Microsoft Enterprise Agreements, not fun

Here I am with a need to select a web platform, a possible new ERP, a long term strategic IT plan to develop and oh yeah, that bloody Microsoft EA expiring this December.  While part of the IT strategy will be what will be the future desktop, server, mail, and collaboration platforms which the EA could be a part of the cost efficiency that the strategy can deliver.  But, EA complexity has given birth to a consulting industry.  Managing the EA is not effective.

MS as listed here goes on and on about ‘More choices, more value’.  Really, I doubt it.  As for simplifying my license management get out of here.  For us mid-size companies we are pinched by not being big enough to get the value of 1,000 plus licensing, but too big to just ignore the EA.

Open Value

Open Value Subscription

Select Plus

Enterprise Agreement

Which one to choose, which one to choose?  Are you going to grow over the next few years?  Will you be committing to MS solutions primarily during the same time span?  Will you upgrade to 2010 and Windows 7?  What is the value of those two upgrades – know one knows for sure?Microsoft monopoly

The questions go on and on and the variables are — well too damn many. 

 You have the stories about the ‘looming Windows 7 disaster’  from IBM and the similar looming story from Infoworld.  So what are my choices?  Stay with MS and spend weeks trying to ensure you make the right decision.  Than worse than that time spent, you have to explain it to your Finance group so they understand it. 

Or as this blog entry about moving away from MS by Nari Kannan is it time to plan that move away from the MS operating system.  Gartner talks about

‘Windows is Broken’ and I have been wondering for a few years about whether the reason for Windows is maintaining the majority  it enjoys simply because of a combination of complacency by both IT and business along

with a fear of failing with something new. 

Is it time to take a long, long look at moving to a Linux based OS with using Open Office?  There is that mail problem that is not quite fully solved by the available clients.  Ah, but that is for another blog entry.  What about just giving up on the homogeneous desktop and server platform and accept that you will need to take on the additional support staffing to offset the lower cost of OS and open source applications.  And than there is Google Chrome. MS vs Google

 Again, more on this in a future entry.

The focus here is the ineffective licensing process that Microsoft has put in place. What other vendor do you work with that you continue to stay with that makes your IT group less effective.  The only good thing is it is every few years versus every year.  We won’t go into the non-effective activities every Tuesday getting the latest patches from MS.  Because to be fair, if Linux or Apple had MS’s install base, the bored hacking community would be focused on them instead. 

From my perspective, if I give MS another 6 figure check for my next EA agreement.  I am buying the right to decide 12 to 18 months from now whether I want to upgrade to Windows 7 and other products.  Somehow the MS EA seems anti-nimble.  The solution is simple, but time consuming.  Do the homework to do a full evaluation of leaving MS.  That is just as Gartner puts it, the only way to get MS to start acting in the best interest of their customers, not just their shareholders.

MS tools parody 2


I have the little writers block thingy

You know the thing where you start thinking about your weekly entry and to capture your perspective on something and you either have nothing at all or in my case I am all over the place.  I have IT as a growth/profit versus cost center.  Too many companies struggle to get their head around that one unless they sell their IT directly.  Than there is ERP best in class versus fully integrated, but that has been done to death – though all the others have not seemed to have solve much.  What about mobility and the need to have everything accessible from any device?  I don’t have any specific perspective on the need for everything accessible accept – yeah.

Jump into the Windows 7 debate than.  Simple – too expensive, too much more hardware needed, new stuff but not revolutionary.  Microsoft stop evolving, I don’t have that much time to wait.  The global economic woes continuing and the impact on IT spending.  Sputtering economy has some thinking long term and most holding onto their cash still and no looking to let it go for anything.  Than we have the long range impact of China’s IT power versus the rest of the world.  Well, that took a hit due to the economy, but still something to worry about.

Okay, let’s get serious here – I have to write something.  Not that I get hundreds of views a week, but for my sake.  Green tech, there is always something to write about green tech.  Nope – just the same lower power consumption equipment, evolving software that connects to more devices so you know how many flushes a day per bathroom and the latest hybrid car.  Well, Ford is taking the approach of once again getting more miles per gallon from just gas with ‘boost’ power versus hybrid tech.  Think if they had taking that marketing/engineering leap 4 years ago they would still be begging for bailouts.  Nice to be innovative after you fail gloriously.  But, who am I to talk – I normally look much better after a spectacular failure.  Lowering that bar and everything.

Already, back to the subject at hand of a subject.  I am watching the ceiling fan, listening to Diana Krall singing ‘Cry a River over You’ and my L-mode (see Pragmatic Programmer – Refactor Your Wetware) is not accessible.  I could write another book review.  Nope, re-reading Refactor Your Wetware as Hunt recommends SQ3R.  I did buy two new books, but will save them for a later entry.

I could complain that Coke Zero or Pepsi Max is not offered in most vending or fountain machines.  What is with that Coke and Pepsi?  Feed my addiction.  My fav Pepsi commercial –

Alright, I give up.  This is what you get folks.  I will wait until Monday to post it in case I wake up in the middle of the night with a spurt of brilliance.  But, it has been 45 years and outside of when I was 9 and I woke up with the best idea of how to maximum pool time between the 4 pools we had between my friends (we could not swim unless a adult was around), I am still waiting for another one.

ERP Evaluations – features/functions vs. answering questions

I am working with my current employer to evaluate a new ERP solution.  The current solution is end of life and an extensive RFP was developed, issued and returned.  The RFP’s pages of tables listing specific features and functions covering from does CRM, have User Defined Reason Codes for Rejected Quotes to Sales Order Management Customer Specific Invoice Formats.  There is also the general requirements, expectations, and system requirements and so on.

