Although it’s been nearly 18 months since several from my team and I separated from Panorama Consulting to form Third Stage Consulting, I still get daily inquiries from people unaware we are no longer with the old company. As discussed below, it took my favorite rock star’s death to finally motivate me to tell the full story.

The departure from Panorama Consulting

It took me quite some time to accept the fact that I needed to leave a company I founded, led, and was the face of for 13 years. So much so that I didn’t talk about it much in the months after my departure and during the formation of Third Stage. Yet clients, potential clients, and industry peers understandably had – and in some cases still have – questions about this unusual situation.

But this story isn’t just about me. My journey of pioneering the concept of a truly independent ERP consulting firm was and still is impactful. Making the mistake of later giving up a majority stake to two business partners that were misaligned with my vision solidified my eventual departure from the company I founded. Ironically, the circumstances all relate to deeper issues within the ERP software and consulting industry.

A rock star’s death and a compromised company vision

My unwavering goal has always been to be 100% technology-agnostic by aligning with clients’ best interests rather than vendors. Departing the old company allowed me to start a new company that returned to that basic yet critically important vision. I wasn’t interested in redefining what independence really meant or settling for consultants that didn’t align with my consulting philosophies. Living with the erosion of one’s vision over time was gut-wrenching, even more so than the decision to leave “my baby” that I was the face of for so long.

When starting “Panorama” in 2005, I named it after a song and album from The Cars, which remains one of my all-time favorite bands. The recent death of Ric Ocasek – lead singer and mastermind of The Cars, was a symbolic break and final goodbye closure to the end of my involvement with that old company. This closure followed the financial bankruptcy of Panorama Consulting Group.

This was emblematic of a company that, in my opinion, had lost its way after bringing in two majority business partners to help me grow the business. It probably didn’t help that a bulk of these new business partners’ experience was in the mortgage banking industry instead of professional services. To my followers and clients, it was painfully obvious how continuing with an entity that no longer reflected my vision, values, and client focus was no longer an option.

Perspective can be painful. I acknowledge that I wasn’t ready to fully admit my mistakes and pull the trigger to leave. It took my wife’s encouragement for me to separate myself and everything associated with Panorama. Confident in my leadership, clients and team members followed, and new clientele have sought our services at a fast clip. She was right: it turned out to best one of the best business and ethical decisions I’ve ever made.

A river runs deep within the ERP consulting industry

My team and I left the old company with a vision of addressing a number of problems in the ERP consulting industry:

  • Too much bias or outside incentives
  • Lack of focus on client needs and culture
  • Not enough people that really know what they are doing

These are all things that need to be addressed if we as an industry are going to learn how to avoid ERP failures and problematic implementations. These old tactics didn’t work 20 years ago when I started my career, and they sure aren’t working today.

When I started both companies, it would have been a lot easier to launch them with the help of a big ERP vendor such as SAP or Oracle. All we would have had to do was align with one of them, become a partner, promote their products, and the leads from their marketing machines would start to flow.

We intentionally chose the longer-term play: seeking relationships with clients, potential clients, and industry peers that value an independent, expert and agnostic approach. Avoiding the vendor-forced doses of vendor Kool-Aid, as I like to refer to it. I knew this was the right path for clients, albeit not always the fastest or easiest to implement. I also knew that this niche would eventually benefit our team as well, as we establish and foster long-lasting relationships.

In early 2018, at first it seemed a bit strange to be back at square one, and disappointingly not much had changed with “industry dynamics” over those 13 years. Biases, shallow expertise, overpromising and misalignment are still far too rampant with no signs of stopping. I outline some of these and other industry challenges in my recent 2020 predictions for the digital transformation industry. This landscape provided a compelling backdrop for us to start Third Stage Consulting. Which, by the way, was named after the rock band Boston’s third album.

From downfall to higher levels of success

Chaos and adversity can breed great success. While parts of the industry and other consulting firms struggle, our clients are reaching the “Third Stage” of digital transformation success. Personally, I’m also having the most fun I’ve had in my career and working with the smartest, most client-centric people that create energy and confidence in our mission.

It’s not hard to find vendors and consultants with subsurface biases, agendas or other self-serving traits that may not be immediately apparent. Client satisfaction, however, is more prevalent when partnering with companies demonstrating leadership though independence, and expertise. They understand the art and science a successful digital transformation requires.

The companies that achieve the most impactful digital transformations and ERP implementation success are those that:

  • Refuse to be delusional about typical ERP vendor and system integrator promises. Digital transformation options are constantly changing, and your company is probably not exactly like any other company out there
  • Adopt a technology-agnostic and objective approach during every step of their digital strategy and transformation, recognizing that there is no silver bullet. The best answer for your company may be a combination of solutions
  • Leverage the best in the industry to help guide them along the way, and value a partner that will tell them what they need to hear less any biases

More detailed and prescriptive digital transformation best practices can be found throughout The Third Stage Consulting website, including our 2019 ERP Report and Lessons from 1,000 ERP Implementations. We provide these to the industry to share the value of agnostic viewpoints and approaches that we have seen work for our clients.

Contact me to chat

My team and I may be part of a new company – although it’s not that “new” anymore – but we are committed to independence and your success more than ever. We realize that this is not a transactional business.

Our clients keep us close during expansions and corrections and as their strategies evolve. Ours is a long-term commitment, partnering as a “go to” resource for repeat clients, requesting and needing our services. It’s refreshing to be growing a very successful company with an amazing team focused on helping our clients.

I love talking to clients, prospective clients and industry peers. It’s one of the favorite parts of my job. Feel free to contact me to discuss your digital transformation or ERP project. My team and I are happy to informally brainstorm ideas with you as you map out the next steps in your journey!

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