduce client personnel to the software in a systematic and structured manner and ensure that they can correlate the capabilities of the software to the business.

For this reason the walkthroughs of the software should take place AFTER the walkthroughs of the corresponding business components.  A software walkthrough is a systematic step by step, screen by screen presentation of the live software with meaningful data, preferably client data.  This must take place at a relatively slow pace to give time for delegates to engage with each screen, ask questions and take notes.

During this process it is VITAL that the consultants record ALL concerns, issues, etc that are raised and document them.  The first impression is the lasting impression and also frequently the most insightful – things that jump off the screen as being issues or not appropriate will NOT be noticed later.

Recognize that once a client has told a consultant something once they have a reasonable expectation that the consultant will record the point and integrate it into the project documentation, action plan and solution design.  Very few consultants recognize this principle and it is a huge problem on most projects – the client says “I told you” and the consultant says, late in the day when trying to raise a variation order, “this is the FIRST time we have heard of this”.

The caliber of consulting staff, their note taking disciplines, etc are cardinal.

Note that the reason consultants should take copious notes at ALL times is that note taking is a means of reinforcement resulting in increased information retention.  Listen, frame what you are going to write, write it and as you write read it back – 4 impressions on your brain versus listen while your mind wanders instead of listening attentively – it is virtually impossible to concentrate on what is being said on a sustained basis without taking notes.


6.  Solution knowledge

Once the solution design is complete, the software has been built and configured the team, both business and consultants ONLY have solution knowledge.  They know, more or less, what they have created.  They have NO experience with the solution.

Typically this is the point at which most projects “go-live” with disastrous results because no one really knows how the solution REALLY works.

Solution knowledge includes all the specifications and other design documents and the knowledge of the way the software works at a very basic level.

BEFORE going live the ENTIRE organization must gain solution experience.


7.  Solution experience

Solution experience is either gained by doing some minor very artificial training and dumping personnel in the deep end by going live when no one really knows how the solution works OR by training ALL staff up in ALL aspects of the system operation in the Business Simulation Laboratory – see this page on my website for more inforamtion.

It is fundamentally important that the system is comprehensively tested in the laboratory.

Once it is fully tested create enough test data to ensure that all reports, models, alerts, etc are working correctly.

Then develop the training material, preferably interactive Computer Based Learning (CBT) material, and then train ALL personnel who will have anything to do with the system hands-on in the laboratory until you have moved them to the new operating position.

Then, ONCE staff are fully trained in practical simulated operation of the business move them onto the live system and “go live” but NOT before a formal certificate has been issued.

A huge amount of what goes wrong with projects goes wrong because the software configuration is NOT properly tested and / or the personnel are NOT properly trained.  A formal and rigorous laboratory is the ONLY way to ensure that problems are prevented.


8.  Communication within the project team

Because of the low visibility of the project and the system, communication is vital.  Distribute emails widely, have regular meetings and walkthroughs.  Apply disciplines to ensure that there is more than sufficient communication.


9.  Communication with the broader business community

Keep the business informed.  Have a skilled communicator provide assistance.  Tell people what you are going to do, what you are doing and what you have done.

Ensure that executives and managers know what is going on at a sufficiently detailed level to ensure that they can manage and guide the project.  It is NOT acceptable to work for weeks and then spring sub-optimal outcomes on them.

This may require more communication than they consider necessary but the consequences of inadequate communication can be disastrous.

When an organization builds a new building it is possible to drive past the construction site once a week or once a month or look at a short video and gauge the status of the project.  With an IT project that is NOT possible.  There must be effective communication and either regular walkthroughs of what has been done and / or regular email communication.


10. Communication with the Executive Sponsor and other executives

One of the major things that goes wrong with business systems projects is when the project team fail to consult in depth with the executive sponsor and, in the case of a large integrated system, the Chief Executive.

Most executives will tell you NOT to talk to them because they do NOT understand technology.  This is a misunderstanding that needs to be dealt with robustly, less than 3% of a business information systems project is about technology, the rest is about the business and people.  And the people whose opinions matter most are the CEO and the Executive team.  It is vital to consult with them and keep them on board as failure to do this WILL result in a solution that is highly sub-optimal.

Note that if the business was engaged in a construction project, for example a new factory or head office building, it would be possible for the CEO to monitor progress by simply driving past the construction site once a week.  It would NOT even require that they get out of their motor car.

With a business systems project there is NOTHING to see, just some consultants and staff sitting in workshops and sitting behind computers.

It is therefore vital that there are formal measures to present the work of the project to the CEO and other executives on a regular basis, particularly once the software is configured there should be periodic walkthroughs to demonstrate progress and consult.

A simple way to ensure that the executive sponsor is kept up to date with progress is to set up two dedicated project email addresses.  The first, designated as the “For your attention” email address to which all correspondence that requires that they engage and, where necessary respond, is directed.  So an address like:


The second email address, designated “For your information” is an address to which all other correspondence is addressed.  Typically the Project Leader and Strategic Solution Architect should copy (cc) ALL emails that they issue or reply to the “For your information” email address.  An address like:


These email addresses should be set up in Outlook or other email client with separate inbox rules so that incoming emails are sorted into folders with names as above “XYZ Project for your attention” and “XYZ for your information”.  The option in Outlook to file sent emails in the same folder as the origin email should be set and the executive shown how to ensure that ALL emails relating to that topic are filed in the folder by using “Reply all” – see my video on “Organizing Outlook” for more information.

