Into the belly of the beast
- 01 May, 2005 22:00
In spite of Kelly’s somewhat impassive demeanour, MRS is the product of his passion, engendered over many years as a vendor engineer. During these years he grew tired of the “no return” he saw users getting for what he knew was a substantial investment on their part. What he did see and hear, though, was the “spin cycle”, as he recalls it. “There was a lot of spin out there, and it was obvious to me that there was a place for something and someone to cut through it.”
From this germ of an idea MRS was born, a product that would slice through the vendor flow. “Users desperately want to believe that the vendor is a specialist.”
Kelly characterises a vendor drive on a larger project as resembling an inverted pyramid. At the bottom are one or two specialists. They support the rest of the drive, composed of people who despite their titles actually have a sales job of one sort or another.
This army of camp followers usually successfully deters users from requiring “the facts, just the facts”, which in turn leads to a widespread conspiracy of silence where everyone senses matters are going off track but nobody wants to talk about it. “I was in that space and for a long time,” says Kelly.
“I resolved to introduce a process that would take human nature out of this whole equation. Either something adds up or it doesn’t.”
Kelly says he witnessed what he describes as the three-key approach. It starts with an overwhelming weight of evidence that the implementation project is off course. Even the vendor people have to admit it. Someone answering to a description of a specialist in the project in question is called in. The problem is that person actually has a sales responsibility but nobody is going to admit or acknowledge this. The so-called specialist is good at looking like a specialist, which means he or she is a good listener and put on a suitably grave face. After what is likely to be an anguished session with the user, the “specialist” departs the scene. He goes to his PC and scours the internet, including some subscriber sites, for an answer to the problem.
The resulting “three-key” solution is gleefully imparted to the user, who is keen to hear it because it is so simple. The user is looking for a quick fix anyway. The quicker the better, from their point of view.
Having performed his role, the “specialist” rapidly departs the scene and is inaccessible for some time. Then, after the inevitable failure of the three-key solution, the user project people become defeatist. “How did it come to this?” they say to one another. “I want to leave.”
Kelly believes the reason for this despondency is that even now, long into the problem curve, they have everything but the facts. Management’s response meanwhile is much more closely defined. “They turn off the money tap.”
Kelly is insistent on two points about his own solution. It is not one of support. Neither is it sales-driven.You could describe it in medical diagnostic terms. After the holistic guys have taken their readings. After the GPs have poked and prodded and prescribed, he is the medical laboratory that does the litmus tests.
Kelly does have one sales element up his sleeve that any muscle-bound vendor would love to be in a position to possess: he will do a preliminary report for nothing.
Meanwhile Kelly is himself an exemplar of the no-frills methodology. He and his people work out of a cell in Wellington’s CBD incubator NRG Trust. He believes many implementation problems would melt away if only users would put a cork in vendor generalisations and force them to utter specifics, preferably numbers-based. “Words like turnkey or mean average -- what do they mean?”
Another syndrome that he believes MRS counters is the one about blame and focus-failure.
By concentrating on the diagnostics, MRS staunches pervasive defeatism, he believes. It takes out the blame mentality by taking the people out of the equation. “It means that people can see the problem, rather than merely talk about the problem.”
Kelly cites Westpac, Police, Cathay Pacific as having turned to his Capella organisation for treatment.
An unexpected byproduct of the MRS regime, he notes, is that heavyweight users -- once they have realised that they can actually interpret their data and thus put a value on their investment -- can look at another problem: their shelf-ware. That’s the stuff that has gathering dust for maybe five years.