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Increasing Revenue vs. Cutting Cost

I recently chatted someone that is also in the software business.  We gave a pretty good demo, and at the end of the day, a successful call.  One of the things I took away from the call was that one of the audience members kept stressing that life would be easier for me in terms of selling if I could show a revenue increase, instead of a cost decrease.  Initially, I thought, what a great idea.  I need to come up with an idea to stress revenue generation.  Then it started to sink in…  If I jump down this rabbit hole, I end up developing another product, or enhancing an existing one.  Not entirely a bad idea, but significant effort without direct request from a customer.  That will put me right back here where I am.  So I decided to slow down and think about this a little.  And here is where I had a hard time…

How is a revenue increase better than a cost cut???  Follow my logic, and perhaps you can find my flaw.  Revenue and cost are both money.  I know in the accounting world they show up in different places on the docs, but isn’t spending less money to do your job just as much of an impact to the bottom line?  Margin = revenue – cost.  So if I make revenue bigger or I make cost smaller, don’t I end up in the same place?  and better yet, once I cut a cost, typically that process stays in place and the cost doesn’t rise.  Increasing revenue isn’t as static.  Revenue could be more customers, more sales, higher prices for a sale.  That’s all good…  but what if the customers don’t need more widgets?  having a fancy interface to enter a sales order doesn’t help.  But the same customer may have widgets in the field that need to be serviced.  If I improve the process, that generates better customer satisfaction, it may speed up the repair process, meaning less down time for the customer, and for the business, it means a reduced cost to do the same thing.

Unfortunately, here’s the rub, and it’s exactly what I’ve been struggling with in all of my prospects and potential sales.  In general, revenue generators get more budget.  These areas (like sales, marketing, etc.) tend to get the first pick at process improvements, new software, and new stuff.  I guess this is where it might pay to be more of an accountant because this seems disproportionate in terms of the return it could generate, to me at least.  I’m sure there has to be something… because everything is about getting customers.  However, keeping existing customers happy seems like a far more important task in business.  Given the cost of customer acquisition, it seems the cost to keep a customer should be a lot less, and doing incremental improvements to keep the customer satisfaction high would be well worth the money.  I’m not suggesting take all the sales improvements and put them into service (although, I’d love it), I am saying to take a chunk of those sales dollars, an extra 5%-10% and put them into the aftermarket business to improve customer retention…  Hell, maybe that needs to be my marketing campaign…  I could become the customer retention expert… what do you think???  regardless, I’d love to hear your take on this…  if you know it from accounting, budgeting, or whatever, I’m looking to understand.

Thanks for reading,

One Take… Another Lesson from Mike Rowe

I talked about this yesterday, but listening to a podcast with Mike Rowe was truly entertaining, and just hit me on so many level.  That’s why I had to talk about another big take away I got from that podcast.  Mike Rowe was all about being genuine, and one of the things he said was that getting things right in the first take was the best way to get a really genuine take on things.  One of the things he strives to do is just to do a single take when he does his show Dirty Jobs?  why you might ask?  Well, according to Mike, you  do something 3, 5, 10 times to get exactly what you are looking for, the right works, the right tone, the correct cadence…  or you can get the “real” take by just filming it once and going with it.

now, the reason this stuck with me, is that I often look at my writing in exactly the same way.  I am notorious for replaying things in my head, over and over to figure out the best way to say something, avoid conflict, or keep the peace.  When I sit down to blog about about, for the most part, it’s just me sitting in front of my keyboard with very little editing.  Please don’t be offended, I do try to spell check and correct obvious errors, but in general, when I write these posts, it’s me uncensored.  It helps make this blog something for me and for you.  I hope you can learn something, either about business, SAP, or life in general from my mistakes.  If I sit back, and carefully edit myself, I might be inclined to make myself look a little better, or a little worse than I am really am to make the story better.  Instead, you get the ideas as they roll off my fingers.  Because of that, I totally relate to the unscripted…  I typically sit down, and have an idea for my topic…  and then I just start typing.  Sometimes I have to change the title, because my thoughts took me in a totally different place.