The executives regular email address should ONLY be used for very important and urgent communication.

The request to the CEO or sponsoring executive is that they engage with everything sent to the “For your attention” address at least once a day.  It is only necessary for them to engage with the “For your information” folder once a week or more frequently if they are willing to make the effort.  All that is required is that they skim the subject lines so that they have a feel for the level of construction activity and, if a subject line catches their attention dip in and, if they deem it appropriate, comment.

The goal is NOT for them to spend large amounts of time processing emails, it is for them to have a sense of project progress, how the building is progressing.


11. Silence

Silence is one of the most powerful and frequently destructive forms of communication.

Where an executive is kept in the dark because of a lack of communication, it will inevitably happen that when they DO find out what is going on there will be issues where they should have been consulted and this can lead to MAJOR problems, time wastage, rework, claims for variation orders and simply damaged relationships.

Where executives have discussions relating to the project and do NOT make these discussions known to the project team similar toxic situations develop.

Generally the default human position is that IF I am communicating towards you and you do NOT respond I assume that you are in agreement with my message.  Accordingly IF you become aware of something that you do NOT agree with the onus is on YOU to communicate.

Major decisions that affect the business or the project team that are NOT communicated effectively can have massively damaging impacts.


12. Relationship management

As I have stated above, IT projects generally and business information system projects in particular are about people and, since they are about people, they are about relationships.  Managing those relationships is a KEY responsibility of ALL senior members of the project and business teams.

The book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie is an excellent guide for IT people who do NOT understand the importance of constructive relationships and relationship management and should be a MUST READ for all consultants.  Also desirable that business team members read this.


13. Psychometrics – personality and related factors

The systematic rating and understanding of personality, Psychometrics, is an important element of understanding the psychology and dynamics of project operation.

The diagrams below, based on the Predictive Index approach, demonstrate two very different personality styles.

The upper profile is strongly assertive based on confidence in self (Hi A), highly task orientated (Lo B) has a moderately fast work pace (C) and moderately high attention to detail based on sensitivity to criticism (D).  The low B and high A indicate a highly analytical person.  This profile, known as a scientific professional, is highly analytical, has excellent problem solving and creative ability.  This is the profile of many engineers, systems analysts and similar.  In general this profile is NOT good with people and is NOT a good communicator unless they turn communication into a task.

The second profile is a strong marketing and sales profile, strongly assertive based on confidence in self (Hi A), high extroversion (Hi B), moderately fast workpace (C) and average attention to detail (D) resulting in low sensitivity to criticism.  This profile is good with people.

These profiles represent close to the extremes of personality styles, generally people with these personality styles will have difficulty understanding each other and will probably NOT get on well.

The first group is good with computers, the second group is extremely bad with computers and avoid them.  Thus we get the phenomenon that people who are good with people are bad with computers and people who are good with computers are bad with people.

This is a very fundamental principle that impacts the choice of people to fill roles on project teams from the business side and should play a key role in selecting consultants as well.

The first category are critical to designing high quality solutions and variations of that theme who are less creative and more rule based are vital to executing designs.

People with people skills MAY be of use but frequently muddy the water by their willingness to shoot their mouths off without having all the facts.  Typically a person from the first group faced with a person from the second group will retreat into their shell and say very little.

There is much more that can be said about this topic – if you are in an area where you need to know about this I suggest you do some research and consider doing a one day or two day course with one of the mainstream products.


14. Personality Matrix

There is another dimension to the discussion of psychometrics:

The four quadrants represent the four main operating styles of human beings.  There are those who are results orientated, they get things done, there are innovators, they are creative, there are people who are relationship oriented, they are marketers and sales people and there are those who work by the book, they are accountants, policemen, controllers.

All four are required to operate an organization but they respond differently to change.

It is a fundamental characteristic of introducing a new system that people are comfortable with the new system and are doing things by the book.  So the default cultural position of the organization is in the bottom left quadrant.

The new system and the people who are driving change, both the permanent staff and the consultants are, by definition innovative and creative.  They have a vision for a better future.

Thus metaphorically the people in the organization need to be moved psychologically and in terms of workplace skills from the bottom left of the matrix to the top right.  Once they get there they again need to stabilize.

There is a catch.  It is NOT possible to move people through the center of the matrix, you must move them either around the right along the orange curve of “prove it works”, the results route or around the left along the red curve of “hold my hand”, the relationship route.

Problem is that if you take a person whose natural style is results and try and move them by relationship and hand holding they will rapidly become irritated and you are likely to lose them – you must take a strong and assertive position of systematically proving to them that the new system works and you will have a REAL problem if you try that BEFORE the system works.

And if you take a person whose natural style is relationship and prove it works you will scare them off and lose them.  You must take a gentler hand holding approach that is much more facilitative in nature.

This is compounded by the reality that some people have highly developed cognitive ability and can mentally jump from point A to point B in one giant bound, so they do NOT need repetition and reinforcement.

Other people have limited cognitive ability and you need to lead them one small step at a time with considerable reinforcement and repetition.

Then, a further complication, the staff whose personality style IS in the bottom left quadrant, those who work by the book, work by the book.  So to get them to change you need to HAVE a book with step by step instructions to get to the new position that MUST work or else they will fall back to their default current state.  These people have been employed to work BY THE BOOK so they WILL resist change and will probably be the most difficult to move.

