Viable Solutions to Service Lifecycle Management Pain Points

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The manufacturing industry has become highly competitive the past several years, with much of a companys success hinging upon service delivery quality and efficiency. Theres more value placed upon services than ever before, thanks to an increase in global competition, companies that try to use their existing capital equipment for as long as possible, and the fact that equipment buyers now demand business solutions whose outcome is a combination of products, services, and performance benchmarks. The unpredictable economic times weve endured the past several years certainly havent made any of this any easier.

As a result, OEMs have started viewing the business processes of SLM the same way they might have previously for Supply Chain Management and Product Lifecycle Management. Processes like spare parts management, returns management, knowledge & content management, and depot repair are just a handful of the areas in which OEMs are enforcing SLM optimization efforts. 

Although there have been huge strides made in the service technologies field, there is unfortunately a pervading sense across the industry that these vendors are not providing optimal service, that the investments havent paid off. Studies show that from 2001-2009, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) failure rates reached a peak level of 70%, tapering off to whats still a staggeringly high average of 50%. ERP implementations are also falling short of initial expectations. So what, exactly, has been happening?

Common Pain Pointsin Service Lifecycle Management illuminate a lot of whats been going wrong. Through these primary pains, we can see that sometimes SLM can seem like a disjointed network of technologies and business practices, with no unifying thread, no checks and balances, to keep everything running efficiently. A few of the most common Pain Points service executives face include (but are not limited to):

-Field service and logistics not optimized (Results in low profitability and low customer satisfaction)

-Inability to manage/control service business day-to-day (Business is often run as a product business instead of a service-based one)

-A need for real-time control over parts and personnel in the field (Results in slow response time to customer needs in the field)

-High cost of logistics and inventory (Results in constant purchasing of new parts as well as parts not being where they need to be when they need to be there)

-Inability to manage the business strategically (Low customer satisfaction, low employee morale, and low revenue growth)

The solution, in broad strokes, is systemic optimization, that elusive unifying thread, a spine to keep everything standing upright. These businesses require a sequential, organized service technology system that gives executives the power and tools they need to effectively profit from post-sales service. Businesses often achieve optimization in one area, but not all of them, resulting in what can feel like a less tangible form of assembly-line bottlenecking. Its important to keep the domino effect of all these processes combined in mind. 

This infographic helps illustrate how systemic optimization across processes can have a symbiotic, positive effect on the business as a whole.

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To learn how the Blumberg Advisory Group can help your business achieve this kind of Service Lifecycle Management optimization, please visit our site and read about our SLM Consulting Practice. We customize our solutions to meet your specific needs and specialize in enhancing your service parts logistics operations quality and productivity. 

Confident Strategic Planning = Confident Decision Making

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Since the eruption of its corporate workplace popularity in the late 1960s, Strategic Planning has evolved into an essential element of any corporations financial forecasting system. Most businesses implement an annual planning process, resulting in a budget, the setting of goals and benchmarks, and a blueprint for resource allocation. Its a way for corporations to take control of their destiny, to stare down their uncertain future and feel confident that as long as they stick to the strategic plan laid out for them, their business can weather whatever storm lies ahead.

However, despite the obvious usefulness of such a tool, there are companies that find the measurable impact of Strategic Planning to be somewhat elusive. A number of recent surveys show that some CEOs are frustrated by a lack of tangible results. Its important to understand that not all Strategic Planning methods are created equal and that there are certain aspects of typical forecasting that might not be giving businesses the push they need. This mainly hinges upon the idea that its just as important to make decisions right now as it is to plan for the future. After all, whats that they say about how when Man makes plans, God laughs? Businesses must learn to make choices instead.

Traditionally, forecasting has been the backbone of Strategic Planning, often relying on the concept of a Five Year Plan. However, a lot of companies discover, over time, that these types of plans dont always leave wiggle room for marked changes in economic and environmental conditions. We all know that the business worlds tectonic plates are constantly shifting; we dont know when the next economic shakeup is going to happen, but we know its coming. The traditional business forecast needs to be looked at through a different lens, one that anticipates significant change in conditions over time and doesnt simply say, If it aint broke, dont fix it.If business has been good, forecasts often prescribe more of the same strategies that have been used. If its not, its easy to simply  call for the opposite action–but its not always that simple.