My advice to you, appreciate the honesty of a single take.  It’s easy to look at the flaws, or be nitpicky, but at the end of the day, when you live by the “one take” rule, you will get a far more honest view.  (Now, you can’t wing everything, so don’t walk into a huge meeting with no preparation.  But when it comes to creativity, just let it flow).

Thanks for reading,

Finding your Story

My good friend, Justin, turned me onto a new podcast.  It’s the Tim Ferris show.  Of course, I know Tim’s famous book , the 4 hour workweek, because it helped to push me into business.  Let’s be honest, who doesn’t want to pick a random hobby, become excellent at it and get paid for it… then go on vacation for a few months =)  That’s my dream, but I got sidetracked in launching a business…  Anyway, I digress 🙂  Tim happened to be interviewing Mike Rowe (Dirty Jobs Mike Rowe), and I’ve been listening to it for nearly 2 hours, thoroughly entertained while I sit in Excel hell for my day job.

Listening to this interview, I came away with so many random takeaways, but the one I really wanted to capture before I forgot is finding your own story.  Like everything, I’m putting this into my own words, so if you listen to this interview, you might not hear what I heard, but stick with me anyway. Everyone has a dream, we can’t always put words to it, sometimes we only know it from the dream residue we can feel in the back of our brain when we wake up, but just can’t quite remember what we were dreaming about, but we all have a dream.  Those dreams will often drive us on wild adventures or into the depths of despair.  Regardless, those dreams build our story…  and at the end of the day, that story is what makes us interesting, it makes us vulnerable, it makes us real.

Those of you that know me well, know parts of my story.  The story I remember about myself the most is during college…  I was going to be an engineer, I was going to build space shuttles and design awesome things!!!  This dream drove me through high school (I was a nerd, so missing out on high school parties and popularity contests wasn’t for me anyway).  I finally finished my 2nd year of school and I went to this job fair on campus.  I got hired by this engineering company…  but not to be an engineer, to be a computer guy.  They had this homegrown system that their engineering department depended on.  They wanted me to come in, learn it, and then make it better.  All the while, I’m thinking in my head, this is my stepping stone to engineering.  So I did my internship, I learned the tool, got good at it…  then there is all this hype about Y2K, and systems only storing the year in 2 digits, and we could be going back to the stone age if we didn’t fix it…  (you probably remember the hysteria).  So my first job, ships me over to the IT group to be a part of this thing called SAP.  It’s some big German piece of software, but it happens to have something similar to what I’ve been doing for the engineering group.  It was called Variant Configuration, and I needed to learn this and then convert everything we had to work on this new system.  So I work my ass off for months learning this system on my own.  Making humongous mistakes along the way, and making a name for myself.  All the while, I’m still thinking I’ll be an engineer.  I just need to finish this project, and they’ll give me a job doing what I went to school for.

Finally, the day comes.  They give me my shot.  The only catch is that I have to do both jobs.  I can do engineering, as long as I keep the SAP machine running smoothly too.  I am so excited…  I finally got what I wanted.  It took me about 2 years, and lot of hard work.  I spent 6 months (maybe not even that long) doing a few engineering projects.  One of the projects was even pretty interesting compared to what most of the group was doing.  By the end of 6 months, I sprinted back to the software stuff as fast as I could.

Looking back, everyone told me, it’s not all it’s cracked up to me.  “It’s not exciting”, “it’s tedious”, “you won’t like it”.  But being the stubborn fellow I am, I wouldn’t believe them.  I had to live it for myself.  It was then, that I finally realized that software, programming, business “engineering” was really what I was good at.  It wasn’t until I listened to Mike Rowe and Tim Ferris talk that I realized, this is just one small part of my story…  and my story is what made me who I am…

What’s your story?

WEBIDE – Turning on the “Frame” for Testing

Well, in my eternal quest for new things, UI5 has been my latest objective.  the SAP WebIDE is a pretty nice tool.  I’ve been taking a couple of OpenSAP courses, and one of them showed how you could use a QR code to get the app on my phone for testing.  Naturally, I thought that sounded awesome.  The problem was, I didn’t have a button for the QR code (or all the other options shown in the demo).  I started looking around on Google, and didn’t find anything.  Naturally, I assumed I must need to install something else…  So I found the Hybrid Application Toolkit for SAP (HAT) for short, and wasted an incredible amount of time..  more on that another time.  But still nothing.  Here I come to find out, it was an option within the WEB IDE, I just never pressed the right button.  I thought I’d share it you, in case you ever need to find it.