These are your bookkeepers, your management accountants, your production controllers, anybody who is employed to work to rigorous and repetitive standards with NO initiative and imagination.  After all we actively discourage “creative accountants”.  Yet, when we introduce a new system we NEED them to get creative and to change.  So the hand-holding / prove it works journeys must be mapped out for them with particular care.

One of the things that can go wrong with a new system is that these by the book people are seen to be uncooperative and resisting change and so get fired and replaced with more “flexible” people who change more easily but then your controls all get blown away once you get to the new position.  You need to RETAIN those staff, they are needed just as much on the new system as on the old.

Note that this dynamic has an impact on designing a new system solution.  Those in the bottom left quadrant will want the new system to be just like the old system barring possibly some really obvious and essential changes and will resist change.  Putting an inexperienced consultant in a room with such people will result in a definition of the desired future state that will NOT be appropriate when there really IS a need for major improvement.  A senior facilitator with the skills to lift out real improvement, working closely with executive and senior management is the way to go.

On the other hand, those in the top right quadrant will invent and innovate and, without effective facilitation will come up with a bucket list of things to do that are NOT necessary and possibly damaging.  Since many IT consultants are in this quadrant they frequently drive massive unnecessary change that gets in the way of the business outcome of the project.  Projects that go way over budget may well have key players in this quadrant.  Again a mature lead consultant who has the ability to moderate demands to that which is really necessary in close consultation with management is a key requirement.

Relationship people who would typically rather talk than do will potentially say things just in order to say things and end up leading inexperienced consultants down convoluted and irrelevant paths leading to seriously wrong design conclusions.

Finally, results orientated people will tend to be very assertive, impatient, not willing to give the time required and very intolerant of mistakes.  Generally these people are the main customers for the new system in terms of a valid business outcome.  Again mature facilitation is called for.

Thus, to bring about change effectively in any organization one must take account of all the above dynamics.


15. Change facilitation

The above discussion points to mechanisms for bringing about change.

The facilitation of this change requires a particular skills set.

Note that “Change Management” is a misnomer and should be avoided -- one facilitates people to change taking account of the factors mentioned above.

A key element of facilitating change is to ensure that there is proper consultation at the start of the project.

That people’s inputs are taken into account and integrated into a valid and valuable solution design that accurately fits the business.

That once completed the solution is intuitively sound and fits the business – the goal is that when staff sit down in the training environment they can relate what they experience to their work environment with appropriate facilitation where the new solutions deviates significantly from the old system.

A huge amount of this thing called “change management” amounts to the use of blunt instruments to psychologically club client staff into learning to use badly designed and clumsy solutions that are an extremely BAD fit to the real business that they are required to operate in.  If the system really is well designed and easy to use AND fits the business well, WITH agreed refinements and optimizations staff will accept it readily and learn to use it quickly.

It is the other sub-standard stuff that requires massive “change management” and experiences poor adoption.

Note that projects that are undertaken with a stated objective of “head count reduction” seldom sustainably deliver reduction in head count because head count reduction is NOT an objective, it is NOT the reason for implementing a new system, it is a natural consequence of a well-designed, well-configured, well-implemented solution that runs smoothly and allows personnel to get more done thereby allowing the business to grow OR the staff complement to shrink by natural attrition.

In cases where there REALLY is a valid head-count reduction outcome this must be managed sensitively with appropriate “golden handshakes” for staff who pull their weight on the project or during the implementation and exit afterwards.

One of the surest ways to give rise to project problems, stalled projects, sabotage and failure is to undertake a new systems project with the goal of bringing about headcount reduction.  Fundamentally the benefits and goals of a new system should be MUCH more strategic and far reaching than headcount.  See the article on “Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution


16. Business integration

An extension of the previous point is that of integrating the solution into the business.  This is about getting to a point where the business is running smoothly and the system is an integral part of every part of running the business.

Effective discovery, effective executive led solution design, effective software construction, precision configuration that accurately models the real world are ALL elements of achieving successful integration with the business.

Most importantly an effective business simulation laboratory program is THE key to getting everything working as an integrated and effective whole.


17. Cognitive Span

The mental ability of an individual to quickly grasp, internalize and process information is the “cognitive span”.

A person with an average education can quickly grasp a list with around five points on it.  A person with much higher level of education and training in reading and assimilating information may quickly grasp a list of up to about ten points.

Above that number of points all people will battle to rapidly digest information.

This relates to the design of taxonomies and code schemes, the design of data reports, technical reports, presentations, etc.

It is a vital element of crafting high value business information system solutions.


18. Diffusion of Innovations

The diffusion of innovations is a widely known statistical grouping of different categories of acceptance of new ideas.

Inherently this correlates with the number of times a message must be heard before it is accepted.

Diffusion of innovations thinking is directly behind the fact that one sees the same commercial broadcast at the same time nightly on TV for days or weeks.  The more the message is broadcast the more people receive it and act on it.

This has huge relevance to business information system projects.

Many IT people are innovators and catch on quickly.  They give the client the message once and assume it has been received and understood.  Reality is that the message needs to be broadcast repeatedly for the majority of people.

This feeds into the communication program, the training and other elements of the project as a vital element in moving client personnel from where they are to where the business needs them to be.


