A long time ago, I used to work for ADP doing pre-sales. We had great relationships internally with services and implementation, but nonetheless it always seemed to come up that we didn’t always sell with the full lens of reality. On the other hand, I’d say that we came up with some pretty cool solutions to some pretty tough problems. In today’s world, I’m generally thought of as a strategist. I do lots of planning type of work whether it’s strategic 3 year plans, some implementation planning, or just some business case writing. My current project (depending on when this posts), is a global implementation of a new core HR system for which I had a major hand in writing the business case. I’ll start by saying that I’m really not suited for implementations, but the experience is quite eye opening.
There is no blame for anything that happens in pre-sales here. For this current project, we had probably one of the best consultants available both from functional and technical resources. The problem that happens in pre-sales is that you don’t actually have finalized design yet, so all discussions are really quite hypothetical. “So how would the application perform ABC?” “Well, there is option 1, or 2, or 3.” And of course if we wanted to solve for problem XYZ, there are solutions 7, 8, and 9. Where the hard part comes in is that while all of the presented solutions are not only possible, but implementationally viable, mixing and matching does not always work. Solution 2 might be dependent on implementing position management, and solution 3 might not work with solution 7.
When I was with ADP, there was sometimes the thinking that we threw things over the fence. First of all, I think this happens with all vendors. Second, I don’t think we ever really threw things over that proverbial fence. Instead, we just didn’t know what a client was ultimately going to do, so we presented all the possible options. In a sales cycle, you really don’t have the time to go into every nuance of every solution, and most of the time you have consultants like me driving tight timelines and moving discussions forward before “analysis paralysis” occurs.
I remember back in the day when ERP implementations would last for years – things would come up, we’d switch directions, something else would come up, we’d backtrack because the application didn’t work the way we expected it to. Reflecting on my own experience, I realize how much we could not have known in the sales cycle, and what that meant for the implementation. Implementation consultants have a really challenging job. “But you guys told us we could do option 3!” “Ok client, but you didn’t tell us that you wanted 1 job code for the entire company.” (I’m kidding about that one)
Once we have requirements and design, I have a whole new respect for how implementers get around to explaining how the whole application actually works with all the nuances of each functional component. I’ve always loved how sales consultants can dance around solutions for a system that if completely fictitious at that point, but am equally amazed at watching implementers dance around requirements once they start to solidify. Hats off.