The Confusion Around Workday Planning

Workday’s planning strategy is enough to make an observer confused.

This far in, it looks pretty clear what happened:  Workday started out betting on Tidemark, but things didn’t work out (I’d guess because of Tidemark’s wandering eye and lack of focus on EPM), so they switched horses to Anaplan.  It happens.

But then it starts to get more interesting:

  • In January 2015, Tidemark COO Phil Wilmington leaves Tidemark (per his LinkedIn).
  • In mid-June of 2015, Workday announces leading a $25M round in Tidemark, rumored to be under fairly Draconian terms, including some non-trivial layoffs to cut the burn rate.

OK, it’s more confusing but it still looks explainable from the outside.  After switching horses to Anaplan, perhaps they found the grass wasn’t any greener, so they decide to switch back.  People get divorced and then remarried.  It happens.

Maybe Wilmington influenced things and was trying to help out his old company, or maybe he had nothing to do with it.  It’s impossible to see from the outside, but at the same time hard to believe he had nothing to do with it.

But then things get even more interesting:

  • Two weeks later, on June 30 2015, Workday announces its own “enterprise planning, budgeting, and forecasting” solution, a seemingly independent initiative without any reference to Tidemark’s technology in the announcement.  Moreover, it appears to be a a hurried, deep future announcement with availability specified sometime “in calendar year 2016.”
  • Even today, almost 2 months after the announcement, the “Learn More” link on the products page for Workday Planning points to the press release, in an actual circular reference from the press release to products page — something I can’t recall ever seeing before in my career, and certainly implying both a hurried announcement and a lack of meat to support it.

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What’s going on? Who knows?  (I have a guess and maybe I’ll share it one day in a separate post.)

But regardless of the underlying stories, the whole situation says a few things to me:

  • It’s another demonstration of why ERP and EPM are different categories.  Even a highly sophisticated ERP vendor like Workday can’t get its EPM strategy right.  It’s a different market, with a different buyer, with a different purpose, and which uses different and specialized technologies.  This pattern existed in the on-premises days and has continued into the cloud.
  • As such, it validates the desire buyers may have to go best-of-breed and buy EPM from a dedicated EPM vendor as opposed to expecting to see a great solution rolled into an ERP suite.
  • Most importantly, Workday’s pattern suggests it will be years before their EPM strategy is clear, their in-house product is delivered and proven, and whether the final strategy rides on their in-house product, Tidemark’s technology possibly picked up via a future acquisition, or some hybrid thereof.

Let me conclude by reminding anyone interested in doing EPM functions — like planning, budgeting, forecasting consolidation, reporting, and analytics — against Workday data, that at Host Analytics we have a clear strategy for Workday customers who want proven, cloud-based enterprise performance management (EPM).

My Favorite Quotes on Planning

“In preparing for battle I have always found plans useless, but planning indispensable.” — Dwight Eisenhower

“God laughs when Man plans.” — Yiddish proverb

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” — Mike Tyson

“Plan your work.  Work your plan.”  — Grandpa Kellogg (and many others)

“Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  — Alan Lakein

“A good plan violently executed is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”  — George Patton

“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.”  — Peter Drucker

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”  — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

“Proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance.”  — Military Acronym (also known as the 7 Ps)

The Venture Capital Inversion

There used to a be time in Silicon Valley when a startup created a strategy, made a business plan to go execute it, and then raised the amount of money required to execute the business plan.

That seems pretty  quaint these days.  Because today, many companies have this upside-down.  Instead of making a plan and raising funds to execute it, they raise a pile of money and then go figure out how to spend it.

This is happening largely because of the frothy, particularly mid- to late-stage financing environment that exists today.  More and more money is going into later-stage VC and PE growth funds, funds get bigger, minimum check sizes get bigger, and all of sudden you have a bunch of investors who each need to write checks of $50M to $100m to make their funds work and those check sizes start dominating round sizes in Silicon Valley.

But it’s all upside down.  Companies shouldn’t raise more money because investors want to write bigger checks.  Companies should only raise more money if they need it to fund their plan.

A key part of building a startup is focus.  Flooding companies with money works against focus.  Remember the startup epitaph:

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When startups “just do both” they fail to choose — in so doing, often choose to fail.  When you flood a startup with money, it tends not just to do both, but perhaps all 4 or 5, of the ideas that were in discussion.

When a company gets caught in the VC inversion bad things happen.  For details, see this post I wrote entitled Curse of the Megaround, but the short summary is that startups with too much cash make too many questionable investments that defocus the company and don’t provide returns, ultimately resulting in the termination of the CEO and usually a chunk of the executive team along with him/her.  In short, turmoil.

Remember this tweet from Marc Andreessen:

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So the next time you hear a company celebrating a $100M round ask yourself these questions:

  • Can they actually put the money to productive use?
  • What distractions will they start or continue to invest in?
  • How much longer will the CEO and executive team last given the new, heavy pressure put on the valuation?

Startups should be about entrepreneurs driving a vision for customers that benefits the founders and employees, with the VCs along for the ride.  Let’s not get that inverted and end up with startups being run for the late-stage investors with the customers, employees, and founders along for the ride.