19. Arrogant ignorance – Dunning-Kruger effect

Another key factor in business information systems is the Dunning-Kruger effect, something that I refer to as “arrogant ignorance”.

Wikipedia reports that “Dunning and Kruger proposed that, for a given skill, incompetent people will:

a. “tend to overestimate their own level of skill;

b. “fail to recognize genuine skill in others;

c.  “fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy;

d. “recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill, if they are exposed to training for that skill

This can be summed up by statements such as “when you do not know what you do not know, then you do not know you do not know what you do not know and therefore you make serious mistakes about your level of competence” and by the concept of “unconscious incompetence”.

People who lack knowledge in an area easily greatly over estimate their knowledge and then become proud of the little knowledge that they have.  This makes it very difficult to teach them and makes them very difficult to work with.

In the IT field this manifests as consultants with limited knowledge of a system becoming arrogant and unteachable with regard to the huge amount they do NOT know about the system, or the method, or consulting generally, or systems generally.  This is compounded by the fact that there are NO entry level requirements with the result that people with the least apparent aptitude are taking into the business systems implementation business and deployed with their limited knowledge and experience as supposed experts.

One of the major problems with IT people is their willingness to say “it cannot be done” when they actually mean “I do NOT know how to do it and I am too lazy to find someone who does know how to do it”.

In the same way these people generally have limited knowledge of business with the result that many become arrogant mavericks who confuse and intimidate client personnel and cause major problems.

On the client side a similar problem occurs with personnel who think they know MUCH more about systems than they really do, just because they have written a simple Microsoft Access application or a macro driven spreadsheet.  These people then very assertively drive the business and their colleagues down seriously wrong roads.  Coupled with inexperienced and arrogant consultants this is a recipe for a massively messed up project outcome.

There is a huge need for statutory regulation of this industry but that is another discussion.

In the absence of regulation the choice of key project team members, including client executive level advisor, project leader and the like are critical.  See the “Procurement Documents” section for an example of a Request for Proposal designed to manage these issues at the procurement stage and into the project.


20. Iterate

A necessary consequence of ALL the above is that human beings simply do NOT “get it” first time.  They need repetition and reinforcement.

An extension of this is that it is humanly impossible to get it right first time when specifying a new system, software, configuration, etc.

It is also so that if you do NOT plan for a finite number of iterations and manage to limit yourselves to that number of iterations things drag on and on and you get the phenomenon of tasks that are 90% complete for 90% of the time.

I have found that, in general, if you plan for 3 iterations and manage to three iterations it is generally possible to finalize a specification or other document, finalize a piece of software, finalize a testing program in 3 iterations.  But this requires that you plan those iterations in detail and allow sufficient time for each step of each iteration for people to give quality time to the iteration.


a.  Hold initial workshop – 1 day with lead time of 1 week (2 weeks?)

b. Develop draft specification document – e.g. 1 week – MUST be a realistic time allowance

c.  Circulate for review – 1 day

d. Review document – e.g. 1 week – MUST be a realistic time allowance

e. Submit comments – 1 day

f.   Workshop to review comments – effectively looping back to (a)

g.  Iterate the above steps a third time

h.  Approval of document

i.   Release of document

Note that the time required for each step of the above process is relatively fixed irrespective of the content and varies only for small, medium and large documents.  This allows a full work-breakdown structure based on the above to be developed and copied and pasted throughout the project plan.

This results in a MUCH more realistic plan, much greater plan compliance and much better deliverable quality in less overall time – it is ALL about people after all!


21. The REAL Issues in Business Information Systems

I started speaking about many of the issues discussed in this document as early as around 1992, by 2003 I had presented at dozens of conferences

In 2003 I sat down and undertook a critical issues analysis of all of my findings into the factors causing information technology investment failure and the critical factors for success.  This resulted in the two day course “The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success” and the associated book which is available for download off the side-bar on my website.

In 2013 I revisited and revised these factors and they have been addressed in the series of articles “The REAL Issues in Business Information System Success” which is being published periodically at present.

The factors for failure are:

Notice that barring 3% for technology ALL the remaining factors relate to people and what people do.  Much relates to what are typically called “soft issues”.  The harsh reality is that the “soft issues” are, in fact, harder than concrete.

The Critical Factors for Success are:

Here we see that technology is 2% of what leads to success; the rest is all the people related skills and soft issues again.

It is VITAL to understand that Information Technology is ALL ABOUT PEOPLE!

Because there is NO construction almost all of what takes place on an IT or business information systems project is about people.

People are therefore the FOUNDATION of the solution and the people issues must be constantly addressed.


22.  Executive Custody and Governance

As an outworking of all the above the custody and governance of business information system projects is critical.

The system is invisible.

Any integrated system that impacts multiple departments or divisions generates massive change in the organization, requires that different business units cooperate and collaborate and impacts virtually every member of staff.

The person who owns this view of the business is the Chief Executive Officer, NO ONE else can own it and therefore NO ONE else can be the custodian of the project and give overall direction.

Because they have neither the time nor the knowledge to manage a project of this nature it is critical that they appoint an extremely mature and highly experienced Project Leader to assist them.  This person should be appointed essentially in an interim executive position to direct the project from within the organization, supervise the drawing up of the tender documents, manage the tender process, lead the negotiations with contractors, supervise the detailed business requirements analysis, the solution specification, the software design, the software construction, the laboratory, the signing of certificates, the management of the deployment and commissioning of the software in the business and the hand-over of the system to the business at which point they would typically exit.

