I attended a national conference on AP Automation last year. The speaker wasn’t the greatest speaker, however she said something that stuck with me and I wanted to pass it on to you. She said that so many projects (Automation included) start as plain vanilla and end up something other than plain vanilla. IT – leadership and other people with impressive titles are usually the ones starting the plain vanilla conversation, I don’t know why that is, but it seems to work that way. In the course of vetting a few sprinkles are added, then a few more sprinkles, then someone wants to add chocolate, then a cherry and another cherry…. (I am getting a little hungry – I will come back to this in a minute).
When my oldest (now 13) was about 3, I took him to the mall… I wanted to do something nice for him because he was so good for me, so I bought him an ice cream cone… just plain vanilla… it was a hot day and I thought that he could eat it in the car… so he and I made our way slowly to the section of the mall where we parked. (Now – brace yourself, and please don’t hold this against me) I don’t like ice cream, so I don’t have the luxury to manage the melting the ice cream by eating it. As I realised the ice cream was melting my gut reaction was to pick up the pace. Then it REALLY started to melt and I picked up the pace even more… do you know how difficult it is to pick up the pace with a 3-year-old? Five minutes into this adventure the ice cream was running down my hand and wrist so badly that it was now effecting other shoppers… innocent people who really didn’t care for ice cream. At that point panic set in… I picked my child up as if a fire alarm had gone off and I was as close to a “run” as I could muster with a 3-year-old and a half melted ice cream cone… then we got outside… roughly 90 degree weather has a very distinct effect on ice cream which caused a bigger mess. As a somewhat financially stubborn dad I insisted as a matter of principle to give the remaining ice cream to my son in the hot car for the 20 minute ride home… guess what I saw when I got home? Besides a somewhat upset wife, the melted ice cream had somehow congealed to his shorts, car set, shirt, skin, hair, eyes and nose… it was as if someone had hosed him down with maple syrup.
Besides demonstrating what a good parent I am, (give me a break… it was my first kid – or as I like to call him… my introduction to parenting) imagine if I would have put sprinkles, chocolate and cherries…an even a bigger mess. One of the big reasons I wrote The 8 Pitfalls of Accounts Payable Automation and followed it up with the Argument to Automate (due out on 3/15) was to help companies to create a plan based on facts, so that when your plain vanilla starts to melt or people start adding too many sprinkles you will have the data back up to say “STOP – WE ARE OFF TRACK – REMEMBER OUR ORIGINAL GOAL”. Stating the obvious, if you don’t have a clearly defined original goal you won’t have the ability to stop the madness or know when you are off track.
Also, next time someone references a plain vanilla project, make sure they are referring to nilla wafers, not ice cream – they are better and much more solid.
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