Stop Making the #1 Mistake in Presentations

Ever hear this story?

VP of Sales:  “Hey, how did the sales training on the new presentation go?”

VP of Marketing:  “OK, well, you know, pretty good.”

VP of Sales:  “Why are you hemming and hawing?”

VP of Marketing:  “Well, I could tell they didn’t love it.”

VP of Sales:  “Do you know why?  I do.  They told me it was a great looking set of slides, but it felt more like an analyst pitch than a customer presentation.”

What’s gone wrong here?
It’s simple.  Marketing made the #1 mistake that managers of all ilks make when it comes to creating presentations:  they start with what they have — instead of starting with what’s needed.

What does that mean?
Marketing probably just came back from a few days of analyst briefings and when they needed to make a revision to sales presentation, they re-used a bunch of the slides from the analyst deck.  Those slides, created for analysts, talked about company strategy, positioning, and messaging.  Customer slides need to talk capabilities, benefits, and customer testimonials.

The slides, never designed to be used with customers, are thrown into a deck, and marketing feels great and super-efficient because they’ve re-used materials and presumably even increased message consistency in the process.  #wow

But it’s a #fail.  They broke the first rule of presentations:  it’s all about the audience.

Know thy audience
Presentations are all about the audience.  The first step in creating any presentation should be asking:  who I am speaking to and what do I want to tell them.

It’s not about you; it’s about them.  Which brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from Frank Capra, director of It’s a Wonderful Life.

“I made mistakes in drama. I thought drama was when actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.”  — Frank Capra

It’s not just about marketing
While I started with a marketing example, this isn’t just a marketing problem.  Here are some other favorite examples:

  • Making a board presentation from an operations review deck.  Yes, they both have a lot of data and analysis about the business, but the ops review deck is created for an audience of your peers, for people who want more detail and who are far closer to the daily operations of the business.  One great way to hang yourself in a board meeting is to paste a bunch of slides from your ops review deck “to save time.”
  • Making one sales presentation from another.  This might work if the two customers have a lot in common, but if they don’t it will be a disaster.  My favorite quote here comes for a story about an Atlanta-based salesrep who kept referencing Coca Cola to Delta Airlines.  “Stop telling us about Coke.  We are Delta.  We fly airplanes.”
  • Making a product introduction presentation from a product management presentation.  You instantly doom yourself to feature-itis.
  • Making a vision presentation from a sales presentation.  Sales presentations about motivating benefits and differentiation.  Vision presentations are about what’s wrong with the status quo and how to fix it.
  • Making a roadmap presentation from a product planning deck.  Not only will you forget to pad the dates, but you will likely end up turning your product vision into a laundry list.

I could go on and on.  But the key mistake here is simple.  Instead of starting blank-slate with what’s needed based upon the audience, you start with leftovers.  What you have lying around from a prior presentation or meeting.

The road to Hell
Don’t have the good intentions of maximizing re-use when you make presentation.  Instead focus on your message and your audience.  That means starting with what’s needed instead of starting with what you have.

What’s the trick?
Most people condemn themselves at the 5th second of the presentation-creation process by double-clicking on PowerPoint and then hitting “open.”

Don’t do that.  Never do that.

Instead hit “new” and “blank presentation.”

Then think about the audience.  Think about your message and start roughing out an outline to achieve your goals and the slide structure (often just titles) to do that.  Let it sit for a while.  And then do it again.  Put your early energy into the structure of the presentation, not the slides.

Then — once you have a clear outline for what you want to say and how you want to say it — and only then, should you go looking for existing slides that will help you say it.

Managing Change: The Sailboat Tack Principle

Change is hard in business.  A few things routinely get messed up:

  • Pulling the trigger.  Think:  “wait, are we still discussing this change or did we just decide to do it.”  I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard that quote in meetings.  I think continuous partial attention is part of the problem.  Sometimes, it’s just straight-up confusion as the enthusiasm for a new idea ebbs and flows in a group conversation.  It can be hard to tell if we’ve decided to change or if everyone’s just excited about the idea.
  • Next-level engagement.  Think:  “wait, I know we all like this idea on the exec staff, but this decision affects a lot of people at the next level.  I need some time to bounce this off my leadership team and get their input before we go ready/fire/aim on this.”
  • Communications.  Think:  “wait, this change is a big deal and I know we just spent every minute of the three-hour meeting deciding to do it, but we need to find another hour to discuss key messaging (5W+2H) for both the internal and external audience.”
  • Anticipatory execution.  Think:  “While we had not yet finally approved the proposal for the new logo, it was doing very well in feedback and I just loathed the idea of making 5000 bags with the old logo on them, so I used the new one even though it wasn’t approved yet.”

When you screw up change a lot of bad things happen.

  • Employees get confused about the company’s strategy.  “First they said, we were doing X, and then the execs did an about-face.  I don’t understand.”
  • The external market, including your customers, get confused about what you are doing.  This is even worse.
  • You can end up with 5,000 bags that have neither your old logo nor your new logo on them.
  • You can make your management team look like the Keystone Cops in one of many ways through screwing up sequencing:  like dropping off boxes before the big move is announced, or employees finding out they’ve been laid off because their keycards stop working.

