Why companies need skilled support to interface with a Strategic Integrator on ERP Implementations

February 9th, 2011

Typical ERP projects consume a significant amount of resource both from the client and the Strategic Integrator (SI).  This activity typically falls on the shoulders of some of the busiest people in the company who can ill afford to drop what they are doing and face off against a team of highly polished consultants.

“Our people act as an extension of your management team. We represent you at meetings and assist in decision making because the need to run and maintain your company does not pause when the SI needs to gather requirements or perform testing.  We keep a watchful eye on the SI to ensure that are working to plan.”

In order to successfully oversee and manage a project we advise clients to bring in experienced resources that are familiar with the functionality of the software to ensure that the overall design is sustainable.

“Our people understand the software development life cycle and ensure that decisions are made that support the future upgrade and patch application of your implementation.  Sustainability means resisting in almost all cases invasive customizations. It means focusing on sound configuration techniques that allow your system to grow and expand as you do”.

Systems implementations create unique opportunities to review, analyze and improve business processes.  To simply use a new system to follow the old process is “paving the old cow path”.

“Our people are also aware of best practices for process enhancement around your new system. The SI is under no obligation to overhaul your procedures however we ensure that opportunities are not missed.”

In order to ensure that the project progresses swiftly and efficiently bring resolution to risks and issues is imperative.

“Our people are knowledgeable of project management techniques surrounding project management office activities.  We act in a timely fashion so that the expensive SI resources are not idle on your budget.”

In order to ensure that your new system is used consistently by new users and that the transition is effective, we recommend that specific change management steps are taken. These include the creation of job aids, webinars, FAQ’s.

“Our people understand that organizations are made up of people that generally fear and avoid change.  Successful implementations have a change management component to ensure that users are trained on the new system and have an escalation path if they have questions.”

“If you are planning and ERP Project and you want more information, call us.”

Partner Firm awarded 8A Minority Ownership Status

November 3rd, 2010

We are pleased to report that Partner Firm Rocha & Co. has been awarded 8A Minority Ownership Status. Thought2Execution Principal Adam Chaikin reacted by saying, “Having worked with Ryan for the last decade, I know his firm will be very successful in the Gov Con space. His attention to maintaining exceptional client relationships will be an advantage when pursuing work set aside for 8 A firms. I look forward to partnering with him in the future”
Rocha & Co. is a Gaithersburg CPA firm specializing in accounting, auditing, tax and consulting services. Ryan Rocha is the firm’s majority owner.  He can be contacted at rrocha@rochapc.com

Merger & Acquisition Activity Leads to Integration Opportunities for Project Managers

August 12th, 2010

Ron Morgan, Co-Founder and President of Commercial Services at MorganFranklin writes an interesting blog post at the ACG (Association for Corporate Growth) National Capital website. He writes that recent survey results that M&A activity in the area is on the rise and the outlook need not be as gloomy as many pundits are making it out to be.  He goes on to say,

“This recovery period, as lasting as it may or may not be, has proven to be a buyer’s market. While liquidity remains an issue, companies are beginning to sure up balance sheets and increase value. In fact, 75% of survey respondents anticipate that growth of business and market share will drive transactions as companies that weathered the storm successfully regain confidence and re-enter the acquisition marketplace.

Fortunately, the long-term outlook is even brighter. Nearly 80% of those surveyed anticipate that M&A activity will return to level-highs seen in 2006. But as we have learned throughout the “Great Recession,” there is often a catch. For example, in this case, most do not expect a full recovery in M&A activity before 12 to 24 months have passed.”

I trust Mr. Morgan’s opinion on the matter.  He has nurtured and grown a consulting practice in the Northern Virginia area centered on assisting companies achieve results from their acquisition strategies.  In my opinion, he has his finger on the pulse of the activity in the region.

This is welcome news for Thought2Execution. We have seen the obvious correlation between increased M&A activity and Integration related projects.  Our focus has been at he hub of the integration wheel- where people, process and systems all come together.  Thought2Execution specializes in the Project Management of Finance Systems integrations.