It is important to understand that this person MUST report directly to the CEO with an open line of communication and a mandate to represent the CEO as the agent and proxy of the CEO.  For this reason on appointment this person must undertake a thorough high level discovery process including wide ranging walkthroughs of the business and interview all of the Executive team and other key role players so that they have a solid picture of the business and the business requirement.

Any attempt to have this person report to the COO, CFO, CIO, etc is guaranteed to fail, firstly because these people do NOT own the integrated view of the business, secondly because they do NOT have the rank and the muscle in the organization to make decisions that stick and must motivate their peers through peer influence which simply does NOT work when the going gets tough.

There is HUGE people related complexity in business information system projects! 

23. Other Human Foundation

This article has addressed the major factors that seem important at this time.  The fact is that ALL that we do relating to business information systems is related to people, the design of reports, the nature of decision making, how to present information graphically, etc, etc.

The subject is huge and generally little understood and widely lacking in terms of the skill set of consultants.


Dr James A Robertson PrEng

12 September 2014

Download The Critical Human Foundation -- White Paper in Adobe pdf format

Sample Pulse Measurement Report for Fleet Management Client -- ClientCompany28 -- Health of Microsoft AX Project and Implementer28 Professional Services

Project had been running for three years and cost millions with NO deliverable with seriously toxic relationships throughout the Project Team

Clear evidence of implementer incompetence and possibly dishonesty, range of key measures prescribed to turn the situation around


Implementer was the IT consulting arm of one of the "Big 4" accounting firms



A Pulse Measurement investigation into the health of the Microsoft AX Project and associated services from Implementer28 was undertaken for ClientCompany28 from 14 to 19 March 2012.


This report summarizes headline level findings and recommended actions.


All recommendations should be regarded as provisional and might be refined in the event of further information coming to light but are regarded as a reliable headline level result.



Following are the headline findings, percentages at the end of headings give an indication of the relative importance of each point in making my recommendations.


