Podcast: How to Estimate CloudSuite Projects and What’s Important

Estimating large million dollar technology ventures is part-art and part-science. Rick Whitten, RPI Consultants Solution Architect chats with Michael Grace, Tech Pro Unicorn, on how RPI Consultants estimates large projects and what he thinks should be your most important considerations. 

Transcript

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Tech Pro Unicorn Podcast brought to you by RPI Consultants, a podcast about the magic of digital transformation through technology. Each week we’ll cover topics related to ERP, RPA, business transformation, leadership, healthcare, and unicorns.

Michael G.:

And welcome back to another episode of Tech Pro Unicorn Podcast. Today, I am joined by the infamous Rick Winton, who is the guru of all related to estimations here at RPI. And I’ll let him tell you a little bit about himself and where he came from, and what he does. So Rick, could you tell the group a little bit about yourself?

Rick Winton:

Sure. Thanks, Michael. So my name is Rick Winton and I’m a solutions architect and been around in the Lawson world for about, well, a little over 20 years this year. And my role is, I really get engaged during pre-sales. I do a lot of scoping and understanding clients, getting to know them and understanding their needs, and then really working as a liaison between our clients, our sales group and our delivery groups.

Michael G.:

Awesome. So you’ve been busy estimating all kinds of things, but probably some of the larger things that you’re estimating are these, these CloudSuite upgrades or implementations, right? The migration to the Cloud that our customers are going on.

Rick Winton:

Sure. Yeah, absolutely. [crosstalk 00:01:58]. Go ahead.

Michael G.:

Oh, I was just going to say, and our customers, I think, really debt get a lot of value out of the level of detail that you provide, that RPI provides them, in their estimates because we estimate not only here’s your consulting cost, right, but you really break that down and maybe you could share a little bit with the group on that level of detail that you get down to once you understand the customer.

Rick Winton:

Yeah. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been, a solutions architect for, I guess, a little over nine years, through various iterations. But at RPI, I think we do the best job of transparency. I think not only do we break it down by task, but by role. And not only do we break it down for RPI resources, but also for the client resources.

Rick Winton:

So, we’ll tell you at a high level what resources the client’s going to need and estimate the amount of time that the client’s going to be engaged during the project, which is helpful. You can throw a estimate over the fence and say it’s going to cost X to implement CloudSuite financials by management, but what’s the internal costs to that from a resource standpoint?

Michael G.:

That’s awesome. That’s really where, I think, customers sometimes missed the boat, right? They just take this number forward and they’re like, “Well, our licensing is this. And our software vendor or consulting partner says we need X, and they don’t plan for things like backfills, right? So when you call out, “Hey, you need to dedicated financial resources for your FSM journey,” it is a bit of a pause button or slap in the face for them to go, “Oh. Well, we’re not going to have that. We have real jobs that we have to still do in month end close and year end close, and all these things that still go on. Oh, and mergers and acquisitions and typical business opportunities that happen.” And it causes them to figure out how they staff this. Right?

Rick Winton:

Sure. Yeah, and I don’t know many organizations, in fact I’ve never run into one, that has a financials group that has a couple of people just sitting around doing nothing. They’re usually very busy all the time, and especially busy during year end and month end closes. So, to of bring that forward and say, “These are the FTEs you’re going to need,” it gives them a view of, maybe it’s a soft cost, maybe it’s not, but doing a total cost engagement instead of just looking at it one dimensionally.

Michael G.:

I love it. Yeah. And it gets more finite, right, the closer we get and the more planning. Any engagement starts with planning. Now, sometimes we break that out and we recommend customers do a pre-planning, where we break that [inaudible 00:05:15] into more detail.

Michael G.:

What’s the level of accuracy, would you say, based on the conversations that we have normally with a client where we give them a CloudSuite estimate or professional services estimate, versus the customers that say, “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s really get down into the weeds here and do a pre-planning?” What level of confidence on that estimate? How does that change?

Rick Winton:

Yeah, I think that the better we get to know a client, the better our estimates are. I’m putting aside anything that might happen during the project that a client may say, “Oh, you know what? We would really like more help with this.” Or, “We would really like more reporting,” or what have you. Putting that aside, just really understanding a client and really getting into the weeds, what their chart of accounts looks like, and not only what it looks like now, but what do they want in the future?

Rick Winton:

So, if we can get that level of detail and do a pre-planning engagement, I mean the accuracy, we can get really, really close. There are always going to be unknowns no matter what you do, but including that pre-planning, that’s really key, I think, to any sort of estimating.

Rick Winton:

And it’s a gift for me because a lot of times I don’t know those things, so I have to make some assumptions. And we all know what they say about assumptions, right? You can get pretty close, but you’re never going to know everything. And if we can get in on that pre-planning engagement and understand exactly what they need and exactly where they want to be, that gives us a level of accuracy that’s unmatched.

Michael G.:

We’re really seeing those pre-plannings pick up, especially in our larger customers, and I’m working really hard leading strategic services to try to make sure that the money that they spend on pre-planning is a takeout of the cost of the implementation. Right? So if you spend $80,000 doing a pre-planning, not that that’s what they cost, but just a number, that we’re able to say, “Okay, well, now we don’t need to do this piece of planning so we can take, close to 80,000 out of the planning effort to justify it.

Michael G.:

And then you get the benefit of not having to go back to your board or your capital committee and go, “Oh, shit. Well, we were only 75% accurate and all this happened. And now I need a couple hundred thousand dollars more.” Having done that, having come out of the client side, that is never a lot of fun. Nobody goes, “Man, today I get to go to the capital committee and ask for more money because I screwed up on the estimate.”

