Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Whale(y) of a Software Problem

Two days ago I read this article in ComputerWorld about Whaley Food Service suing Epicor for a botched ERP software implementation. The budget for the project was about $200K, and the actual cost for a failed implementation exceeded $1M. WOW!

What was Whaley thinking? Personally, I believe there are VERY FEW companies that should consider an "on-site," IT-managed application solution these days. I think this belief is especially pertinent for smaller, service trade oriented companies.

Whaley is in the service trade space that DunnWell also serves. Whaley services food equipment for commercial kitchens and DunnWell services the fire suppression systems that "cover" the hot side food equipment. DunnWell uses NetSuite for our accounting and (minimal) inventory management needs. We use ServiceNET, an application we developed, for managing service delivery (the core of our business). NetSuite is a SaaS application, and we pretty much use a vanilla implementation with minimal customizations. ServiceNET is very much optimized for our service delivery business, and we control our destiny through our development investment.

Epicor offered Whaley an on-site, IT-managed solution that the article claims required many customizations to meet Whaley's requirements. This is a recipe for disaster - and the cooks delivered the disaster in fine fashion. To be fair, the project started in 2006, and SaaS darling Salesforce.com had not yet completely vanquished on-site software implementations to the IT junk heap. But today's lesson for service trade companies is important - do not accept large scale implementation and management risks for software solutions. The days of expensive, high risk software projects are over.

If you are in the service trade business, you should certainly be looking for software solutions to remain competitive in a world where delivering information to your customers, your workers, and your trade partners is probably as important as the service delivery workcraft itself. Both must be very good if you want to compete. But the system you select should just work, you should not manage it, and it should be online and integrated with a social-mobile world. If you haven't found it yet, stay tuned to this channel. We will help you get there.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I'm Back

Anyone paying attention no doubt noticed that I have not been an active blogger for the past 18 months or so. I have been working on a new venture outside the infrastructure technology space. However, now is the time to begin gradually unveiling my most recent "change the world" opportunity. And yes, it does involve technology and cloud computing in a very significant way, albeit for a different audience.

I joined DunnWell last April because I believe the opportunity to transform the service trade space via technology is huge - and the time is now. Service trades are all about the people in trucks who show up at your facility - restaurant, office building, house, depot, whatever - and maintain or fix the stuff that makes your world go around - HVAC, refrigeration, cooking equipment, elevators, fire protection systems, whatever. Regarding DunnWell, I spent some quality cycles with the CTO, Brian Smithwick, and he passed all of my criteria for a technology partner in crime - smart, cheap, Linux fan, redneck. Anytime I deviate from these criteria it doesn't work out well for me. I feel good about this one.

With my new opportunity, I am going to pivot this blog slightly away from an emphasis of cloud infrastructure and towards a cloud architecture for service trade transformation. As I predicted way back in 2006, the infrastructure thing has come to pass and Amazon in particular has led the charge. We are big users of Amazon infrastructure, and we could not be happier. I am also pleased that many of the brilliant, former rPath engineers and business leaders now help lead the charge for Amazon Web Services. Bravo Brian, Cristian, Matt, and Nathan.

Back to DunnWell and why this blog is relevant. The service trade industry has an interesting dichotomy. While service professionals have been early adopters of gadgets like GPS, smartphones, and tablets, the software that runs their business is a joke in most cases. Well, that is going to change. And when it changes, the industry will skip over several generations of computing architectures including centralized computing, client-server, and even multi-tenant SaaS. These guys will be social-mobile from day one because it is what they already get and expect with Amazon, Facebook, iPhone, and Android. Their consumer gadget Internet experiences will inform their business software expectations. It won't happen overnight, but the approach and the results will be fascinating. Stay tuned 'cause it's about to get good.