Jens Olesen Lund in front of a client logo

Experience and structure help IT projects across the finish line

Experience and structure guarantee the best possible solution when consultant Jens Olesen Lund helps clients choose and implement new IT systems.

In this interview, consultant Jens Olesen Lund talks about how he helps clients move challenging projects across the finish line.

Experience is one of consultant Jens Olesen Lund's best assets when he signs on to help a client via ProData Consult.

Over the years, he has gained in-depth knowledge of the challenges companies face when acquiring new IT systems through previous jobs for several major software vendors and IT consultancies.

No matter how skilled and energetic developers and IT administrators in a company have been at maintaining and improving, there's always a point where an existing and otherwise well-functioning IT system is on its last legs. And because these skilled developers and IT administrators have put a lot of energy into optimizing one or more now outdated systems, they are not always up to date on the best possible solutions that can replace the old system.

This is where Jens Olesen Lund comes into the picture. He may modestly describe himself as self-taught when it comes to his role as a consultant. Still, apart from his original education as a mechanical engineer, he also has solid IT training and experience from both IBM and Microsoft, specifically in implementing new ERP systems.

{   ...I'm the link between companies that need an ERP system [...] in addition, I have learned enough IT to be able to translate it to the people who code and implement it. }

Enterprise Architect: The link between business and developers

As an Enterprise Architect, Jens Olesen Lund helps clients map out the tasks that a new ERP system has to solve involving the functions, tasks, and processes relevant for the client. On that basis, he provides the most suitable options for the particular client.

"I'm the link between companies that need an ERP system - because I understand their world, as it is where I come from - at the same time, I have learned enough IT to be able to translate it to the people who code and implement," Jens Olesen Lund says.

Therefore, he often acts as the missing link between the business side and the development side.

Jens Olesen Lund gesticulate

"IT people are becoming more and more specialized," says Jens Olesen Lund.

"The gap between the two worlds is getting bigger and bigger. Only a few people understand precisely what an IT person says, and the IT person is becoming more and more specialized. The two sides do not always speak the same language. There's a gap, and it's growing bigger," Jens Olesen Lund states.

He attributes the problem to the fact that a growing share of people increasingly become specialized in very particular areas.

– Not limited by knowledge

"An expert is a person who knows more about less. Because of this, I have deliberately chosen a strategy in my career where I need to know a bit about many things," Jens Olesen Lund says.

With this particular approach, he isn't locked into making things look or be done a certain way.
"That's why I'm not an expert in one system either. I'm an expert in putting systems together," he elaborates and with a smile, he adds: "I am not limited by knowledge."

Jens Olesen Lund uses the image of a set of Lego bricks, which must be put together in the right way so that the result is the desired house. Drawing a parallel to his profession, he notes that it's not uncommon to need 20-30 pieces of software for the entire business chain to be connected in a typical company.

"There are lots of experts, who each specialize in a particular piece of software. If you ask one of them, 'Can you solve this problem that has arisen?', he would reply, 'Yes, I can.' If you ask someone else, he will also answer that he can solve it. But the two experts will struggle to agree on what the best solution is. That's where I come in," he says.

Jens Olesen Lund in the warehous with a medical mask

Jens Olesen Lund is more of an Enterprise Architect and not a Solution Architect, he says.

Takes on the role of "construction manager" in IT projects

Jens Olesen Lund finds the most obvious analogy to his role in an ERP project in the construction business.

"The construction industry is much more mature doing things this way. For many years, the construction industry has involved many different experts, plumbers, electricians, masons, carpenters, etc. And what does it take to manage a construction site? There has to be a construction expert, a construction site manager or a construction consultant," he says and describes himself as the client's construction advisor when the client's company needs to put together an IT solution the best way possible.

Due to this particular reason, he refers to himself as an Enterprise Architect instead of a Solution Architect.

"A Solution Architect is an expert in setting up the architecture for exactly the software package he is bringing. But there can easily be four or five software packages in a single project. Then it's my job to get up high and get an overview, make sure the individual experts are aligned, and eventually choose the right elements that make the most sense in the particular situation," Jens Olesen Lund says.

To explain it simply - one must first understand it well enough

For the same reason, Jens Olesen Lund thinks that it makes perfect sense to work freelance and not be tied to one particular supplier, whose systems he would, in any case, lean on.

"My only success criterion is that the client is happy, that we go live on time, and with the functionality that we have aimed for," he says.

{

...Albert Einstein, at one point, wrote: "Anyone can make something complex, but it takes a genius to make something simple. Therefore, to explain something complicated, you must really understand the essence of it first.

}

Jens Olesen Lund quotes Albert Einstein, who at one point, wrote: "Anyone can make something complex, but it takes a genius to make something simple. Therefore, to explain something complicated, you must really understand the essence of it first."

Similarly, Jens Olesen Lund also considers his role comparable to that of a translator. 

"Maybe the user says that he wants the system to be able to scan an invoice in two seconds. 'Yes, I can fix that,' the expert answers, after which the user shows up with a curly invoice that has coffee stains on it. And then the scan doesn't work anyway. Then the expert says, 'You did not say anything about ...,' to which the client answers, 'I did not know that I needed to ask about that,'" Jens Olesen Lund explains.

He points to the fact that many companies with large scale IT projects end up going with a vendor that decision-makers choose to trust.