Rick Winton:

Yes. That nobody ever, right? [crosstalk 00:08:19]. I think not only that, but I think that just the level of comfort with the system, because it is new, it’s brand new and it represents a huge change for a lot of organizations, especially from a financial standpoint. So I think that just that fear of the unknown, going into an engagement without that pre-planning, you don’t know what you don’t know. So it takes a whole lot more time to get to where you need to be. If you do the pre-planning and you get that engagement early on, not only is there cost savings, but also that fear factor is gone because they’ve had the chance to play around in the system and understand it before you ever get to the implementation.

Michael G.:

Right. Yeah, and I think we’ve evolved in our model, right? I’m seeing us now. We’re estimating a little bit differently, right, on these larger clients and these larger complex CloudSuite deals. We’re doing dedicated leads, we’re perhaps not assuming the customer’s going to do all the reporting and integration work.

Michael G.:

I tell customers just transparently all the time, read this out, right, because especially around reporting and integrations, we’re keeping the cost down for you by assuming you’re going to do a lot of the heavy lifting and we’re an advisory there. And a lot of customers say, “Yep, we got that. We got this great IT department.” Well, guess what? Just like finance doesn’t have people sitting around waiting for project work to do, neither does IT.

Michael G.:

And so, to assume that IT is going to do all this heavy lifting on reporting and integrations, typically leads to change orders. And I think we’re taking a different stance there now to say, “We’re just not going to go in with that. We’re going to go in with more hours and more help in those areas to better shore up,” right, and make sure we’re successful and don’t have surprises.

Rick Winton:

Yeah, agreed. Yeah. I think that in my prior iterations of solution architecture, the places that always get cut are tech and project management. And to me, at least in my mind, those are really important, not to discount any sort of functional resources. They’re important too, but where you really get your bang for your buck is in your automation. So if you can engage a technical person or have us do it for you, then it pays off in the end. You may not see it up front, but you’re going to see it on the backend.

Michael G.:

I think [crosstalk 00:11:06]. I was just going to add to that change management, right? Like people go, “Oh, we don’t need that fluffy change management stuff.” And it just kills the project when you’re getting to that empowerment and training and stuff, people want to cut that cost. And it’s so critical on large implementations like this.

Rick Winton:

I agree 100%. And, like you said, change management is always the first thing to get cut. And from a user adoption standpoint, change management is huge. I don’t think it gets enough accolades in what it accomplishes for your organization.

Rick Winton:

What I do see though, is that a lot of organizations don’t have internal change management. I would encourage them to get it because, a lot, not only with this but with other things. You’re going to have it in healthcare, you’re going to have EMR changes, you’re going to have lots of different clinical apps where you’re going to need change control.

Rick Winton:

But certainly, on an ERP, especially with this migration, because it represents such a huge change for how people do their jobs. The thing that kills a project the fastest is resistance. And we see that a lot, not as much in healthcare as we do in public sector, but you’re always going to have the folks that are, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I don’t want to change.”

Michael G.:

Right. Yeah. It’s always telling when customers, and I get it, right, nobody has an unlimited pot of money. And if they did, they’d buy everything. Right? I get the balancing of the budget, and I told this to a customer and they couldn’t believe I said it, but if you can’t afford to do it right, I wouldn’t do it, because if you’re going to, to be crass, half-ass this, it’s going to be really painful for both you and us. Right? Because we want you to be successful.

Michael G.:

We have projects where the client is struggling to invest appropriately, and we are killing our resources. Our resources are killing themselves to try to make sure that that project is successful. And it’s just not a good feeling. I don’t think the client feels good about it, we don’t feel good about it. At the end of the day, I’m sure it will be successful because we have a great success rate, but cutting those corners is just never good. It’s a telling sign of trouble to come.

Rick Winton:

Well, I think in almost every engagement I have, pre-sales engagement I have with a client who’s on currently like B-10 or B-9, hopefully B-10, they always say, “We don’t know everything the system can do. This was just implemented, and maybe there’s one person who was here 20 years ago when the implementation was done, but most of those people are gone. We just know how to do our jobs. We don’t know what else is available to us.”

Rick Winton:

And I think that change management covers that a lot too. Not only are we hopefully educating during the pre-sales engagement everything that’s available, that takes place during change management, it takes place during the implementation. If you have a full understanding of the totality of the system and what it can do, you feel a lot better about working within the system.

Rick Winton:

And the second thing is, I liken it to buying a new car. I recently bought a new car and it has all these crazy features on it like gesture control and all this other stuff. And when I first got it, I was so frustrated because every time I would move my hand, something would happen. I was like, “What in the heck did I just do?” And so I had to take it back to the dealership and I’m like, “Teach me how to use this thing, because it’s driving me insane.” So I liken it to that type of thing. If you’ve got this great system, you’re driving a Mercedes but you have no idea how all the things work. It was just frustrating.

Michael G.:

Yeah. We hear that so often, right, from customers going, “I don’t understand what we own.” Right? Or they’re frustrated with their system, and so they think they need to go to Workday or something. And I’m like, “The reasons you want to go somewhere else, the solution is already here. You’re just not investigating it.” Right? We’re coming up with a couple of offerings around requirements gathering that have nothing to do with the systems. Right? I don’t care what system, whether you’re on Infor or whatever, do you really know what you’re trying to do with the system? Just tell me that. Forget what system you have. Talk to me about what, in a perfect world. Don’t tell me what it does today. Tell me what you want it to do. What do you need from a leadership perspective for reporting and analytics, for transactional processing, how much automation you need, where are your pain points? Right? Let’s gather all that. And then let’s go look at the systems. Let’s compare what you already have, let’s compare Infor and then if you’re so-

 

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