Once you have your app within the WEB IDE, right click on your project and choose the menu path, Run Configurations

From there, make sure you select preview with Frame and save.

Now you will get the cool frame bar (which has demonstrated that my navigation isn’t working right on my phone.  Oh well, more tweaking 🙂

Thanks for reading,

Service Management 101

If you deal with SAP and you manufacture a product, it’s likely that Service Management is (or should be part of your organization).  The problem is that most people don’t know much about service or how to configure it, much less optimize it.  I’ve spent many years implementing service and decided to put my knowledge into a book to help turn service into a profit center.
SAP Service Management: Your Successful Implementation Guide gives you all the basics of configuring SAP service management from scratch.
Some of the topics include:

  • Complete blueprinting concepts for service.
  • The must do pieces
  • The nice to have pieces
  • tons of screenshots to show you exactly how to do each step.

Thanks for reading,

Learning to do Mobile on HCP – First Impressions

Well, after finishing the class on building a cloud application in HCP, they briefly touched on converting that into a mobile app.  So, of course I’m intrigued and I have to learn how to do that.  Luckily for me, OpenSAP has another course on doing just that.  It’s from 2015, but I’m guessing most of the skills will still apply today.  Yesterday, I started going through the preparation phase.  Holy Snikies!!!!  I probably spent about 4 hours last night installing all the different pieces of software and trying to get everything connected properly (and I’m still not done).  I have a feeling there are a lot of the pieces that will only be used if I want to do native apps, but in reality, I only care about the new hybrid apps.

If you aren’t familiar, hybrid apps are SAP’s new concept that allows an application to be run on the Hana Cloud Platform, the Fiori Launchpad, and then ultimately it can be converted to run as a stand-alone application.  This obviously has huge appeal to me because I want off-line capabilities in some of my applications, as well as access to photos/camera and possibly even GPS.  Supposedly, this is all possible in the hybrid apps, so stay tuned as I figure out the next evolution.

Thanks for reading,

Master/Detail vs. List Application

Now this is probably a matter of preference more than anything, but while playing in the OpenSAP class, the big styles they keep working with are the master/detail list vs. the list.  The best way to describe the difference is an iOS application (one left is a list pane, on the right are the details) vs. a full on list (full screen table).  Now, what I am trying to figure out is if I keep my applications in the same format as I originally designed them.  The supervisor transaction is probably the best example.

In the original application, I provide the mass change option to update multiple orders at one time, or run availability on multiple orders, etc…  if you build something in a master/detail version, you lose this functionality.  On the flip side, it is pretty easy to update orders one at a time.  Execution is clearly a master/detail scenario in my mind, but for the supervisor, I’m curious how you might feel?  If I were executing this on a computer only, I’d probably go with the list format, because I like the mass change option.  But since the goal is to be device agnostic, do I give up on the mass change?  I could certainly provide the functionality to reschedule all, run availability on all…  but not on selected orders.

My question to all of you…  if you were managing the service shop, would you be using mass change of orders very often?  Reschedule selected orders?  Run material availability on multiple orders?

Love to hear your opinions,
Thanks for reading,

Customer Service – Too Little too Late

Well, I’ve recently talked about my experiments to cut cable and move to purely internet TV.  Well, a couple weeks ago I made it official.  Of course, that meant the obligatory call to AT&T to cancel my TV service.  I had a pretty low package on U-Verse, but was still spending almost $90/month.  That got me 200 channels.  No movie channels, and about 10 channels that we ever watched.  Well, I was able to get Playstation Vue for $30/month.  That’s $60/month back in my pocket.  Of course, AT&T asked the question “Why are you leaving?”

Well, my answer was pretty simple.  I’m using internet TV, it’s cheaper and works better.  Well, suddenly when I tell them I’m leaving, they have all these deals they offer to me.  On of them was getting satellite TV for $60/month or something like that.  I didn’t ask the rep, but the whole time I’m thinking, “why don’t you offer this before I threaten to leave?”.  So, here’s how I look at the situation.  AT&T makes a butt-load of money providing TV, internet & the hardware (DVR, Modems, Routers, etc…).  So my question is why can they offer such great deals when you threaten to leave, and not just offer you the best deals outright???

