When I read a recent SYSPRO blog The Grace of Change, about a Seeker of Value, one customer immediately sprang to mind: Westlands Horticulture. A fast growing business, both organically and through acquisition, they always seem to be involved in one project or another with K3 SYSPRO. Finbarr McNamee, in his role as Group IT Manager is certainly the Seeker of Value within Westlands Horticulture. He engages with the business and gets to grip with the real business need, helping others find new, smarter and more effective ways of doing things. Finbarr drives the change through the organization in several ways.
His starting point is to work closely with the local site managers and system users, to understand the process and what they want from a system. Building these relationships puts him in a position to make good project decisions on scope, process, work-arounds and customizations in a timely manner.
He put it to me that: “without being able to talk to people, understand what they are saying and why – you can never elicit change within an organization.”
Finbar’s background is firmly grounded in system projects and he understands the ERP sector. This means that as a SYSPRO vendor we get the right information at the right time: customization requests are well thought out, process discussions include all the relevant information, and decisions on consultancy needs are made well enough in advance.
The Seeker of Value has to be able to build these relationships to create a project team that can really work together to create value. The users on site are bought into the solution – they understand the “why” as well as the “what.” The return on investment is realized much sooner and the disruption to “business as usual” is greatly minimized.
The Seeker of Value also needs project management skills in order to drive change through an organization. They have to understand how the different elements of the project fit together: the solution design, the testing and the training. More than that, they have to be able to deliver their message, making sure everyone in the organization knows what is expected of them and when. Finbarr is able and willing to take the unpopular decision, sometimes pushing back on project scope in order to get a solution delivered on time, then bringing in subsequent changes after the go live.
During any project, the business also needs to be prepared for risk. Too often though, the focus is on the risk involved with making a particular change. The Seeker of Value will often look at things in a very different way: “what’s the risk of NOT changing?” they ask. “How will the business be able to innovate in the marketplace if it’s systems can’t keep up, how will the business be able to reduce costs if they can’t process more efficiently, how will the business grow if the system can’t support growth?”
Communication is the cornerstone of change, and this is a concept Finbarr understands well. “It’s not just communicating to the system vendor, or to the project team, it’s vitally important that you communicate to the rest of the business.”
Businesses generally have little interest in systems and process unless they are communicated in a way which allows people to quickly grasp the concepts and understand tangible benefits. Talking to a supply chain director about the new mobile warehouse technology you have employed means nothing, but a Seeker of Value will talk about higher pick accuracy, faster loading times and fewer delivery discrepancies, and what this means in terms of unit costs.
The more projects that are successfully completed, the more benefits are realised, the more confident the business gets in the whole process – ultimately the more system champions emerge and the easier it is to make change happen. The Seeker of Value is critical to the process – they develop the information systems strategy that truly engages with the business to deliver value.