If you have read one ERP RFP, none of these wonderful detailed responses would any exciting new reading.  But, they are not meant to, are they?  They are meant to take the apples, oranges, and lemons of ERP solutions and make them look and smell as similar as possible for ease of evaluation.  All this is part of the process that I not only have been apart of several times, but believe is necessary.  Evaluating what will not just become part of a business’s life, but impact speed to market, customer satisfaction and as several failures of ERP implementations document a year or more of a business’s bottom line.

However, yes there is a however, a but, a hold on there fella.  Why else write the darn blog entry?

However, when I in the past have spoken to the sponsors, champions and process owners who would request, beg or threaten me regarding the selection of an ERP vendor.  Rarely would they describe what they needed from the ERP as a list of features or functions.  The focus would be on questions they needed answers and the timeliness of getting those answers.  In other words, business intelligence.  Not just the sexy dashboards with colored charts and live updates.  But the simply yes or no answers to business questions.

Did the latest marketing campaign have any other impact that we did not predict?

Is the potential of a customer’s buying power greater than what they order from us?

Or requiring some more verbiage –

How do I know what influenced a customer to contact us?

These questions are often left off the RFP and more so only come up during the final phase (if at all formally) of demonstrations.  More than once I have been caught short when a question seemingly out of the blue to me gets tossed to the ERP presenter that is quickly recognized by sponsors, champions and process owners as critical to the ERP solution’s requirements.

And they are absolutely right it is critical, bless their little persnickety souls.

The questions that your current ERP solution answers are just as important as the one’s it does not answer.  Documenting this is not always the easiest thing.  Think of asking someone to describe the decisions they make upon waking up this morning until they walked in the door of the office.  Most will get a bit testy after the start brushing my teeth from the bottom or top decision and towel on the floor or the hamper.  We make tens of thousands of decisions all day long.  Trying to pick the hundreds of business decisions out to determine why or more importantly how we came to the decision is both one of the most difficult parts of designing systems as well as the most important.

Unless, your business is willing to completely adapt every process to the new system plain vanilla out of the box and stay that way for 3 years (time my experience says it takes for a business to completely adapt to new habits of the new ERP).  Than you need to make some effort to gather these questions.  These are less about making custom changes to the software and more about matching the data collected, stored and distributed.  After all, most ERP solutions have less than 40% of their licensed users who access the system to input and process data.  Most use the system for inquiry and reporting.  Therefore, the 60% or more require more from the data than processing features and functions.  Look back to the matrix of an RFP.  Are there just as many data related rows as processing related rows?

Ask the questions about the questions that your business needs answered to get the right ERP?

Just Rants

Rant 1. Twitter and Iranian election – if we did not have tweets about the election, would we have gotten better or worse news coverage.  One thing I know is that cable news ‘reporters’ would have had to work harder.

Rant 2. I don’t mind being a PC (Microsoft’s new marketing campaign), as long as you won’t change my license agreement during the life of ‘my PC’ and explain why Windows 7 costs more than Vista? Developing software should focus on lowering the cost like hardware manufacturers have been able to?

Rant 3. There is no longer a separation between personal and work life for knowledge workers.  I myself have talked about disconnecting, but I am a  knowledge worker and I do not have enough control over my thoughts to disconnect my mind from resolving problems.  So if there is no separation of our thoughts, than the systems we use for personal and work life are equally difficult to separate.  As such, IT groups must recognize this fact and development methods to deal with the merging of personal and work in how people use their systems.  I have a Macbook and a Blackberry that I use equally for personal and work related email, surfing, on-line reading, listening to both iTunes music and technology podcasts.  I bought the Macbook and the Blackberry on my own dime.  Companies supplying work computers for work only are sending conflicting messages.  You have a company phone and are allowed to use it for personal calls, even though you the company may charge back those calls.  The same for company cars, credit cards and so on.  But not company computers.  IT and business consider how long this policy can stand.

Rant 4. I go to the Fast Company website and their top technology story is on Playstation 3.  Really, just really.  Arrrgh.  Http://

Rant 5. Gartner, then Forrester states that IT spending will be down, but coming up by the end of 2009.  Realize this that it will be a long time before we ever see IT spending like the 90’s.  IT is not special.  IT wanted to be integrated into the business with full business alignment.  Well, thanks to the recession you either got IT pushed back to the mail room and asked just to keep the lights on stuff going or IT was pulled into the business and told to deliver bottom line impacting solutions and integrate itself into strategic and tactical operations at all levels.  No more dabbling with new business services or letting the Dell’s, Amazon’s and Wal-Mart’s of the world be the only examples.  If your business truly believes in IT you have to have an ROI for most of everything, outside of some (yes, just some) compliance activities.  So, step up or sit down and stop whining about business not understanding IT.

They don’t want to understand the history of SOA or the psychology of crowd sourcing.  They want results.

Rant 6.  Hospitals found that the top ROI for going paperless was the reduction of bacteria caused by the paper files being shuttled from floor to floor.  Therefore, reducing the costs of sanitizing maintenance and issues around staph infections.  Most ROI for paperless is not the cost of the paper (though the space to file it often is), the printing or the speed improvement of instant sharing.  The ROI’s tend to be the impact the paper process has on other business processes.  Realize that by pushing paperless you will uncover those hidden processes that are causing profit loss.
End of rants.