The key is to make specific, strategic choices right now that will affect the future instead waiting for those Five Year Plans to pan out. These plans typically dont prime the corporation for major decisions; they simply provide the company with what seems like a comfortable cushion of perceived financial security (i.e All I have to do is keep performing X in order to see Y result.) Everyone wants to have control over their future, and the idea of having this kind of foresight can sometimes seem like enough to keep prospects positive. But this type of planning is passive. This type of planning doesnt produce results, the type of results that many CEOs say they wish they could measure. Strategic decision-making produces results. 

A good strategic plan will lay out the issues a company might potentially face in the future and offer possible solutions, a variety of decisions that a corporation could make, and weigh each outcome. These decisions should always involve some sort of significant risk, investment, or overall structural change.Theres no reward without risk, after all, and its the choice to do nothing that is the most dangerous of all.

Of course, its easier to play it safe; making decisions is risky. Too many are overwhelmed by the idea of making the wrong choice, so instead they agonize over it and do not act at all. This is as true with individual people as it is with businesses. A third party  strategic advisor can often be instrumental in this process. This is a person who can bring their expertise to the table and help a CEO make confident, strategic choices to mold the companys future, someone  who can individually tailor the businesss prospects after the big choices are made, and pays attention to the unique heartbeat of the company in addition to graphs and numerical calculations (which anybody can do). To create a practical, impactful course of action requires a certain level of creativity  and perspective that a good strategic advisor specializes in. 

Leadership is also key, and its another area where a third party advisor can prove invaluable. Even the most skillful, highly regarded CEOs might struggle to make a tough, analytical decision every now and then. Taking action often requires a push in the right direction, someone to instill confidence. A third party strategic advisor, like the Blumberg Advisory Group, can provide this kind of guided leadership and help the business reach the apex of its potential, even as it stares down an uncertain future. 

Visit our site to learn more about what kinds of Strategic Planning services we offer at Blumberg Advisory Group. We strive to create customized, effective  plans to help businesses optimize their potential for growth and advance their market position. 

When Is It Time to Hire a Management Consultant?

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Every business is its own organism that marches to its own rhythm. The idea of bringing on a professional management consultant can seem like a daunting one, an admission that certain issues within the lifeblood of the business are not being addressed in a strategic manner. Its a big step for a business to take. I recently addressed this issue in Worth.com’s Financial Content column. How do you know that its time to hire a management consultant? And how can this individual not only help you alleviate the immediate problems at hand but also help to grow the business over time? 

In the High Tech and Consumer Electronics industries in particular, businesses often struggle with shorter product lifecycles, declining margins, and stiff competition. Profit margins and service revenue are often at risk for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and 3rd Party Service Providers (3PSPs). It’s not unheard of for businesses encountering these sorts of issues to bring on a management consultant to help forge a new road towards success.

First of all, lets clarify the role of a management consultant. This is an individual who supports a companys management framework and helps them define and address their struggles, utilize their resources, and lay groundwork for the future. He/she is hired as a contracted professional, for a fee. Management consultants either work independently with a modestly sized staff or as a member of a larger firm. They have a wide range of specialties to fit your companys needs, including but not limited to Human Resources/Labor Relations, Manufacturing IT, Service System Planning, Outsourcing strategy, and Marketing. 

How do you know if its time to hire one of these professionals? Theres no exact science to this answer, but there are a variety of questions to ask yourself, as a company, to point you in the right direction. For example:

-What aspects of your organization could be more efficient? How many can you name? 

-What has it cost the business to not address the above issues over the past year? 

-Do we have the resources to solve these problems on our own, internally? Have we tried?

If you believe that your business could be greatly improved upon but are not sure how to go about it, or if you know you dont have the resources, skills, and personnel needed to solve the matter at hand, then perhaps its time to bring on a consultant. It’s typical to hire a professional when there are so many differing opinions within an organization as far as solutions go, but no hard facts to support the success or failure of these alternatives. A company often lacks the hard data it needs to make informed decisions. It can be incredibly useful to have a third party examine the ways that your businesss core issues have been addressed in the past. A consultant might be able to offer alternatives that your management team would not have thought of before. Its hard to see the forest for the trees, after all. A fresh perspective can be invaluable. 

