By Tony Kontzer
When Garmin decided to move forward with the implementation of its Oracle E-Business Suite environment in 2002, third-party consultants played an important role in assisting with the deployment. During the process, it quickly became apparent that the company needed to develop in-house expertise to service and support the company’s critical Oracle E-Business Suite applications.
However, Garmin continued to rely on consultants when deploying modules for which the IT department possessed no expertise. But after several months of engagement with the consultants, and several customizations, it became apparent that the solution wasn’t working; it had been configured as if someone had been trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.
This led to Garmin IT staff having to re-engineer the logic underlying the application, which simply did not reflect the actual operations of the company. Understandably so: while outside consultants may be well versed in software and technology, it often takes deeper understanding of the business to accurately describe critical operations in systems design.
Now, management at Garmin is taking a different approach to using consultants. “Our goal is to learn from them and get them out as fast as we possibly can,” says Ed Link, vice president of IT at Garmin. “Garmin’s business models are very complex, and to think that we can bring in a consultant off the street and get them up to speed in a short amount of time and have them effectively configure modules that support complex business processes is just unrealistic.”
Instead, Garmin’s strategy is to suck up technology know-how from consultants so the company’s internal IT staff can apply that knowledge to the business itself. Consultants are given more of an advisory role during their brief stints, and Garmin managers also tap Oracle University for onsite training courses on their modules and systems, further fueling self-sufficiency by ensuring a stable of technology-savvy business users.
“The business leaders know the business,” says Brian Pokorny, vice president of operations at Garmin. “They just need to know, ‘How do I make the software enable what I want to do in the business?’”
For example, when Garmin management committed to Oracle E-Business Suite as its enterprise resource planning platform and established an Oracle-powered advanced supply chain planning solution, it kept the role of consultants to a minimum. Management brought in only the expertise the IT staff needed to learn how to work with the software themselves.
It’s an approach that Link says is popular with employees, who he suspects are motivated by the desire to be hands-on and to avoid the frustrations of having to hand off projects to outsiders. Moreover, says Pokorny, those same employees are then empowered to confront business issues they might otherwise be helpless to tackle.
“I really encourage our business functional leaders to be experts and knowledgeable about configurations of the software,” Pokorny says.
In order to make this consulting-averse strategy work, Garmin had to have the support of its leadership. Both Pokorny and Link have had to sign off on growing their staff to accommodate the need for more in-house expertise.
“Ultimately, the cost of having extra head count is much less compared with the very expensive costs of having consultants in here,” says Link. Plus, he says, “we’re better positioned in the long run to own and manage those applications.”
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