In order to avoid confusion about change and the mistakes that come with it, I’ve adopted a principle I call the “sailboat tack principle” which I use whenever we are contemplating major change.  (We can define major as any change that if poorly executed will make the management team look like clowns to employees, customers, or other stakeholders.)

If you’ve ever gone sailing you may have noticed there is a strict protocol involved in a tack.  When the skipper wants to execute a tack, he or she runs the following protocol.

Skipper:  “Ready about”

Each crew member:  “Ready”

Last crew member:  “Ready”

Skipper:  “Helm’s a lee.”

That is, the skipper does not actually begin the maneuver  until every involved crew member has indicated they are ready.  This prevents partial execution, people getting hit in the head with booms, and people getting knocked off the boat.  It also implicitly makes clear when we are discussing a possible course change (e.g., “I think we should set course that direction”) from when we are actually doing it (e.g., “Ready about”).

For those with CS degrees, the sailboat tack principle is a two-phase commit protocol, used commonly in distributed transaction processing systems.

I like the sailboat tack protocol because the extra discipline causes a few things to happen automatically.

  • People know implicitly when we’re just talking about course changes.  (Because no one is saying “OK, so do we want tack here?”)
  • People know explicitly when we are actually making the decision whether to execute change.
  • The result of that extra warning — “hey, we are about to do this” triggers numerous very healthy “wait a minute” reactions.  Wait a minute:  I need to ask my team, I need to make a communications plan, I need to examine the compensation impact, I need to think about what order we roll this out in, etc.

Are Your Managers Good Enough? A Simple Test

When I listen to senior executives talk about their first- and second-line managers, I sometimes get pretty concerned.  That happens when I hear what I call “good enough” thinking.

“Yeah, he’s not great, but he’s good enough.”

“She’s doing a solid job, but nothing too inspirational.”

“He’s not a great manager, but he can stay on top of the business.”

The purpose of this post is a to provide a brief inspirational reminder:  good enough isn’t.

I know why executives and managers fall victim to “good enough” thinking:

  • Hiring is hard
  • Management is hard
  • Hiring managers is therefore hard^2

So while most executives demand excellence from their front-line employees, they seem to dial back their expectations when it comes to management.  The only thing scarier than hiring new salesreps or product managers is hiring sales managers or product management directors.  Scary though it may be, it’s their job to do so.

In mulling this, I have come up with a simple test to determine if you managers are good enough:

EVERY EMPLOYEE SHOULD HAVE A MANAGER TO WHOM THEY LOOK UP AND FROM WHOM THEY CAN LEARN.

If your managers don’t pass that test, then maybe they shouldn’t be managing.

Collected Wisdom on Business and Life from the HBS Class of 1963

“The wisdom of the wise, and the experience of the ages, may be preserved by quotation.”

Isaac D’Israeli

Browsing my tweetstream I ran into this wonderful website the other day and instantly retweeted it, but also made a note to come back to have a deeper look.  On doing so, I decided it was so good that I’d do a quick post to highlight it.

The site, If I Knew Then, is actually also a book written by Artie Buerk, a member of the Harvard Business School (HBS) class of 1963 and contains collected wisdom — all in quotation form — from his classmates, gathered in preparation for their 50th reunion.

In addition to the obvious advantage of providing retrospective from an unusually successful group of people, Buerk argues their views are even more relevant because of the massive change that occurred during their lives.

It is, in fact, because these Harvard grads have lived through all these massive changes that their perspectives count for so much. They have been a part of both the “before” and the “after” pictures of a world transformed.

Consider what the world looked like in 1963:

In 1963, the average price of a new home was $12,650 — a fraction of what even the most modest home sells for today. That year, gasoline sold for 22 cents per gallon, the minimum wage was $1 per hour, [and] the average starting salary of a Harvard MBA grad was $9,500.

(Inquiring minds will be happy to know that today’s average starting salary for a Harvard MBA is around $140,000, growing at about twice the rate of inflation since 1963.)

Here are a few of the pithier quotes.

On business:

Surround yourself with the smartest, most ethical people you can find. Set clear goals, communicate them clearly, and delegate.

On careers:

Decide you like what you do, and do it better and smarter than anyone else.  If you can’t, change your career.  Don’t create an expensive lifestyle — living modestly frees you to make appropriate choices.

On leadership:

The best leaders I’ve seen have been as or more knowledgeable than anyone else about the business and the environment in which it operates. They have a clear vision they can communicate to others, and they make decisions easily.  On a personal level they are easy-going, don’t take themselves too seriously, admit their mistakes, and are quick to give others credit. They have high standards, clearly articulated, to which they hold their people.

On happiness and success:

Success is when you can spend 90 percent of your time doing the things you want to do and only 10 percent doing things you have to do.  Most people’s lives are just the opposite.

On life’s lessons:

There is no substitute for integrity. In a world where greed and taking shortcuts seem to be major themes, there is nothing that can replace one’s reputation. The ability to look back on life and say, “I did it the right way” is a treasure. There is no do-over when you lose your integrity and reputation.