Put up or shut up: The corporate guarantee

By Gene Tanski, CEO, Demand Foresight

Things were getting heated at the sales meeting. The cause of my anger was an old theme: Industry-wide, client expectations for business software were so low that stories about the failure of big enterprise projects had practically become wallpaper.

Where were the repercussions for the business performance that never materialized? The big systems failed to deliver what they were supposed to over 70 percent of the time and the big checks just kept getting cut with no accountability. The whole dynamic needed to be nuked.

In the heat of our discussion about the institutionalized negligence of our gigantic competitors and how we could exploit it, a 25-year-old, Xbox-playing member of our team, said: “Dude, if we’re that bitchin’, why don’t we guarantee it?”

“What?” I asked him.  “Are you nuts?  Do you have any idea how software works?”

“No, not really. But I hear you guys constantly complaining about how everyone else over-promises and under-delivers. Why not do something about it?”

That simple dare became our biggest differentiator – and, more surprisingly, revolutionized the way we run our company.

During the dot-com boom, new businesses were founded on completely new thinking by young professionals, unencumbered by any notion of what was or wasn’t possible. Most of that potential was never realized, though – at least not in the first wave, since the young visionaries had no grounding in the disciplines that would sustain their visions over time.

However, we wondered, could our team fuse the experience of the old hands with the “anything is possible” optimism of our young teammate?

Once we got our minds around the concept, the experienced guys on the team were able to adjust some long-held assumptions and work through how to handle the risk, build the pricing and generally operationalize the concept.

It was a little bit like learning how to fly, as characterized by Douglas Adams in his “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” books: the key to flying was to throw yourself at the ground really hard, and miss.

It was exhilarating. I felt like we had just missed the ground by a huge margin, and instead were flying straight to a business model that embodied the exact opposite of everything we hated about the IT and consulting world.

The guarantee was an explicit one – with no wiggle room. Clients would measurably improve their business performance — in our instance, a 25 percent minimum reduction in absolute forecast error — or we wouldn’t get paid. Not a dime.

It could have been a disaster, but taking this leap of faith actually did incredible things for our organizational focus – and ultimately helped cement our culture and internally align all divisions of the company.

The developers know that the software has to work and be relevant to specific job responsibilities or they don’t get paid. Implementation and technical support? They better get it right or they don’t get paid. Sales people? They had better understand the client problem and know exactly how to solve it, or … well, you know…

Another benefit of this ‘put up or shut up’ philosophy was the elimination of the need to micromanage. Once everybody understood that the promise would not bend, I found I could trust everyone to solve problems the way they thought best.

Vacation policy? Didn’t need it. Our team was entrusted to take the time off that they knew they could afford to take. Office? Wherever they could open a laptop and do their best work. This culture tells us a lot about the kind of people we should hire — can they stay motivated and productive in our unique environment?

So an energetic, passionate clash of skilled professionals turned out to be lightning in a bottle. It let us fuse the brashness of youth with organizational know-how.

We still argue in meetings, of course. But these days I enjoy it. You never know what sorts of benefits it can produce.

This post first appeared on Venture Beat: Entrepreneur Corner on October 26, 2010

“100 Great Supply Chain Partners”

92e664de73Demand Foresight featured in Supply Chain Brain’s “100 Great Supply Chain Partners”

We’d like to thank New Belgium supply chain director Nate Turner, writer Sidney Hill and the editors over at Supply Chain Brain for including us in their annual “100 Great Supply Chain Partners” issue. Hill focused on our work with New Belgium Brewing and their evolving sophistication with supply chain practice and tools. Their culture has uniquely enabled them to fuse a passion for brewing with mastery of the business side — a balance that many tried and failed to strike during the first craft beer boom of the ’90s.

Hill spoke with Turner about New Belgium’s unique supply chain challenges and our role in helping to meet them.

“This system has helped us maintain consistently high customer service
levels—while keeping inventories within a level we can live with—even
as our business has become more complex in terms of the number of
products we sell and the number of customers we serve,” Turner
concludes. “We also are pleased with the role Demand Foresight has
played as a business partner. They understand that our business is
constantly evolving, and they continue to personalize the system to
meet our needs.”

It’s an honor to be part of one of Colorado’s — and the country’s — coolest business stories.

Why best-of-breed matters: Imperial Sugar and Demand Foresight in CIO

We’d like to offer our thanks to a great client, Imperial Sugar, and CIO for picking up on this tale of foresight and resilience. The Imperial Sugar team did an incredible job of facing down some very steep challenges to their business. We’re really proud to be a part of this story…

After the refinery catastrophe, Imperial Sugar needed immediate insight
into how many customers it could serve with its available inventory.
The software gave them that overview by product line, and its
“available to promise” functionality allowed everyone from production
to sales to see, in real time, what could be delivered.

Read the rest here