The strategic essence of the organization should be the point of departure AND the focal point of every business information systems project -- THIS is the component of the business that should be jealously protected, strengthened and enhanced and it is the part of the business that is most vulnerable to bad decisions and botched projects
Links to previous articles
at the end of this article
Previous articles in this thread
have discussed the lack of clarity with regard to the
term strategy and proposed that strategy is "the essence
of why an organization exists and how it thrives".
This definition is based on the work of Professor
This definition has been extended through to the importance of
differentiation. A number of examples were used to demonstrate how
the use of strategic essence thinking can unblock stalled business
system projects. This same approach can turn systems projects from
mundane operational overheads into truly strategic resources.
The previous article highlights the importance of viewing any
significant business systems investment as fundamentally strategic and
driving it from a strategic executive business perspective. This
is tied into criteria to use in appointing system consultants and
This article stresses the importance of focussing on the strategic
essence as the point of departure for every business systems project
and, thereafter, focussing on the essence throughout the project.
From this it becomes apparent that a generic approach to system
selection and implementation cannot work.
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 project.
If you cannot clearly define how a business systems procurement, or
much more mundane project will strengthen the essence of the business,
do not do it!
"But operations", I hear you cry.
Surely operations are an essential component of the essence of the business?
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.
The moment you allow yourself to be seduced into believing that you can
do operational things without reference to the strategic essence of the
business, then either your definition and understanding of the true
essence is fatally flawed, or you are way off the mark with what you are
The reason that virtually every business systems project, be it ERP,
warehouse, etc project on the planet fails to support the business to
thrive; and the reason that 98% of CEO's are disappointed with /
frustrated with / off-the-record-angry with their business
system and its implementers and operators, is because the project
was undertaken with NO reference to the essence and the system gets in
the way of the essence. The expectations of just about every
executive are numbed out with regard to their systems because of all the ... they
have been sold and told.
Process obsession is the single biggest perversion and obstructor of
strategy on the planet today. Process obsession is a management
consultant's money printing dream. Process obsession majors on the
minors and totally ignores the strategic essence of the
business. Process obsession encourages and enables mid-level
operational consultants to facilitate mid-level operational people for
days and days and days to get totally in the way of the strategic
essence of the business. When process obsession projects fail it
is always the clients fault (fundamental management consulting
When you focus on the essence and enhance the essence, then workflow
will be optimized as an executive directed output of the project, a
spin-off, a side output because the essence and equipping and empowering
people to enhance the essence is the issue.
Want to reduce the cost of running your ERP? Focus on the essence!
ERP NOT properly integrated? Focus on the essence!
Too much dead wood? Focus on the essence! Double your turnover and headcount is no longer an issue!
One of the first projects that I ever did focussing on strategic
decision support delivered exceptional executive information and
operational performance management, totally unplanned, also delivered a
75% reduction in audit costs and a 25% reduction in administrative staff
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.
Why do 70% of BPR projects fail outright?
Because they should NOT have been undertaken in the first place!
Why do another 20% of BPR projects materially fail to meet management expectations?
Because they should also not have been undertaken in the first place.
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, 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!
Optimize in support of the essence!
"Lean operations"? -- focus on the essence!
Focus the entire organization on getting exceptionally good at doing the essence of the business and it will thrive.
Focus the existing systems on enhancing the essence. Reconfigure
where necessary. Add a data warehouse together with strategic
taxonomies that focus on the essence and redefine your strategic
Add every conceivable attribute to your databases that relates to the
essence of the business. Add essential strategic attributes onto
every master file: your products, your people, your customers, your
suppliers, your ...
to get to
the place where your business systems and accompanying data warehouse can
answer every question you can reasonably expect them to
answer. including answers to the questions you have NOT yet
thought to ask!
If you focus on the essence you will find that things flow easier, faster, more efficiently and more effectively.
If you focus on the essence you will find that the latest techno hype
from major software and hardware vendors is no longer strategic.
In fact you will wonder why you ever paid any attention to their hype at
You will quite likely find that your five year / ten year / ... year old
system IS capable of growing with your business and you will find ways
to add clever pieces of software that enhance the essence around the
core databases. You will realize that the major ERP and business
system products are massively undifferentiated and that it really does
not matter which product you have or buy. A customer record is
exactly the same no matter what software and database you are
using! It does matter who advises you and how intuitively they
understand the essence of our business and what niche specialty software
One senior consultant part time who deeply grasps the essence of your
business will add a thousand times more value than an army of the other
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" (whatever that means) 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 because, if you were, by now you should have taken
over all the rest of them!
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.
I hope that I have challenged you to think differently about your organization and its systems.
I have spent the last 30 plus years learning about strategic
essence and how to incorporate it into business system configuration
and operation with leading edge concepts and proven methods to
engineering levels of rigour. I have also developed a highly
effective, light touch, short duration "Pulse Measurement" based on Military Quick
Attack techniques to determine the health of your systems and prescribe
the treatment to fix them.
I would welcome the opportunity to assist your organization to put any
and all of the principles discussed in this article into practice to
assist your organization to THRIVE, commencing with a Pulse Measurement
at a minimal cost compared to the value that you will derive from it (I
offer a no gain no pay guarantee).
Dr James Robertson PrEng
James A Robertson and Associates Limited
Assisting clients to thrive through effective and efficient application of Business Information Systems
to serve the Almighty Creator in all
Mobile: +44 (0) 776-862-2875
Landline: +44 (0) 207-059-0007
us to be placed on the mailing list for these
Strategic Essence -- The
Missing Link in Business Information Systems
discussion of how strategic essence should inform all
business improvement projects and particularly business
information system projects. This thread is
intended to discuss the analysis of strategy, the
planning of strategy and feeding strategy through into
business system specifications and the management of
projects. Articles to date include:
The Essence IS Different
The Real Issues in
Business Information Systems
discussion as to why business information system (and
other business improvement projects) fail to deliver on
expectations or fail outright, together with discussion
of the critical factors that must be taken into account
in order to achieve successful outcomes. This
thread is intended to progressively discuss more
hands-on specifics of achieving high value outcomes and
builds on the Strategic Essence series. Articles
to date include:
The Real Issues -- Mythology and Lack of Executive
your Business Information Systems
Discussion of practical specific
measures that can be taken in order to greatly improve
the information yield of business information systems at
both the operational and executive strategic
level. A number of simple steps that can be taken
immediately and more complex measures that can be taken
over time. This thread is intended to discuss
increasing business system and data warehouse value
yield using techniques that lead to significantly
improved business intelligence capability, including
support for the ability to "obtain answers to
questions we had not previously thought to ask".
This builds on the content in the Strategic Essence and
Real Issues threads. Articles to date include:
Principles of Data Engineering
Information Systems Procurement
order to fully apply the methods and principles
discussed in the threads above with regard to new
systems it is vital that a robust and effective approach
to procurement is applied. This requires a tough
procurement approach directed at achieving a tough
business outcomes orientated project that ensures a high
value outcome. This thread is intended to discuss
the components of such a procurement approach, including
the individual documents and process that make up the
approach. Thereafter the components will be
discussed in more detail. Articles to date
Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate,
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Business Systems NOT delivering?
Call the Business Systems Specialist
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
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.
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:
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.
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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
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
List of Articles
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
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
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 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?
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
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