1.       Toxic project psychology and low visibility of deliverables – 7%
The level of conflicting opinions encountered during this Pulse Measurement was in the upper 10% of what I have encountered in doing dozens of Pulse Measurements
There is a lot of finger pointing, Implementer28 are blaming ClientCompany28, ClientCompany28 are blaming Implementer28, Implementer28’s people are blaming their management, ClientCompany28’s people are blaming their management.  There are people who were only prepared to express opinions subject to explicit assurance of confidentiality.
A significant number of reports of people in tears, people swearing and shouting, planning to resign or resigned, etc
The psychology of the project in many areas is very toxic although there were some suggestions that there were improvements as a result of recent developments
Very difficult to get real clarity with regard to what was going on, had to dig for sight of deliverables, reports of work trashed and redone repeatedly, etc
Ratings of likelihood of a successful outcome ranging from 0 (trash immediately) to 6 or 7, several people thought the project should be aborted
I have given this point a relatively low rating because it is my opinion that while these are real issues they are the symptoms of the issues addressed below
2.       Lack of a clear strategic project definition – 22%
The thing that stands out about this project is the complete lack of a clear definition of the project goals, divergent opinions as to the essence of the business and the project, etc
There is no visible document that clearly and concisely sets out the goals of the project, the Essence of ClientCompany28’s business, what the final deliverable will be and how to get there
The bottom line is that the project is rudderless and drifting with no coherent view of what is being achieved and how it is to be achieved
It appears that Implementer28 do not see such a definition as important and have never made any attempt to obtain clarity – Implementer28CEO thinks he knows what is required but his definition is drastically at odds with what I was consistently told by ClientCompany28 management – this seems to evidence a level of arrogance or disinterest which is cause for concern
My understanding of the Essence of ClientCompany28’s business as seen by ClientCompany28 Executives and Management is “financial services – we want to be the leading provider of leasing solutions through the use of highly automated and highly advanced financial service software systems”
The goal of the project from ClientCompany28’s side is “Internet banking on steroids – fully interactive computer applications on the customers desk that allows them to tailor a vehicle lease, get a quote and authorize the quote and then allow ClientCompany28 to process that order through to delivery with minimum human intervention, includes allowing suppliers to pay themselves”
On a scale of 0 to 10 where 0 = we do not need computers and 10 = we are completely dependent on computers as in financial services and banking, ClientCompany28 management see their goal for this project as being to move them to a 9 or 10 and see themselves as already being at a fairly advanced level.  Implementer28CEO on the other hand sees ClientCompany28 as currently a 4 with the initial aim of the project being a 6 with possibly an 8 in due course but does NOT see this as a critical requirement
Implementer28CEO does not see 10 as necessary or achievable
Implementer28CEO’s description of the project and its goals is flowery sales speak and lacks precision and clarity
The biggest single reason this project is in difficulty is a lack of a clear, consistent and cogent statement of the goals of the project coupled with a substantial gap between Implementer28’s interpretation of the requirement and the actual requirement as stipulated consistently by ClientCompany28 Executives and Managers – it is my view that it is the responsibility of Implementer28 to make sure that they accurately understand the goals of their client
There are references to head-count reduction goals which, in my experience, are likely to be difficult to deliver on – head count reduction is the natural consequence of a well configured, well implemented ERP well operated and is a spin-off.  Making head-count reduction a goal introduces negative psychology and results in people trying to figure out how to reduce head-count rather than now to implement the system optimally
3.       Development project NOT an ERP project, AX is an inefficient development environment – 15%
As a direct outworking of the previous point, ClientCompany28’s requirement is for a highly tailored solution geared to delivering the highly intelligent customer interface and all supporting services necessary to create the competitive position outlined above
It appears that Implementer28 only fully realized that this was primarily a development project about six months ago and have since been resourcing accordingly
As far as I can determine Implementer28 are primarily a ERP configuration service provider and NOT a development house.  They have had to acquire development resources but still have to learn how to manage such resources (fundamentally different management to configuration) and the massive gap in strategic understanding referred to above will hinder this
It is important to understand that from a fundamental first principles consideration of ClientCompany28’s objective, as set out above, this was NEVER an ERP project, it has always been a development project
It appears that either Implementer28 totally failed to comprehend this in their initial presales negotiations or chose to ignore it and try to shoe-horn ClientCompany28 into AX no matter what the cost
Estimates of the level of custom development on this project run to as high as 75% but not lower than 30%.  There is NO question that this is a major custom development project and that Implementer28 grossly failed to recognize this and run the project accordingly
Further indications are that AX is a complex, cumbersome and highly inefficient development environment, one ClientCompany28 technical staff member referred to it as “horrible” – I do not have independent verification of this but repeatedly observed that it was very difficult to get clarity on what is being developed and that there is considerable jargon on the part of Implementer28 personnel
It should be noted that the development of an “Internet banking on steroids” solution for ClientCompany28 requires a front end customer interface that Is extremely lean, highly efficient (fast), robust, error free, etc – inherently this implies the use of high performance technology which as far as I can determine is NOT what AX offers.  There appear to be strong reasons to suggest that the customer interface should NOT be developed using the approach currently proposed
Coupled to this there is a fundamental issue in that the solution should be designed top down with the customer interface as the starting point – determine what is required in the customer interface and then build the rest of the customization to deliver this.  In this case there is no attempt to design and build in this manner
There appears to be a basis to circumscribe the extent of development undertaken in AX versus what might be undertaken using other technology
It appears that AxAddOn28 may only provide a 15% fit according to some interpretations and is therefore an inappropriate technology choice – at that level of fit it would be better to redesign from scratch.  Xxx appears to know of alternative technology which is allegedly a better fit
Changing from AX 2009 to 2012 mid-stream seems questionable given that there was so much custom development required – there is the paradox that many of the reasons why Informix has been rejected as a future platform are manifesting in the AX environment – e.g. massive upgrade effort – it is estimated that the move from 2009 to 2012 has delayed the project by 9 months, this is roughly the length of time it would have taken to port the current FourGen / Informix Xxx solution to the Xxx database platform which would allegedly have remediated the technical constraints on Xxx (note that Informix is owned by IBM)
4.       Implementer28 have failed to provide necessary professional guidance – 14%
From consideration of the previous points it will be apparent that I am of the opinion that Implementer28 have failed miserably to provide the required level of professional guidance and thought leadership with the result that a year to two years of time, hundreds of thousands of Pounds and tens of thousands of hours have been sub-optimally employed if not totally wasted
It seems that Implementer28 have spent three years without a robust clearly understood definition of the project goals – I would expect to see carefully designed posters setting out the project goals and main design elements, I asked close to ten people for the strategic concept document that allegedly exists but at the time of writing have not received a copy
Implementer28 have spent at least two years treating the project as an AX ERP configuration project when fundamentally it is a development project and AX is not necessarily then the most appropriate technology platform – by all means use AX as the ERP but that does NOT necessitate that high performance customer facing software has to be developed within the AX context and if AX is inhibiting development to the extent that some people seem to suggest then AX needs to be reconsidered
Implementer28 appear to have shifted considerable responsibility for the design of the solution to ClientCompany28 people with ClientCompany28 staff being taken out of production for very considerable periods of time to undertake documentation and workshops that appear to be outside their scope of knowledge and experience and producing mountains of theoretical documentation.  At this stage I have not been convincingly shown that these documents are resulting in a concrete and robust deliverable
It is my opinion that Implementer28 should have facilitated workshops with groups of ClientCompany28 people and that Implementer28 personnel should have produced the documentation in close cooperation with the development personnel in order to ensure robust specifications.  The basic process should entail:
- Walkthroughs of current way of doing things
- Outline by ClientCompany28 management of the future desired state
- Workshops with user populations, with Implementer28 analysts AND developers present
- Implementer28 analyst personnel produce documentation in consultation with business and developers
- Review draft specification in workshop setting with business users and developers
- Refine
- Review and refine again
- Adopt
It appears that the process that has ACTUALLY been followed is:
- Pull ClientCompany28 personnel out of the business
- Leave them to draft all sorts of documents they really do not understand
- Workshop in some way
- Present to management and get an explosion because management were not consulted at the start
As far as I can see Implementer28’s way of working is fundamentally flawed from a systems engineering perspective, it appears to be defective even from the perspective of limited tailoring of standard AX components in that it seems to be fundamentally a bottom-up approach
The ClientCompany28 team for the most part appear to be dedicated, loyal, passionate and trying really hard but from what I can see the defective Implementer28 approach has set them up for failure
It does not appear to occur to the Implementer28 consultants that if they are repeatedly doing weeks of work and being told by ClientCompany28 management that the results they are producing fail to meet business requirements that there is something wrong with the way Implementer28 are doing things rather than blaming ClientCompany28 – UNLESS ClientCompany28 have been consistently interfering with the work of the Implementer28 consultants and giving them direction and then not take responsibility for the outcome