"But it's like setting the fox to guard the henhouse. You know very well that when you have to build a house, no one supplier can supply it all. And if you have to build a town, there are at least 10 or 20 companies involved. It's exactly the same thing we are doing here," he says.

Remember to make a "shopping list" in advance

Another of Jens Olesen Lunds favourite analogies is that of a family going shopping:

"I tell the client that we must write a shopping list before we go into town to shop. If I go into town to shop and don't bring a shopping list, I will not return home with the most optimal goods. Instead, the shopping trip will end up being purchase by impulse. Only when we have a shopping list can we decide where it will be appropriate to shop. Is it Netto, is it Brugsen, or should we go all out, choosing Irma or some speciality stores?" he says.

In the case of a company that needs a new IT system, the shopping list consists of two parts. On the one hand, a list of processes that the system must be able to support, be it receipt of goods for stock, printing invoices, drawing up sales orders, etc. On the other, is a list of requirements the company has for the handling of individual processes.

For example, he mentions the preparation of offers for potential clients, which some companies prepare manually in a standard word processing program. By contrast, other companies require dedicated offer functionality in a solution where everything is controlled by parameters and business logic to prepare and handle offers.

Jens Olesen Lund shows his fists

"When you build a house, a single supplier can't do it all. And if you have to build a town, there are at least 10 or 20 companies involved. It's exactly the same thing we are doing here," says Jens Olesen Lund referencing some IT projects.

The architect's task: Blueprints and options

{  ...I have to be 100% neutral and leave my personal preferences at the door. }

"Based on the client's processes and requirements in the scope, I can prepare the first blueprints of what the 'house' should look like: location on the plot, electrical diagrams and everything else needed for the client to be familiar and satisfied with the new house. This helps to create security in the decision-making process," he says.

The blueprints are then used to identify relevant suppliers.

"At this point, I can help the client make a factual decision about which supplier or suppliers to choose. And in this process, the potential suppliers will be asked to answer several questions regarding their experience, capability, capacity, certificates, client references etc.," he explains.

In that situation, Jens Olesen Lund must be 100 percent neutral, for, as he says, "I must leave my personal preferences out of it."

From IT project to business project 

An equally important part of his work for a client is to keep track of the subsequent implementation, making sure the project stays on track, leaving the client with a system that lives up to expectations.

"My task is specifically to provide an established structure for the cooperation between client and partners, enabling the representatives of the partners with the necessary knowledge of their specific tasks and responsibilities. Otherwise, we risk ending up with 20 'mini-project managers', each with their view on the task that needs to be addressed," he says, adding: 

“An ERP project consists of an extreme amount of both large and small details, all of which must work together to achieve a complete solution. To be successful, there needs to be a fixed model or structure based on the client's processes.

{  ...We must have a common project space, a common data model, a common decision model with a focus on data, which means more data visualization and fewer static documents. }

A "process fetishist"

Jens Olesen Lund pointrs out

Jens Olesen Lund doesn't hesitate when he describes himself as a "process fetishist". Experience has shown him that what are usually the same processes can be handled completely different from company to company.

Random emails, local spreadsheets, and hundreds of Word documents and PowerPoint presentations don't work. We must have a common project space, a common data model, a common decision model with a focus on data, which means more data visualization and fewer static documents. We must also respect the learning curve and make decisions as we gain sufficient internal knowledge to make a fact-based decision. ”

Jens Olesen Lund does not hesitate to describe himself as a process fetishist, as experience has shown him that what may be the same processes will be handled differently from company to company.

“The vast majority of ERP projects should be seen as a business project rather than an IT project. The processes help maintain focus on the business, accommodate unrealistic expectations, and clarify where we need to work more with change management.

Last but not least, small changes in one's processes can help to avoid special code, thereby ensuring that we stay up to standard,” he explains.

{  ...My most important task is equipping people to make the right decisions.  }

Helps clients making the right decisions

"My most important task is equipping people to make a decision. If we have three software components that can solve a given task, it's my job to explain to the client that should you use product A, then this and that will happen, it will cost this and that, and it can do this and that. If you go with B, then this will happen and C will mean that and this." Jens Olesen Lund concludes.

Jens Olesen Lund also uses the opportunity to emphasize the importance of anchoring large IT projects in company management to make it a business project and not just an IT project. Commitment from Management ensures that the ERP implementation does not become a tech project but will fit into the overall strategy. It's the best possible way for companies to ensure that projects will be successful and that the expected benefits are realized.

Jens Olesen Lund smiles in a warehouse

Life as a freelance consultant

When Jens Olesen Lund is asked about life as a freelance consultant, there is no hesitation here either:

"I'm more of the entrepreneur type; I'm not good at operations and maintenance. I like new tasks, and I like variety. This is also key to being a consultant instead of being a permanent employee. Something new is happening all the time. "There isn't just one answer but many. And because of my experience with many different clients over the years, I have learned that what works in one company does not necessarily work in another," Jens Olesen Lund concludes.

Jens Olesen Lund portrait

Consultant

Jens Olesen Lund

With a background in mechanical engineering, Jens Olesen Lund's career has taken a lot of twists and turns. including internal IT training at major software vendors such as IBM and Microsoft, respectively.

At IBM, he worked with the implementation of ERP systems and at Microsoft, as a system developer, followed by permanent jobs as Solution Architect and then Enterprise Architect until he took the plunge and became an independent freelance Enterprise Architect.

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