Virtual Trader

June 21st, 2010

I recently had the good fortune to work with a company looking for an inter-company solution.  We performed a fit analysis with a package called Virtual Trader and I have to admit, I was hugely impressed with its capability.  If you or anyone you know are looking for an enterprise class ERP solution for inter-company trading and settlement, I highly advise you look into the capabilities that this software has.

The Right Resourcing Plan For Your Next Project

May 31st, 2010

Each organization addresses their finance change management projects in their own unique way.  However, there is a common theme amongst many of them and experience allows me to opine on what generally works the best in relation to resourcing these projects.  For our purposes today let’s equate change management project as a finance systems implementation- although it can be anything in reality.

It is not uncommon for companies to realize that the most important people needed to lead and manage these change projects are the very people that are working the hardest right now.  Typically, companies will layer the change management project on top of the responsibilities that their finance department already has.  This means that the Controller, General Ledger Manager, Head of Accounts Payable straight down to the Analyst all have another objective tacked onto their 45+ hour work weeks.  They ask these people to face off against the high priced systems integrator that is coming in to get the project done.  This is not a fair expectation.

In general this leads the employee resentment, burn out, or attrition- or all three.  The main reasons for this are:

The staff generally resent having such a large project layered on top of their current responsibilities.  They feel under-appreciated and disconnected for management.  Typically the employees feel that senior management doesn’t have appreciation for what they currently have on their plates and this can be the mundane activities of the monthly close or extend to the really challenging activities like an audit occurring in parallel to the project.

Secondly, Systems Integrators relish this opportunity to force the project on a tired and fatigued finance organization that neither has the stamina or expertise to know when the Integrator is doing a good job or not.  Consider the finance team you have.  They are experts in what they do daily, but are they experts on choosing the right configurations for your new finance system?  Does your integrator take the time to listen or do they say, “Trust us”.

Lastly, everyone is averse to change.  So having your finance team on the critical path to a change management project, while the meter is running for your Systems Integrator is a recipe for higher and higher fees.  Nobody’s interest is aligned for the project to be done quickly, efficiently and within budget.  Employees are less inclined to be whistleblowers because they fear to be seen as negative or resistant to change- when in actuality they are pushing back on making mistakes.

From time to time organizations hire temporary staff to allow their full time people more time to focus on the change project.  The theory being that given the adequate amount of time away from their day-to-day responsibilities, they can get the job done.  While this will help diminish the resentment people have, they are still facing off against highly trained, highly skilled consultants, which may not be a match of equals.

My suggestion is a different spin on that.  I suggest the companies bring in experienced consultants to face off against the Systems Integrators as opposed to back filling your full time staff.  Why you ask? First, it alleviates a lot of the pressure on your full time staff.  They can focus on the things that are important to them- ensuring the day-to-day routines are kept going.  Second, it creates an even match of talent.  You want a team of people to be able to challenge your Systems Integrator to make sure that they are actually doing what you tell them to do- and that the anticipated outcomes are correct.  Lastly, you want people to be able to object to decision making without being painted as a naysayer or resistant to change.

Bringing in skilled consultants to work as your advocate on your large change management project may be just the right recipe for success.  These people can alleviate the burden on your people and allow them to professionally ensure that your Systems Integrator is working hard to deliver against your requirements- not their own.  These Advocates as I call them need to be tasked with delivering the project on schedule and on budget.  But it goes a step further- they need the ability to also let your employees know when they are missing the mark and causing an impact on the project.  These Advocates are charged with keeping both Systems Integrator and the company to task.

The AP Vendor File- is it secure?

April 5th, 2010

CFO’s of major corporations or small one’s alike don’t need anything else to worry about these days. However one often overlooked area of corporate finance is the safety and integrity of the file that lists all of the approved vendors you have in accounts payable.

Why should you be concerned?  Changes to the accounts payable (AP) vendor file that are not monitored and verified can lead to corporate fraud.

One fundamental financial control that organizations have is commonly called the three way match.  In the finance and accounting world this means that a company’s purchase order is agreed to a vendor’s invoice which is in turn agreed to an employee’s receipt (acknowledgement) of goods or services from the vendor.