You know as well as I do, the answer is the bottom line.  If a customer is willing to pay more for the service, why not take their money???  The problem I have is that it’s easier to overcharge a customer and assume they will never complain.  If you complain, you might get a deal.  For example, I had to complain every 3-6 months to get the latest deal that AT&T could offer.  They wouldn’t just give me the best deal, I had to be proactive and ask for it…  This is why I’m happier with my Amazon Fire TV.  I have my hardware, and now I just need to keep the internet running.  I don’t have call every 3 months because my bill is too high.  I just get to enjoy what I watch…  and Playstation Vue is actively making the service better.  I haven’t noticed that same for AT&T.  They aren’t adding new features, they aren’t improving their UI.  They just continue charging me for the same old tired service.

I suggest you take a look at internet TV.  If you have questions, feel free to ask.  I’ve played with a bunch of stuff and really like it.  My wife is getting there… but it’s different.  But I”m happy that the internet providers (Playstation, Sling, etc…) are improving to be competitive.  I’m finally in a place where the providers will improve to keep me.  Not just assume I’ll stay because of lack of options.  And more importantly, learn from AT&T’s customer service.  Always compete for your customers.

Thanks for reading,

Coach.Me – a new tool to help make and keep habits

My buddy Justin turned me onto Tim Ferris’ podcast.  It’s funny, because I read his book, the 4 hour workweek, a long time ago, and totally forgot.  Well, Tim’s podcast is pretty interesting.  Well, one of the things he does is talk about cool new apps or sites.  One of those that he talked about is called Coach.Me.  This cool little app lets you pick a habit your skill you want to work on.  The options are limitless that you can pick or create your own.  Then you can say how often you want to do it, do you want reminders, etc…

For example, I just started doing it this week, and I added exercise, learn German & speed reading.  Well, it’s pretty cool, and works great for someone like me.  I’m highly driven by lists, so having this list with reminders helps me to stay on track and finish it.  Now, obviously, it’s easier when I’m on the road and don’t have the normal home responsibilities, but regardless, it’s a great way to help build some good habits, or recreate habits you are losing 🙂  Check it out.

Thanks for reading,

Defining the Persona – Helping guide to what you really need

A week or two ago, I started taking an online class about app development for SAP.  Naturally, much of it is centered around Hana Cloud, Hana, and the Web IDE, but I was pleasantly surprised it includes some really good design ideas.  One of those I wanted to talk about today.  They are calling it the persona, but in general, this is defining who will use the app.  More importantly it covers a lot of different pieces about who will use the app.

To properly define the Persona, you need the following pieces of information:

First, try to refine your initial idea for your Fiori app, and always keep in the back of your mind these two questions:

  • “What am I trying to accomplish with this app?”
  • “Can I explain clearly the context and need for this app in two minutes or with just a few paragraphs?”

Write out the story behind your app and try to keep it to three paragraphs or less, definitely less than one page of text. Make sure your story includes specifics about segmentation, targeting, and positioning:

  • Segmentation: Identify which industries or group of customers this app could be for
  • Targeting: What industry or group of customers will this app serve specifically
  • Positioning: How will this app be optimized to appeal to the target chosen

Next, you want to define the exact person that will be using the app.

  • Name – get it down to a specific person if possible, at the least, get it down to a specific job title.
  • Background – really get down to the details of the person.  What degree of education?  family?  Work experience?
  • Job Title/Role
  • Job Responsibilities – be as detailed as possible
  • Main Goals – for the app, and even in general
  • Needs – what do they really want to accomplish?  what information/functionality will allow them to do it?
  • Pain Points – what really makes life challenging at work?
  • Stakeholders – Who can help make this happen?
  • Competencies:  rank each of the following from 1 – 5
    • Casual User
    • Proactive
    • Work in Team
    • Global Focus
    • Innovative

The goal of this exercise to get true in-site into the person you are designing this application for.  The better you can understand the user, the easier it will be to design an application the user will use 🙂

In addition, if you are interested in the class, check it out below.  So far, it’s worth the time.  Thanks for reading,