It is firmly my opinion that a client engages the services of an external professional services firm like Implementer28 on the basis that they expect that firm to provide comprehensive guidance, thought leadership, strategic architectural guidance, etc – this appears to be consistently lacking in the services that Implementer28 have supplied
There are some VERY GOOD PEOPLE on the Implementer28 team but the high level leadership is lacking and there are rumbles that the top management of Implementer28 have refused to listen to the consultants on many occasions and made sales promises to ClientCompany28 that the consultants knew were false and that they could not deliver on
It does appear that Implementer28 are course correcting, Xxx and a number of his people appear to be highly competent and Xxx appears to be competent but they are operating within a defective governance framework from Implementer28 management and at this stage seem likely to produce more of the same unless the fundamental strategic definition issues outlined above are fully addressed
I have not been able to understand why moving to an “Agile” methodology is going to fix the problem when huge amounts of work have been done and it appears that the basic content of the work is defective
Certain Implementer28 consultants come across as very cocky and confident to the point of being arrogant without necessarily being able to demonstrate delivery
There is a massive deficit in terms of high level strategic guidance with regard to the design of the overall solution and, at this stage, while I think that the development team MAY be capable of delivering technically they need much clearer strategic direction and I am not sure that Implementer28 management have the knowledge and experience to run a project of this nature or else they are stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that there is something that they are doing which is fundamentally getting in the way of the core objectives of the project
There also appears to be a lack of Governance clarity on the Implementer28 team in terms of who is guiding the project overall
Fundamentally ClientCompany28 have very substantial and very valid reasons to deal very severely with Implementer28 – this having been said, the fact is that ClientCompany28 have made a huge investment in getting to know the AX environment and development platform and build relationships with the Implementer28 team and Implementer28 have made a commensurately huge investment in getting to understand ClientCompany28’s business and build relationships with ClientCompany28’s people – it is NOT in the interests of ClientCompany28 to terminate Implementer28 at this point BUT a major change in the way the relationship is managed is going to be vital
5.       ITManager28 is stretched excessively – 10%
It seems that ITManager28 is excessively stretched and that she has stepped up to the plate in various areas which have resulted in this situation
It is recommended that actions are taken to assist ITManager28 to focus on her core areas of real high value knowledge and experience relative to achieving the project outcome and provide resources to ensure that other activities are delegated to others – I understand that some recruitment measures are in place but would recommend that the exact specification of the human resources required be carefully evaluated in the light of this report before personnel are appointed or contracted
6.       ClientCompany28 need a very experienced and very senior project leader /  director – 12%
From ClientCompany28’s side it seems to me that the biggest gap if for a very senior, very experienced project leader / project director, not necessarily full time, to come in and take over the running of the project from the client perspective, someone who can engage in tough negotiations with the service provider, negotiate in terms of project scope on a peer level with executives, give strategic solution guidance, etc 
This is a role that I sometimes play, ClientCompany28CEO has asked me for a separate proposal in this context
7.       Outsourcing of the development of core strategic capability is not advisable – 2%
Given the very ambitious vision of ClientCompany28 and the core strategic capability that it is desired to develop I am not entirely comfortable with an external third party developing the elements of the software that are critically strategic, that is the software to sit on customers desks
I realize that it is late in the day to change the current contractual arrangements but I would suggest that the current arrangements are reviewed – it is vital that the core software development capability for core strategic value should be tightly held by ClientCompany28 and NOT be out in the market to be sold off to the highest bidder
Undertaking key elements of this development in-house should be carefully considered
8.       Fundamental database design and business intelligence design can start immediately – 8%
I strongly recommend a drastic rethink of the way the solution is being designed
The fundamental logical entities that make up the customer user interface and the  major building blocks of the solution, that is vehicles, accessories, customers, lease terms, etc, etc are well known and will not change – there is no reason a robust entity relationship map of fundamental data elements cannot be developed immediately
This document will then form the basis of:
-  Database design for the customer user interface
-  Design for the data warehouse and  Business Intelligence solution loading out of Xxx as an interim solution if required
The fundamental database design is a function of the business NOT AX, there needs to be linkage back into AX in some cases but if the view that up to 60% or more of the total solution will be custom developed then constraining this development because of the existence of AX must be questioned.
9.       Quality of validation data is average to poor requires critical attention – 6%
Quality of validation data is average to poor, the new Chart of Accounts seems fair but could be improved but other lists like the Accessory code require significant investment:
There is no logic in the above list on which software intelligence can be built
A well designed hierarchical list should replace this
Similar comments apply elsewhere
Note that a poorly configured ERP leads to all sorts of operational inefficiencies and increased operating costs – precision configuration is a critical requirement to achieving the goals set for this project and I have seen very little evidence of precision configuration – thus, while this point has a relatively low weight it is nevertheless critical once the other issues have been addressed
10.   Remediating and strengthening Xxx should be investigated further – 4%
The possibility of falling back to Xxx was explored
There ARE apparently interface issues with the Informix Database that are inhibitors to change but further research in this field may be warranted
Conversion to the Xxx database would open up the database but is estimated to take two senior developers twelve months and does carry risks.  Once this was done ClientCompany28 would be able to use a diversity of development technology to enhance the Xxx solution long term
Note that it would be necessary to pay premium salaries for key developers but it is likely that these salaries will NOT be any more than are required for AX developers
There does appear to be a basis to conclude that the decision to trash Xxx was not necessarily the best decision given the real strategic priorities, it is almost certain that if ClientCompany28 had remained with Xxx, converted the database and run a tight project in lines with past experience that a new customer interface would have been deployed and fully operational at least a year ago
The above findings point to a number of areas of uncertainty that require further investigation in order to arrive at a robust way forward.  Proposed actions are discussed in the next section of this report
Overall it appears that the project can be stabilized and managed to achieve a successful outcome but some significant changes in approach are called for
Recommended Actions
Following are the recommended actions following on tabling of this report:
1.       Appoint executive level project leader /  director – 28%
ClientCompany28 need an executive level individual, probably part time, to drive this project for them – need considerable systems, project management / leadership experience, architectural ability, etc – this person should lead and guide the execution of all the points below
2.       High level solution design and documentation – 23%
Run a series of workshops at the Executive level to arrive at a robust and comprehensive high level specification of the required business outcome (Internet on steroids) and produce comprehensive documentation down to the level of the individual user interface screens that the customer will interact with
3.       Evaluate sustainability of Xxx – 14%
Undertake further research to establish whether there are alternative solutions to the problems with Informix interfacing in order to make Xxx more viable as a fall-back position
Note that Informix is now owned by IBM so I would expect there to be fairly robust alternative solutions to the problems that were described to me in terms of interfacing
4.       High level walkthrough and more in-depth evaluation of state of AX project – 11%
I had great difficulty getting a real hands-on feel for what is there, some people said almost nothing and others say a considerable amount
The only way to answer this is to get all the key people in a room for a day or two days and have the Implementer28 and ClientCompany28 teams walk us systematically through what has been done in terms of practical demonstration of documents, screens, etc
At the end of this process take a final decision as to whether there really is a case to continue with AX or fall back to Xxx and alternative technology is warranted
5.       More detailed evaluation of Implementer28’s performance – 9%
For the reasons indicated above it is difficult to gauge Implementer28’s performance – as far as I can see I would give them about 2/10 but a few people seemed to point to better performance
The proposed walkthrough above will give a better indication of whether Implementer28 is just offering good sales talk and technical sub-standard work or is able to deliver – note that I think that provided the way in which they are managed is significantly changed there is a reasonable basis to expect that they can deliver provided we prevent loss of further key personnel
I do NOT think that Implementer28 should be terminated unless it is found that there really is nothing of substance to show for the work done so far but I DO think they need to be managed very differently
6.       Project to deliver customer solution as rapidly as possible – 7%
I am reasonably certain that with limited technical adjustments and compromises it should be possible to start designing and developing the software to sit on client desk-tops in the near future, to run against Xxx if necessary initially
7.       Precision configuration (taxonomy) activities – 5%
Precision code tables should be developed – refer my Taxonomy Manual for reference
8.       First principles data warehouse and business intelligence design – 3%
As with the customer interface, the design of the master tables for the Data warehouse should commence soon and not be further delayed and the same with the Business Intelligence design