Organizations where edits to the AP vendor file are not monitored and verified leave themselves vulnerable to the creation of fictitious vendors which could lead to theft from the organization.

Consider the scenario where an employee that is cognizant of this weak control in the organization sets up a bank account with a name similar or the same to one of your main suppliers.  A change in the AP vendor file of the payment address for the vendor will allow this person to abscond with payments due to that vendor.  This can occur even if the company is enforcing the three-way-match.  Alternatively, a malicious employee need not be that crafty and can divert funds directly to another routing and account number combination.  In cases where collusion takes place, employees can create fake PO’s to fake companies and siphon off small amounts of money over the long term.

Most sophisticated systems allow for changes to the vendor file to be printed and audited.  Are you enforcing this important control?  Consider the segregation of duties.  Ensure that this report is reviewed by a person outside of the Procure to Pay cycle.

Common Pitfalls in Chart of Accounts Design

March 8th, 2010

It is very interesting to speak with companies about their Chart of Accounts.  There are a lot of pre-conceived notions about what has to be in there. I’ve seen companies with over ten segments, total character length over 45 digits, mixed alpha-numeric- you name it.  However, very often companies feel themselves being crushed by the weight of the very chart they built so much intelligence into.  Very often, conversations about numbering conventions in the chart feel like people are developing the DaVinci Code.  I am a Chart of Accounts purist. I believe that less is more.

In my opinion, the COA is there to serve a very specific purpose.  It is there to satisfy the needs of your statutory reporting.  The COA is not the engine that drives all of your management reporting.  You can build hierarchies to your heart’s content in Hyperion or another reporting tool.

Some common pitfalls in COA design that I have seen include:

Building a hierarchy into your chart of accounts.  In today’s world, you don’t need to have a numerical hierarchy built into your account scheme.  Some companies build such complex ones that they are violated and garbled in year two of a systems life or blown up when an acquisition is made. Your COA hierarchy belongs in your reporting tool. Don’t get me wrong, if you want the 1000’s to be assets and 2000’s to be liabilities… that is fine.  However, mandating that account 1250 be related in some way to account 1200 is not necessary.

Building dependencies between segments.  This is another fairly common mistake.  Each field in the chart of accounts should be completely independent of one another.  In this fashion you have complete flexibility in the growth of your company.  For example, having a segment dedicated to region, which is a grouping of legal entities is a mistake.  You are forced to build a number of validation rules into your system that become cumbersome to maintain in the future.  Your regional split should be based on a hierarchy that exists in your reporting tools.

Alpha-numeric mixed fields. This one is a big pet peeve of mine.  I don’t ever like to see letters and numbers mixed in a COA segment.  Firstly, any speedy data entry person will be forever angry at you that they need to use both the keyboard and the number pad.  Think of the thousands of lost hours of productivity in your shared service centers.  Secondly, when exporting to Excel or any other tool, the fields become unwieldy, and rarely sort the way you want them to.

Ignoring localization requirements.  Sometimes large multinational corporations produce a chart of accounts that works perfectly in the country where the project team is based.  However when the chart is used cross border there is a problem capturing information that local authorities mandate should be in the chart of accounts.  Be cognizant of international rules. Bring your finance colleagues from around the globe into the COA design discussions.  While you may not be able to accommodate every requirement, you may be able to cover many of them by providing adequate space in the chart to capture some country specific pieces of data.

We should all remember the first word in General Ledger is General.  Keep it small, compact and free of extraneous information other than what you need to compile a good set of statutory accounts.  Always know that for detailed reporting, the main source should be your sub-ledgers.


January 12th, 2010

Many companies manage easily recognizable processes and hope for success.  Invoice to Cash (I2C), Asset to Depreciation (A2D), Trouble to Resolve (T2R). Hope is not a strategy. Successful organizations harness the creative energy in their company and convert that into successful projects for change.  Thought2 Execution (T2E) is your partner for change.  You have to plan for success.   We assist C-level executives organize, plan and deliver change projects of any size.