What should you be looking for in a management consultant? Of course a wide scope of experience is necessary, not only to address the specific areas where youve encountered issues but also any problems that could eventually stem from those. Its also very important that this individual has demonstrated an ability to stay on budget and recommend solutions that are practical and easily integrated. But perhaps the most valuable quality of all is an ability to interface diplomatically with others, build an honest rapport, and provide the business with a safe environment, a laboratory, in which to work out solutions to their problems. If, in the initial interview, the consultant makes you feel secure and confident that your business can face its struggles head-on, this is an excellent sign. Its important to have experience and stay on budget, but trust and confidence is essential. 

The cost of a consultant, on average, can vary. A lot depends upon the need for a very specific set of skills and knowledge. Specialists, as in most fields, often have higher fees, so if the problems that need to be addressed are a little bit more general, that could affect the price. Some consultants only charge a portion of the fee at the onset and adjust accordingly as the project progresses. Payment in full might not be due until the project is complete. On the other hand, some consultants who have previous experience in the areas you need to address might charge a flat rate. Its possible, however, to have this fee paid in installments as certain benchmarks in the project are achieved. There are also situations where a consultant is only serving in an advisory capacity, as a coachof sorts. In this case, you might be billed hourly or the consultant may charge a retainer. Theres a variety of arrangements, but whats important, as always, is to have all of these terms in writing. 

Bringing aboard a consultant can be rewarding not only for the growth of your business but also for the individuals who work there. Companies large and small have seen dramatic improvements in their prospects and as a result, overall employee satisfaction, after implementing the services of a management consultant. Theres nothing that compares to a third partys input and guidance in a tough situation.

To learn more about Blumberg Advistory Groups strategic consulting services, click here.

Tips for Selecting Enterprise Software

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We recently surveyed a wide variety of businesses to find out what a high-tech service company should expect when they decide to purchase enterprise software (aka Service Lifecycle Management Software, or SLM). There are so many options to choose from that at first the decision-making process might seem a bit overwhelming. Our hope is to break it down step by step, from that initial phone call all the way to implementation of the software, to help the undertaking feel more manageable. Here are a few useful tips gathered from the companies we interviewed as to what you should expect when you’re preparing to buy SLM software.


First of all, what should a company look for in a vendor? According to our research, most companies are looking for the following three characteristics: 1) software feature and functionality, 2) technical competency, and 3) flexibility. It’s also important to keep your company’s future needs in mind. Of course you want to address your immediate issues by implementing the software, but it’s best not to shy away from additional functions that you might need later on, something that could aid future growth. The software you select may seem like more than you need at the moment, but if you consider what kind of functionality you’re going to require 2-3 years from now, “less is more” may not necessarily apply here. When you narrow down your list of potential vendors, it’s also wise to evaluate the Total Cost of Ownership, how long it will take this software to fully integrate with your business, and how well the vendor understands the ebb and flow of your business (including the areas that could be improved upon). It’s also very important to check references; check in with other companies that are similar to yours in size and scope. There’s also a certain value that a management consultant can provide during the software selection process.  A consultant can provide your business with a third party perspective, objectivity, and prior experience, not to mention a working knowledge of and familiarity with software vendors. If you’re struggling with this process, a consultant could definitely help you narrow your choices.

After you decide to proceed with a particular vendor, the initial steps might look a little something like this: first, there will often be an introductory phone call followed by a brief demo of the software. This is often followed by a customized software demo or an in-person demo. Typically, you will be asked to fill out a form that summarizes your company’s primary goals and challenges so the demo can be tailored to fit your needs. This might also be accompanied by the signing of an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) so that honest information can be conveyed to you. Ballpark pricing is also often included at the demo stage (more specific pricing information is usually revealed after an NDA is executed). 


