Thursday, August 27, 2009

IT for SMEs = approximate

IT for SMEs* = approximate

For a science that is built on the perfection, neatness and microscopically accurate functioning of every bit that runs around inside the guts of the silicon nanotransistors, this is quite a statement to make. But I speak from the experience of the user. And not some hands-off user, but someone who put his heart (and lots and lots of precious funds) into getting things speeded up and made more modern by IT deployment.

Hi there, small guy!
Since 10th July 1993, when I began my enterprise in that small family garage, I knew that IT will play a big role in my enterprise. I had seen lots of IT stuff back at IIT Delhi, and though those were relatively primeval days (compared to today), I could foresee the potential of what IT could do, if deployed correctly.

So I set out to spend my precious funds, whenever possible, on procuring and deploying IT on various aspects of my enterprise. Given the size of the enterprise, it was a bold move. It still is.

Today, after 16 years of painstaking but joyful learning, here are my learnings, summarised. (It took me quite a few crores to learn these lessons, and I am glad to share these with you, for free)

  1. If you are the CEO of an SME, learn to tame your IT excitment impulses.
  2. Learn to say "NO" to your colleagues excited over an IT deployment opportunity you know for sure will not create any business advantage.
  3. IT vendors can and will rob you of precious funds, giving no tangible business results in return, unless you make them understand otherwise right from the first meeting.
  4. What sounds like a killer-ERP for an ICICI Bank, is for them. Not for you. You are small. 
  5. Good IT is costly. Actually, very costly.
  6. Good IT vendors** are very rare. Maybe, say, 1 in 20.
  7. Don't easily trust new, very small IT vendors. They have this bad habit of vanishing suddenly from the face of the Earth, after you are midway through a deployment / deal.
  8. IT that is complex for users, is bad IT.
  9. Your IT department head should be able to explain every issue in 30 seconds maximum (each).
  10. Your customers don't care what IT you use. They care what solution they get.
  11. Post-deployment, IT companies really don't care what happens to their products (software or hardware), unless you lock them into a mutually rewarding long-term relationship.
  12. IT is not the end, it is just a very approximate tool.
  13. Every successful IT deployment needs SME's Top Management's total commitment.
I hope this helps those who are into decision making for SMEs' IT issues. It will be great to hear from you on similar experiences you have had.

* SMEs = Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (a term used frequently in India)
** Good IT vendors = vendors who respect the fact that you as an SME need tangible, solid business results from the IT they deploy inside your company, and who personally take care to ensure end-to-end deployment and take ownership of what may go wrong. As for the rest, they are a bunch of brainless traders, masquerading as "IT" vendors

I must say thanks to Dr Manas Fuloria Director Proton Indore for the various invigorating discussions we had on this topic. Thanks also to my old colleague Varun Gupta sir of PT education who is deftly managing the various aspects of customer-technology linkages for Proton Indore.


Mayank Pandya said...

Warm wishes from Positively Charged Proton Mayank Pandya
Congratulations for Your success Sir,
Thanks for ur thought provoking Tips On IT.. as an IT specialized student I also feel the same that when IT is applied Practically it diverge completely...these experiences of urs takes me to the nitty gritty of its implications.
Sir about Validation,beautiful Validation that seriously reflects ur Vision about Proton, I salute ur Idea, it is really a complete transformational Place ..we all are ur Buds sir and will certainly Grow having good tentacles and showers all ur learning that u empowered in us in Corporate world, with Honesty and Commitment . we will certainly Live up to the Brand ….
Thanks for making us to read Economist… happy Learning from u
Thanks For ur Wisdom….

Test said...

Thanks Proton Mayank. I hope these learnings help you get a headstart in the coporate world. One caution though - be optimistic about IT deployment else nothing will ever work. The bytes seem to have a way to find you doubt them :-)

Abhishek Soni said...

Sir, Nice to see you(rather seek your knowledge&information)on the blog
Your virtual support will definitely add values in Protons.I always mesmerized by yours precious tips.I'll also take care of this IT issues in future.

Yours Proton,
Abhishek soni

Unknown said...

Thank you very much sir for sharing your personal experiences about IT & its implications. As a Future manager or Entrepreneur it will really help us.

Jagrat4life said...

Heartily Wishes for this amazing blog sir. This would facilitates a more detailed and a more personal communication medium between you and Protons.

Sir, thanks a lot for the insightful sharing of your 16 years+ experience within the span for few point.

"Experience is the best Teacher"
Sir but again the big question comes where to draw the line because as you have mentioned it indirectly that "Effective implementation is the key"?


Proton Jagrat Sanadhya

Anonymous said...

Good Morning! Sir
Thank you so much for such great learning about IT. I have taken IT as my specialization. It will really help me every time when I would take any decision about IT and remembrance of such a great mentor. I will keep all these points in my mind forever.

Having much involvement of IT in our personal life as well as corporate life, we should never forget the basic human nature and culture of social life.
Thank you sir.

Anonymous said...

sir, excitment --> excitement

Reecha Neema said...

Good morning sir,
Thank you for sharing such a wonderful topic with us.

Sunny Waswani said...

Dear Sir,
Could you please share the advantages of IT your had experienced over the years.

Sunny Waswani
Indore Campus

Test said...

Sure Sunny. Here are some definite advantages I got from using IT -
(1) Significant personal productivity improvement
(2) Organisational productivity improvement through enterprise-wide ERP that we installed
(3) Several Systems & Processes got institutionalised
(4) Digging up old data for useful stuff (data mining) became possible


Unknown said...

Respected Sir,
It was great learning.The tips have added value to my very little knowledge.
Thanks Sir.

Unknown said...

Respected Sir,
It was a great learning.I'll always keep the tips in my mind.The tips have added values to my very little knowledge about IT.
Thanks Sir.

Test said...

Dear Shraddha, thanks for reading and learning from these posts.

Unknown said...

Hello Sir,

Good Morning! It is really nice to hear your 16 years vast experience regarding IT, summarized in just 13 points.

Today I read some tips given by Mr. Rajeev Mittal(Group Director, SME, Microsoft India) regarding IT implementation in SMEs that I would like to share here:
1. Ask for tailored solutions, which often package multiple functions together. The need of SME are very difficult.
2. Don't be afraid to try new enterprise technologies such as unified communications and CRM. These can reduce costs dramatically.
3. Look for easy payment options, staggered licensing payment or even loans that offer low EMI.

After reading those beautiful tips I got confused between two opposite statements one that I mentioned here in point no.2 and statement given by you that "What sounds like a killer-ERP for an ICICI Bank, is for them. Not for you. You are small."

I know perception varies from expert to expert because experience of two persons may not be similar but still I want to know your comments, please Sir help me regarding this.

Proton Neelesh

Test said...

Hi Proton Neelesh: thanks for writing. Well, there is no conflict here. The Microsoft guy is doing what he is best at - push products hard into the market. What I wrote was as a warning for CEOs of SMEs who get enamoured when they encounter a great ERP - a large scale ERP deployed in some bank like ICICI - they must learn to respect the fact that their resources are very limited. For an ICICI, burning a few crores is small change. For these CEOs, a matter of life and death.