The Relevance of Enterprise Resource Planning

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is an umbrella term for automated systems that combine multiple functions of internal business processing particularly in the capacity of the organization’s resources.  Although ERPs have evolved over the past years to the point where a Rip Van Winkle may not recognize their current implementation, they still exist and are by no means obsolete.  As long as there are human resources being managed by the ERP they will continue to be a valuable part of any organization.  

Human capital is generally one of the most risky areas of business.  It’s estimated that “on average, supervisors spend 17 percent of their time — nearly one day per week — overseeing poorly performing employees.”  Today’s current ERP include algorithms to identify underperforming individuals as well as those at risk for retention.  People are not only a valuable resource, they are also a complicated one.  More data and better analyzation tools can help managers make better decisions about talent management.

Deciding what will replace ERP isn’t easy.  The current model of cloud based ERP allows for a great deal of talent pooling on the software engineer side to cater products towards their customers.  In that model a company like Workday can develop a tool for a specific client and then scale it across their business giving them an edge against competitors.  This model encourages an evolutionary change not a revolutionary one.  

Discovering what the revolutionary change could be isn’t easy.  The iPhone made a lot of sense to a lot of people.  Now that it’s been enough years since its release that it seems a bit obvious in hindsight.  Look at the gadgets folks are carrying around and try to find a way to consolidate them into one.  The next level of ERP will take the collection of items on the tool belts of businesses and consolidate them further.

Show Me Your Hobbies!

Adobe Audition editing the Minecraft Soundtrack
Adobe Audition editing the Minecraft Soundtrack

I work in an organization with nearly 40% annual turnover.  In addition we often find ourselves shuffling our talented people into ad-hoc teams in order to meet and exceed our customer expectations.  Over the past year one of the most important things I’ve had to learn about our team members isn’t where they’ve previously worked, but rather what their response is when I ask them to list their top three hobbies.

This short interview question reveals a great deal of bias (not a negative word) towards how they see the world and how they prioritize their time after work.  For our teams to be successful we have to have the right blend of nerdiness (we do work IT after all) and practical decision making.  

The question on hobbies doesn’t stop being useful for team assignments, it’s useful long term as well.  I’m rather candid with my employee philosophy.  My goal is to help them be their better selves–and yes sometimes that involves discipline, but often times it doesn’t.  One way to do this is to personalize the common vision leaders are supposed to share with their team.  Knowing my team mate’s hobbies allows me to personalize how I communicate that common vision.  Hey team, this next project is going to help you get better at X or Y (insert something they’re interested in).

I have one young team member who’s found himself a bit out of water doing clerical work and having to learn the nuances of formatting for our organization’s standards.  He’s also a big Star Wars fan.  One day he created a memo detailing a policy about discussing the spoilers in the latest Star Wars movie and tried to sneak it into a stack of things I needed to sign.  Because he wanted my signature on it he took extra care to ensure it complied with formatting rules.  He bit his lower lip as I moved my way through the stack reading from top to bottom.  When I got his memo I found no errors or objections to how it would change behavior in the company.

I signed it and because he felt like I’ve invested in him and his hobbies I’ve gotten nothing shy of the best quality from this person since.  The memo was posted on the front door and added a much needed human dimension to that timeframe at work increasing everyone’s productivity.

Seven Minute Conversations

Every business is built upon people.  Odds are if you’re reading this, you’re one of them.  This past summer I was giving a presentation on collaborative technology and introducing the audience to some of the tools available today.  In addition to discussing document production tools such as Google Docs and One Drive we also talked about some of the techniques for facilitation discussion while creating documents.  There’s a slew of video enabled chat software out there for free, but as one participant reminded the group there’s nothing that replaces face to face.

Over the past few years we’ve all taught ourselves to do less face to face.  We’ve spent more time with email and screens then we have with one another.  There are probably people in your organization who feel unprepared to have a real conversation.  They do great work, but when they talk the conversation always takes a turn towards awkward.  A New York Times article fromSeptember recommends that it takes seven minutes to decide if a conversation is going to be interesting.  Think about it.  Seven minutes without looking at a screen!  Seven minutes just to figure out if the conversation was worth your time.

When engaging people in your organization seven minutes (even if they’re awkward) is enough time to reinforce that the person you’re talking to is important to you and the organization.  Sure, seven minutes is plenty of time to let the conversation go awkward but as a skilled conversationalist you know you can pull it back from awkward to something more productive.  Oh, and if you’re going to give me seven minutes be patient with me.  I’ve had a lot of screen time recently.