As far as pricing and discounts go, there’s often some wiggle room for negotiation. The most common discount is between 10 to 20 percent. However, if a vendor knocks the price down too much without asking for any concessions on your end, the money you saved might come back to bite you during or before implementation when you need the most support. As they say, you get what you pay for.


There’s also the question of whether to purchase software from your CRM vendor, from an ERP vendor, or select what we call a “best of breed” service. Of the companies we interviewed for our survey, we saw examples of each method. And although it may seem easier to purchase software from the company already providing you with CRM or ERP services, there’s something to be said for best of breed vendors because their primary focus is on business aspects like field service, service parts, and depot repair. CRM mainly deals with pre-sales and ERP handles billing/manufacturing. Best of breed often covers all the service lifecycle management bases. Again, you might not think you need such a complete, complex package right now–but giving yourself all the tools you need to build a successful future for your company is never a bad thing.


Lastly, once implementation is underway, be sure to have an understanding of the resources available to you via the vendor, as well as what kind of support they will provide after implementation is complete. You should also be confident that you know what the vendor’s expectations are of you and your company during this process. 


Selecting enterprise software doesn’t have to feel like such an enormous undertaking. With the right vendor who has an informed perspective on your business, software implementation can be a smooth, efficient process that will ultimately boost your company’s prospects to new heights. 


Feel free to look at my SLM Software Vendor Checklist for more information about what to look for when you select a vendor. 

Trends and Challenges of Tablet Computers – Part 1

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The tablet computer industry is positively booming nowadays. Since Apple unleashed its first iPad onto the world in 2010, more consumers than ever before have been trading in their clunky PCs for tablets, thanks to their sleek design and portable convenience. In North America alone, between 2012 and the end of 2014, tablet shipments will have nearly doubled to almost 120 million shipments from 104 million. And by 2017, over 320 million units will have been sold. When an industry grows at such a staggering rate like this, it’s crucial to choose a repair vendor that will keep forward and reverse logistics running at a smooth, steady pace–which will impact the business’s bottom line.

A major issue the tablet computer industry faces right now is that utilizations of both in and out-of warranty tablet service models are highly inefficient from a reverse logistics standpoint, which often results in a bump in cost to get those returned models back onto retail shelves. Everything from front-line customer support to an inefficient test stage to the simple issue of the repair facility’s location affects the overall cost.

A great deal of these issues stem from the return policy on these tablet models. There’s a surprisingly high return rate for tablets: 5% to 10% of new tablets sold in North America will be returned to the retailer. Buyers are usually given 15-30 days to return a tablet, even once the box has been opened and someone has turned on the device. Thanks to this generous window of time, buyer’s remorse shoulders most of the blame for these returns. Most of the time, tablets that are returned because of simple buyer’s remorse don’t come back to the retailer with any significant defects. Unfortunately, these near-perfect tablets get cycled through to the reverse logistics supply chain when they don’t need to be, which is where the trouble begins. Of all the tablet returns, about 30 to 40% are No Fault Found (NFF), and 40% have some sort of minor cosmetic damage. That last 20% are the units that actually have issues with the board or screen and require more extensive repair. Because of this, OEMs often decide that the price of the repair isn’t worth it compared to what the defective unit could gross them when sold for scrap value.

Basically, about 75% of tablet returns don’t need to be sent back to the manufacturers, or their Third Party Service Providers  (3PSPs), to be tested and refurbished. Because they only need minor cosmetic fixes or are otherwise fully functional, they can be easily repaired, repackaged, and put back into the inventory. At the moment, manufacturers and 3PSPs are running unnecessary diagnostics on far too many of these returned tablets. And then there’s the matter of extra time and money spent to transport the defective tablets to and from facilities. Too many tablets have to travel long distances for issues that could have been resolved locally.

The burgeoning tablet repair market is too valuable to operate in such an inefficient way. Retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and consumers are all being affected. But there are ways to address these issues. Stay tuned for my next blog post and later, a link to my upcoming whitepaper on the topic, in which I’ll outline the results of a multi-tablet testing system, discuss the characteristics of a good tablet computer 3PSP, and explore the IT infrastructure of a particular vendor.