Inaccuracies Told In The Software Sales Cycle

The following headline caught my eye as I was reading through my RSS feed:

How to deploy ERP in 120 days

As soon as I read this headline I knew I was going to unleash a rant.

Caron Carlson wrote this piece, and it was a good story about Johnson & Johnson’s acquisition of a new business unit and how that business unit was transitioned to J&J’s ERP system (and other technologies) in 3 months. I am sure that this was a phenomenal accomplishment by J&J that required a lot of bright and talented people. I would bet that they have prepared for acquisitions like this and have a plan in place to quickly incorporate new business units (something I need to develop for Ministry).

I always enjoy reading Caron’s stuff. But, I have to pick a bone with her. This headline is inaccurate. J&J did not implement an ERP in 120 days. They added a new facility to an existing ERP (which probably took years to develop).

That may seem like a nuance, but it is frustrating to CIOs. Healthcare executives read these headlines (but not the articles) and then develop the false impression that a company can deploy an ERP in 120 days. For any company that even thinks they need an ERP a 3 month implementation is not possible. Most companies can’t negotiate the contract in 3 months.

The software vendors are already feeding unrealistic time frames to business unit leaders because they know long projects need a different level of review and decision making that could interfere with their desire to close a deal quickly.  It is the bane of my existence. Add the unrealistic time frames with these other gems I hear passed on from my non-IT coworker that are talking to the software vendors:

  • “None of our clients have never had any problems with their implementations”
  • “Our solution takes no IT time”
  • “We already have interfaces off-the-shelf that will work  in our environment (without knowing anything about our IT environment)”
  • “We do all the work”
  • “This software is so simple you don’t need to worry about project planning and management”

Most of these software sales people are good and decent people. They are valuable resources and enjoy working with them. But they are not the best resource for information about the actual implementation. We should rely on the history we have implementing nearly 100 software projects a year. That is the unbiased data. The software sales person is not present at the implementations and has too great of an incentive to provide unbiased information. Just because they believe it, doesn’t make it true.

So, if you are in the technology press (especially serving IT leaders) give us a little help. Don’t reinforce inaccuracies told In the software sales cycle .

3 thoughts on “Inaccuracies Told In The Software Sales Cycle

  1. You’re right, you should definitely be skeptical. It’s also important to dig into what factors impact the timeline; for example, our product (policy management) implementation can vary depending on a.) how organized your documents currently are, and b.) what types of file formats they are in. Some hospitals have a very short implementation (as short as a month), some have a very long one.

    Are you including the contract negotiation time as part of the “time to deploy”? It would be very hard to give a timeline estimate if you would also need to factor in the time it takes to get the contract/service agreement approved.

  2. I could not agree more with your thoughts on this. Having been both the seller and the implementation and operational leader within the customer organization over my career, I recognize the frustration you describe well. I would like to add a couple of points.

    Not all software companies or people spin those inaccuracies. Any good sales professional knows they will make much more money with successful, happy customers and reference stories, and I’ve watched them work nights and weekends sweating over how to help their customers be successful. The good ones know it is about both parties being successful. Of course, not every sales person is good (and neither is every customer), and customers should absolutely hold software companies accountable for deploying sales professionals that truly have the best interests of their customers in mind.

    As often as I see sales people oversell, I see customers devalue the cumulative experience of software organizations that have studied the problemspace and seen the same issues in hundreds of organizations. For example, many industry conferences have standing policies against letting software companies share their experiences and perspectives on stage – as if it is impossible to separate selling from educating, sharing, and collaborating. Customers want to be more than transactions, and software companies want to be more than vendors. Open relationships and communications based on “the truth” are much more productive and profitable for everyone.

    My ask of every customer executive is three-fold:

    1. Reward people and software companies who tell the real story

    2. Give serious airtime to the people who actually research the problem space, build products to address it, see the real world implementation challenges, and ultimately own figuring out the next level of product innovation.

    3. Consider creating shared governance models with software vendors that hold both organizations accountable for getting the business benefits sought. Software companies truly motivated by your success will allocate time to ensuring it.

    Thanks again for a very compelling post.

    Jason Burke
    Managing Director & Chief Strategist
    SAS Center for Health Analytics & Insights
    http://blogs.sas.com/hls

  3. We were recently adding a “you are 90 days away” statement to our healthcare software marketing materials and I remembered this post. It got me to thinking, so I added a footnote with details of what time-line the users should budget for the whole project. Also I included a link back to this post as your insights are always quite valuable to our team as we present our products to prospective clients. Thank you for sharing.

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