There appear to be major reasons for dissatisfaction with Implementer28 and reasons for concern with the current project status


Measures should be taken that improve team morale, improve focus and build on what it good in the project environment which appears to be significant and improving – we should NOT break what is in the process of getting fixed

Having said this there is a need for appointment of a senior advisory / leader to ClientCompany28 to direct the project, proper definition of high level project goals, more in-depth assessment of the value of the work done to-date and other actions directed at ensuring a high value outcome


I am available to assist in whatever way ClientCompany28 require to give effect to these recommendations.
Dr James A Robertson PrEng

Contacting James A Robertson and Associates

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Random Selection of Articles by Dr James Robertson

Cnf 078 The New South Africa -- Why Engineering Fails

Technology failures are the consequence of human error or negligence, the presentation discusses the fundamental reasons why technology projects fail in the context of the requirements of engineering in the New South Africa
TxM 100 Taxonomy Manual Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples

An overview of the history of the approach and statement of the problem in terms of major deficiencies in high quality management information together with definitions and examples
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
Cnf 088 Strategic ERP Investment -- ASCO Case Study

Case Study of a very successful ERP Implementation that generated lasting strategic benefit through competitive advantage resulting from  rigorously designed Precision Configuration and associated custom software, joint paper with the CEO and major shareholder of the client, African Sales Company
Std 021 Procurement: 12 Information required from Third Party Software Suppliers

In some cases bidders may need information from third party software suppliers who are providing services or information to the client, this document provides basic information for this purpose
Std 008 Procurement: 00e File Table of Contents

The tender documents are issued in one or more large files, this is the table of contents for the file

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

Dr James A Robertson

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

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:

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Click here to send us an email subscribing to our free newsletter -- all articles posted by James Robertson will be emailed to you

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.

Contact Us

You can contact us on

Email: James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com

LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/drjamesarobertsonerpdoctor

Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/james.a.robertson.393

Mobile: +44 (0) 776-862-2875

Landline: +44 (0) 207-059-0007

Fax: +44 (0) 844 774 4580

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

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